My dog died yesterday.
Ugh. I know, right? 2020 and all that.
One time, years and years ago, before Jay or kids or grad school or this blog, Callie and my other dog ran away. Well, they got out of the back yard because the cable guy left the gate open. They had no collars on (yes, I know), microchipping wasn't really a thing back then. They were gone for 3 days and made it 4 miles before someone put something on Craigslist describing them. To think, the life what wouldn't have happened if not for that kind person.
It was expected and not at the same time. Callie was over 12, but had a great checkup just a few months ago and the vet had no concerns. Then last week she stopped eating, hardly got up to go to the bathroom, just took a really strong dip in energy overall.
After the regular tries of treats, canned tuna, and chicken stock on her food, I took her to the vet yesterday. I assumed we'd start the "let's try a bunch of pain meds" dance to give her some more time, keep her comfortable, until things got bad, whatever bad ended up being.
You can't go into the vet right now because people have exercised their right to infuse our society with a raging pandemic, so I watched Callie get picked up out of the back of my car and walk slowly inside by herself.
I can't express strongly enough how, if you are a person not attempting to curb the spread of COVID-19, you are really, really hurting other people.
So in she walked, and I read a few pages of my book, answered some emails, looked up and down anytime one of the staff walked out to give another report to another pet parent in their car.
And then our vet came out really quickly. Not in enough time to have even really done much of anything.
She said to me, "This is a totally different dog than I saw just a few months ago. She's lost weight, lost muscle mass. Quick ultrasound, large growth on her abdomen. Could be spleen. Comes on very fast in some dogs. Could live without a spleen. Surgery very intense. Will likely get way worse fast. Steroids for two days or so if you want to take her home to wrap your head around this. Very dramatic bleeding out from rupture a possibility. I'm so sorry."
In the parking lot, of course. Alone. In a mask.
LUCKILY, I am decent in crises and also am fine with people seeing me cry. There was absolutely no decision to be made. I wasn't taking her home, I wasn't going to risk that kind of discomfort and potential trauma for her. No measures. Just mercy.
"I need to call my husband." "Take a few minutes." "No, I'll be right there."
I knew that Jay would trust whatever I decided since I was the one there and she was my dog, but I also needed another grownup to say OK to my question of "is it fine if I kill the dog before any kid gets to say goodbye." He said of course, don't worry, I'll handle.
(by the way, this will not be a post about how to help children deal with grief and loss. after our last dog jake died jay told beck that he had gone to stay with tom petty, who had also recently died, and then did the same thing yesterday with callie, and then beck asked me how that worked this morning, and i said magic, and she asked if i had SEEN the magic that allowed callie to go be with jake who was with tom petty. i obviously said yes and then turned on the tv. no further questions, your honor.)
So then in I walked, and there she was, standing awkwardly because she was scared and sitting has hurt for quite some time, and she looked SO old. I missed that part in the busy-ness of life and the lying around 4 feet below my eye level. She was a different dog from 3 months ago, and I missed it.
Signing that I understand it's not reversible. Selfie. Pictures, only while she was still alive. The first shot made her drunk, she finally chilled out enough to lie down and was so cute and sleepy, just like she was 12 years ago when she was 6 pounds and came home with me from the Humane Society.
Second shot, had to try a few times because her blood pressure was low and her veins were weak. She didn't mind, she was already asleep, probably so relieved to not be in pain and hungry for the first time in a week.
Bye, sweet girl.
I was rubbing her head when she died, just Callie and me, the way it's been a few times in our lives together. A lot has happened in the last 12 years, that's for sure.
The vet, having obviously done this more than once, reminded me that it's the last loving thing we get to do for our pets, that it's what she would have done if it was her dog. No measures. Just mercy.
Another time when we still had Jake and lived in 800 square feet with two big dogs and ran a catering business out of the tiniest kitchen, Callie and Jake got into it first thing in the morning and he bit her ear, she shook the bleeding ear all over the walls. That was cute.
And, let's not forget the fear of the vacuum. At least that got slightly better as the years ticked on.
They left me for a few minutes with her while she was still warm. I didn't stay long, staring at dead animals isn't really my thing. I was acutely aware of myself walking from the office to my car, because only certain people get to do that right now. Only people who's pets are dying. What a fun pandemic club. I was grateful for the mask covering really, really hard crying when I got into my car, no need to alarm the person next to me.
It wasn't that the dog died, I think. It was the passage of time, the lack of permanence of everything, time please stop, all of it. It was that when I got Callie I was an entirely different version of myself, for better or worse, and sometimes the growth that has gotten me from there to here has been very painful. That deserves a moment.
All of this happened in the span of 45 minutes, not even 24 hours ago. I wasn't even gone from my house for 2 hours. Loss is so strange. Unexpected loss is stranger. Unexpected loss that you yourself orchestrated, ugh. Strange doesn't begin to cover it.
On my way home, I had the silliest thought. It was "You were really brave, Lindsay." Not that I needed to be congratulated on doing the literal only right thing to do, but I still felt...I don't know, outside of my body as a grown up. Where was the more grown up grown up to do this for me? Who is that even?
I was really brave. I also did not like it.
That's the thing about right things, they do not always feel good. Hell, they don't even always feel right.
What an unusual thing, picking animals to care for, knowing we will outlive them, then often repeating the process over and over. I'm not necessarily an animal person, really, but I believe in the connection that humans and animals have, and I believe that the end is worth the rest of it.
I think with inevitable things like this there is some sort of balance between holding space and moving forward that can naturally occur without a lot of fuss, if we let it. I'm not mad or shocked, but I'm definitely giving myself time to replay what happened to fully process it - a downside of having no warning for this sort of thing.
She's been gone almost 23 hours. One day after 12 years together save for random travel. What a day. I like to think, from the Humane Society to yesterday, that her life was pretty OK.
I am so so sorry. I've now gone through this process 4 times as an adult and it is the fucking WORST. I've also done it alone each time, which is its own special hell. Of course the acute pain eventually becomes more of (bitter)sweet memories, but this is the hardest part, at least for me. I've also had to take both of my cats to their annual exams since the summer now and have been very aware of how difficult the drive-in vet-ing would be were it not just a healthy pet appointment. So I'm thinking of you (all). xo
I am so sorry you had to go through this. I've done it 3 times, and it sucked every time. I cried big, gulping sobs for pets who loved our family unconditionally. Sending love and virtual hugs your way. And know that you gave Callie the best life she could ever have.