On My Dog SkAugust 20th 2012 will be forever marked as the worst day in my life. If I am too live to a 100 or to 27, August 20th will remain the marked, marred, dark day. On August 20th 2012 after a valiant struggle we sadly had to put down my beloved dog SK. A dog who has been my wonderful companion since 1998. He has been there through middle school, highscchool, college, college again and I was hoping beyond hope he would be there until I finished nursing school. SK was 14 at the time of his death so I knew he was old, I knew that practically any time past the age of 10-12 is borrowed time, is forlorn time. One does not beg their beloved 90 year old grandfather to live forever and the same can be said for SK. He was aged, I knew and I knew that one day soon his time would come. If not by some mal disease then by age alone it would come. Thus with all the heartache in the world when his condition did not improve, when the quality of life diminished unto the terrible abyss, the decision was made to end his suffering.
He fought valiantly to the end and I hope that if my end is to come in a similar fashion-that I too will fight nobly. He did not bite, he did not urinate or pee within the house, he never turned vicious or mean. He retained the same wonderful, kind and gregarious spirit that defined him for 14 long years. His mind was there, he was still sharp and mentally alert. He knew where he was, who he was and he knew of the family and he knew of our love and perhaps he knew of our sadness as well. The mind did not fail him, it was the body. The body comprised by what the vet believes to by lymph sarcoma ( a terrible and the most common cancer that afflicts dogs) weakened him considerably. The appetite was completely gone, this was not a case of being picky or going a day without eating. At the time of his passing he had gone 4 days straight without food, he would take only water, lots and lots of water but never food. I had never seen him turn down wet dog food, bread or any type of human food until recently. To see him not eat, even the wet dog food that he loved so much that he would lick the lid and walk around impatiently for it to be placed within his food bowl, to see him no more eager, to see him not devour the wet dog food broke my heart.
Perhaps just as devastating was the loss of mobility. Yes he was older and stairs took a bit longer and he didn’t run as much as he did in the past- but he could always get up, he would always walk around the house, follow me from room to room, go to the door when he needed to go out. It came a point where he could barely walk at all. Instead of walking from room to room he would lay in one place, instead using the bathroom every day, he would use it once every 3 days and he needed to be supported whilst defecating/urinating or he would fall onto his own waste. I did not mind holding him up and I would do so every day until eternity came if it meant that he would still be with me. However the lack of eating, the lack of going to the bathroom, the extreme physical impairment, the listlessness, the suffering that he was undergoing convinced me and my family that it was time to let him go. Very plainly the choice came down to let him go at the vet quickly and without pain or to watch him die a slow and agonizing death at home-probably of starvation because he had stopped eating. I cannot imagine the pain that one must endure to die of starvation and cancer and I would not let my wonderful dog suffer that faith.
The decision was made on Saturday to put him down on Monday. As the vet was closed on Sunday, I made the call on Monday around 10am for the appointment at 3pm. Since Saturday I knew that would be my last weekend with him, since Monday I knew that would be my last Monday with him. The call was made and that was that.
Around 12pm that Monday afternoon be barked/whimpered, whilst the barks where not nearly as loud and as boisterous as when he was healthy, the noise was undeniably nonetheless. I helped him up and I let him lead. If he leaned toward the door we would go outside and if he leaned elsewhere then we would go elsewhere. He started to head into the direction of the bedroom where we both slept many nights. Though he fell twice, I helped him up and he led me to the bedroom. He propped himself down and took water but as usual refused food. From 12-2pm he stayed in that bedroom. I slept on the bed and he on the floor, we slept, and I slept just as we had many, many times before. For nearly all the 14 years I had him, he always slept with me in my room. Upstairs when the stairs where not a problem and downstairs when it became easier for him to sleep downstairs. Night by night he slept by my side and I wished to god it would remain that way forever. From 12-2pm it was as old times, he slept and I slept. And for those 2 hours there was no cancer, there was no sickness and lethargy, there was only a boy and his dog and that incredible bond that is formed between them. From 12-2pm there was no one but ourselves and we were happy. Perhaps it was love, familiarity or just instinct that lead him to the bedroom but for whatever reason he chose to spend his last hours there. Aware or unaware of what was to come he chose to spend those 2 hours with me and I am very happy for it.
