07 Sep + It Sucks When Your Dog Dies
One night, I dreamed that a third dog suddenly appeared in our yard. Somehow I figured out that it was our dog who had passed away the year before, but he looked different. I later told my husband about my crazy dream, and when we got home that evening, there was a third dog in the yard.
We walked the entire fence line, but could not find the hole through which he got in. So, since he appeared out of nowhere, we named him Deus Ex Machina (god from a machine), which was a term used in Greek plays to explain how a character comes out of nowhere to tie up loose ends. We later discovered how he got into our yard; he’d jumped over the fence. That was almost eight years ago.
It turns out that Deus had quite a history. We pieced together that one neighbor down the road rescued him when he was a starving pup that had been dumped in a ditch in our subdivision. When he was well enough, he’d leave their yard for days and eventually months at a time. One day he came back with a collar on, so he must have been staying with another family. Eventually, he stopped staying with either family when he leaped into our yard and became the new brother of our two dogs.
While he never missed a meal or family time, seeing us off to work or welcoming us home, he unfortunately continued to wander. He’d bring home evidence from his adventures – dead squirrels or discarded carcasses from hunters. We hated that he left because we worried about his well-being, but we didn’t want to chain him up to prevent him from leaving.
He was the sweetest boy in the world. He loved to lie down with his front paws crossed and give an occasional wink. He snored so loudly when he slept that you could hear it through a stucco wall. He ate his meals in three to four courses instead of just wolfing down his food. He insisted on holding paws with me daily. He loved to lean against the wall, and look back over his shoulder with his tongue hanging goofily out the side of his mouth. His presence was calming, and he slept at my feet for the majority of my writing time for both of my books.
When we arrived home from work on Thursday evening, he was walking around like he was drunk, vomiting, and drinking water like there was no tomorrow. Since he lacked the capacity to tell us what was wrong, he just leaned his head on my shoulder and sighed deeply.
The vet on duty at Emergency Pet Clinic immediately guessed that he had antifreeze poisoning. A lab test confirmed his hypothesis. Treatment began at once to try to prevent renal failure. I was able to lie with Deus in his cage and let him snuggle with me until he nodded off to sleep.
By the time I got home and showered, it was nearly 11 PM, so we called the vet to check in. Deus was stable. At 1 AM, the vet called and said his numbers had worsened a bit. The 5 AM lab work would determine his prognosis. We didn’t sleep the rest of the night. At 5:20 AM, after consulting with the new vet on shift, we made the decision to put him to sleep.
We were so fortunate that our schedules yesterday allowed us to do what we did. My husband called in sick and dropped his projects off at work at 6:30 AM. I had only one meeting and an office day scheduled, so I didn’t have to re-arrange anything with other parties. We spent Deus’ last hour holding and loving him. It was beautiful, yet heartbreaking.
I arrived at my 9:00 meeting with sunglasses on. I’d decided not to cancel because 1) I hate cancelling, 2) this person and I have difficult schedules to match, and 3) I knew she’s a “dog person” and would understand why I was dressed the way I was and looked the way I did – like the losing fighter in a boxing match with both eyes nearly swollen shut. While I was here, my husband stopped at the grocery store with our weekly list and stocked up.
We met back at home and just sat on the back porch for an hour, talking to and lovin’ on our other two dogs. We couldn’t tell if their demeanors had changed because ours had or if they understood what was going on. We all consoled each other.
Head pounding, eyes swollen and brain sleep-deprived, it made no sense to try to work, so we did what our bodies were begging for – we took a nap. Later, we had a light snack for lunch. Then we both worked for a couple of hours in the afternoon in order to be able to shut down early and do nothing for the rest of the weekend.
So, why share all of this with the world? 1) It’s therapeutic for me to tell everyone about my special little guy. 2) I’m not ready to verbalize this yet (I’m sobbing as I write this), so I now have a link I can send people to until I’m ready to talk about it without blubbering. 3) I always discover new lessons or am reminded of old ones, so I thought I’d list those here:
*Always keep at least 1/8 of a tank of gas in the car instead of letting it run down to fumes. You never know when you’ll have an emergency that involves driving somewhere.
*If you have pets, know where the closest emergency clinic is so you don’t lose time looking one up.
*Bookmark PetMD.Com. It was helpful to have that written information to go along with the verbal information from the vet in on order to make a decision.
*Make sure you and your neighbors know how important it is to clean up all antifreeze and brake fluid spills. The liquid tastes sweet, so pets lap it up without thinking. It only takes three ounces to kill a medium-sized dog. Better yet, if you know people who work for those manufacturing companies, beg them to use additives that will give it a foul taste so pets won’t eat it.
*If you decide to put your pet to sleep, many vets offer the choice of leaving the remains there or having a private cremation with the ashes returned to you in an urn in seven to fourteen days. If your pet passes away offsite, there are pet cremation places that will help you. Unless you’ve been through it, you normally wouldn’t know this stuff, which adds to your confusion and brain overwhelm in a stressful situation.
*Know who your “dog friends” are at work and in your personal life. Non-dog people won’t think this is a big deal. Dog people will and will help cover for you at work and be there to lean on at home.
*When life throws you a wrench, listen to what your body needs. Eat a good meal to give your brain fuel. Take a nap if you’re tired. It’ll help clear the cobwebs.
*Enjoy every minute possible with your loved ones. Work will always be there, but they won’t.
I love you, Deus. ‘Night ‘night.