(pentax k1000, fuji neopan 400, film)
on thursday you clung to me differently, not in your same manner. you came to me repeatedly, as if to give me a message. i think i knew, though my heart wanted to deny your intent. you would enter the room, ask me to join you on the floor. i would massage or scratch your back, whichever you seemed to prefer until you had enough and you'd return to your new spot in the house, your "hiding place", and i would leave you or watch you since you would turn from me if i approached you there (a new behavior). you were breathing heavier than before, but you didn't seem to be in any distress. i called J, our dear friend and trusted vet who offered to come out to the house to have a look at you. she came that evening and agreed you had changed since her last examination, 3 weeks prior. she told us that you were "uncomfortable" but that she felt confidant nothing was imminent. she said it was time though that we started to make a plan. i asked when, and she thought next week- which would have been today. i could not wrap my head around the thought of so few days left with you Buddy. she told me to call her if anything changed, or you seemed to worsen, as i had explained your nights were often worse than your days.
and then night came and rest would not find you my dearest and best friend. 2 hours up in bed between puffing and panting. i texted J who offered to come straight away to ease you from your tired body, but i told her i would try one of your pain pills first. it helped and you finally slept, but for only a handful of hours- far too few for any dog. at 5AM we were up again, you and i, and headed down for breakfast, a first for you: bacon and eggs. such a treat! you were exuberant (!) but paid the price with a good 15 minutes of panting after. eating is such hard work! we sat on the couch together in the dark silence, the cat jumping over us, startling us from our solitude. at some point i looked at you and said, "between you and me, i never much cared for that cat"...i think we sort of smiled at each other and i'll be damned if you didn't understand exactly what i'd just said. "because of you Buddy, i'm more a dog person now".
later that morning, ellis off to school, garth and i set about the privileges of doting on you and letting you have your space in your corner. you were able to lay down 2 or 3 times on the cold tile floor, but sleep would not come- soon you were up again, finding it hard to breath with your belly so swollen from the cancer and the tumors pressing on your chest. J, the vet, was set to come to the house at 4pm. A week with you had turned into one day, hours. was it selfish to want that one day?
At 1230 garth went out to find you lunch: ribs and beef, still another first. my plan was so shave the meet off the bone, knowing bones would be too hard for you to enjoy in your current condition. when he left the house, you came to me where i was resting on the couch, my eyes swollen and burning from lack of sleep and tears, and you asked to come up with me. there, you leaned your whole body into mine, rested your head on my side, and tried so hard to find rest. i stroked your head and looked at the clock and said, "soon Mister, not much longer now and your rest will come"... you lifted your head and looked at me and the panting started, your eyes half closed. my god how tired you looked just then. and i knew, in my very bones, this was your way of asking me not to make you wait any longer. this was your good-bye. so i picked up that phone and called, and they said they would come straight away. you spoke to me, you asked me to let you go, my friend. i learned later this was one of the greatest gifts i could give you.
(but not before we watched you enjoy that meal of beef and pork) :)
we set up your favorite blanket, the one you'd had since you came to me at 4 months. how tired you were Buddy. eventually cancer robs you of all your energy and strength, in one way or another. you couldn't lay down for the needle, finding it so hard to breath this way, so they used a back leg, the one you always kick out in front of you when you sit. i sat in front of you, holding your head as you settled all your weight into my hands, giving yourself to me. garth, as always, our support and our strength, behind me- his hand on my back, our energies fused, all 3 of us.
such trust there is between a dog and their person. the fear that flashed in your eyes quickly disappeared as i spoke to you and told you i loved you, over and over, and thanked you for the years you had given me. what a blessing you were you to me, to us. i thanked you for carrying me, for being my rock, for showing me the true meaning of love.
they injected the sedative first and for the first time in a month, you were breathing easily, and you gently laid your head down in my lap. i bent over you, covering my body over yours, kissing your ears, your muzzle, your eyes, your lips, my tears staining your face.
not even half of the euthanasia reached your vein before you so quietly, without any struggle, in such silence, took your last breath- there, with me holding you.
such pain & such healing, both- such grief & such gifts, both... all contained in this day.