About 2:15-2:30pm my mom came back from work and we knew it was time. We knew, I knew that he would never again sleep with me, he would never again follow me from room to room, to greet me from school or wherever as he did every day for the past 14 years. The subsequent walk to the car, the drive to the vet where the longest minutes of my life. I did not lose it at the vet, I cried many times before August 20th and many times after but at the moment, whilst at the vet I did not weep for I had to be strong for him, for myself. The vet put on a light muzzle, shaved the lower part of his back leg and injected the serum into his vein. The serum is a very high concentration of pentobarbital, essentially it is an overdose of anesthetic used on the pet. Breathing stopped, then the heart and that was it. Though we were warned there was no agonal breathing or realse of the bowels. There was no yelp, no cries of pain no final bark. Though it said over and over again, it really is a peaceful and quick death. I held his head within my arms as the vet injected the formula. SK looked up, to heaven, to god, to me or just the celling he looked up, I saw in his eyes the final look and I hope his last vision was of me. He looked up, there was a tension from the needle (the same pinch you feel when receiving a needle), there was a tension, then a release and that was it. His eyes did not close, there was no lasting struggle, there was simply tension and release. The vet checked for heart beat-there was none and that was it. My wonderful dog had left this earth on August 20th 2012.
We wrapped him up, put him back in the box, drove home and buried him in the backyard. With him I left a lock of my hair and a small wooden cross I found a few days earlier. To see him one finally time before he was interred reduced me to tears and induced in me a sadness I did not know was possible- but I was glad of it, I was happy to see him one final time. We buried him that day and there is nothing that can express the grief felt. I take comfort in seeing his grave every day though at the same time I am filled with remarkable sadness.
The hardest part is him not being there; just to be there, that unconditional love that a dog provides. Friends come and go, people come and go and betray and in my experience often disappoint. But a dog, a dog is always loyal; a dog is wonderful and loves you with a trust, a companionship that knows no limits. The hardest part is coming home and him not being there, the hardest part is coming back from the park, from volunteering, for wherever and he is not there. You half expect him to be there, every time I pass a door way, every time I walk into my room, into any room you expect him to be there smiling and wagging his tail. You expect to bend down and to see him coming running that every time he sees you, no matter how often he sees you, that every time is as equally wonderful. You expect that in the morning you will look over the side of the bed and he will be there. You expect that when you are eating he will be there watching you, begging for food. You expect him to be there because he always has been there- but he is there no longer.
The pain still hurts, I admit with no uncertainty that the pain still hurts. It is September 1st as of this writing and 11 days hence it is still raw. I have gotten to the point where I can look at pictures of him and most of the time- not cry. However to think intensely of him, to think of the many times together still brings me to tears. I still cannot watch “My dog Skip” or “Marley and Me” and to show me any touching YouTube tribute to a beloved pet will quickly bring me to weeping. There are moments odd moments throughout the day when I will think of him, when I will go upstairs and remember when we used to stay up stairs together. I will look to the side of the room where his bed used to be, I will sit in that spot and just think of the many times we had upstairs together. There are moments I will look over the side of the bed and think of him and how he is not there. There are even moments outside, through daily life that thoughts of him will again rush to me, relentless and unforgiving as a waterfall.
For all the pain and anguish caused by his passing I will not trade any of the 14 years I had with him and if I could have him again for just one day, if it meant enduring again those final terrible days of his demise-then every time I would chose that one day to be with him. SK possessed a wonderful ability, a remarked talent to bring happiness and comfort to whomever he was with and all the sorrows that accompanied his final days/hours are worth enduring if it meant that I could have him again.
It is curious thing the bond we forge with our dogs. Unlike human companionship; a spouse, a best friend, a partner etc… we know that we will outlive the dog. We know that there will come sometime that the dog will die before us. Hopefully and we pray that the dog will pass peacefully and quietly in his sleep but more than likely we will have to make that agonizing trip to the vet. It is predetermined that we will outlast our dog by many years and yet we still form that bond that we intend-though it is against the very nature and biology of dogs-we form that bond that is meant to last forever. We give the dog all our love knowing that one day he will be gone. But we give that love because he gives us back love and because he cares for us without limit. It does not matter if you decided to change profession, to go to a different school that you did poorly on the last test-all the petty and cruel things often ridiculed by man-to a dog that does not matter, he loves you nonetheless.
What keeps me going is the love he had wrought, the memories we had forged of all those wondrous times together. And though I cannot speak on the certainty, the exact divinity of god and heaven and at times I question at times if there even is a god and heaven, I truly believe I will see SK again. Whether it be Heaven, Valhalla, Shangralia or some other many named after life I do believe I will see SK again. And there will be no sickness, no cancer, no lethargy that robbed the body. There will only be a boy and his dog, two companions to never be separate again.
It has been asked many times if I will get another dog. At this point I do not know, I do not want another dog, to invest, to love unconditionally again. Yet I cannot predict the future and that attitude my chance. However if I am to live my life and never again own a dog that will be just as fine as well.
And so to SK, to you I write, to you I continue to live and forge forward. And though I want more than anything for you to be with me again, I know you still walk with me. I have cried and will cry many more times for you and I will curse the skies and heavens that you are gone from me, but I know you are with me. Wait for me my dog as I have whispered and said to you many times in life: No matter what, no matter where no matter when we are always together-I mean that dog, wait for me, in many long years I will see you again.
Sean Alfred Juillerat