John was watching our boy panting, lurching because his back legs barely support him, yet incapable of stopping the relentless pacing that exhausted and caused him intense pain. And then John said, “I can’t stay any longer, I’ve stayed as long as I could.”
A wholly perfect translation of this past Monday morning when Shadow let us know it was time.
You think you’re ready.
You see the fur whitening, energy dropping, diminishing interest in eating. Then the confusion, ataxia, muscle wasting which create a perfect storm of misery. You tell yourself that he won’t be here much longer. Especially during the times that it looks as if he is really dying. Now.
And believe you are ready for him to go. Repeating it to one another will prepare you. Like last Sunday night. Shadow was so miserable that neither John nor I could figure out ways to help him, settle him down. Despite a double dose of sedatives. Finally he just collapsed.
So I texted our and Shadow’s good friend, Elizabeth to cancel our planned early Monday morning Avila beach walk.Those beach walks which kept him with us for another few months longer, I am confident. Shadow loved those walks, he was transformed when we got on the beach: his gait normalized, no stumbling or lurching. Animated, tail wagging, smiling at the people and the children just like here.
Since we all got a little sleep Sunday night, by Monday morning, Shadow seemed a little better. Not much, but a little. Maybe it was the ginormous helpings of Wagu beef and most of a filet that John had cooked for him Sunday night. And that miraculously Shadow had eaten every last bite.
We looked at our dog, and then at one another…”Do we really want to do this?” No! Of course we don’t want to kill this dog!
“Okay, he loves the beach, let’s get him down there and see how he responds.”
Great, a plan: ode to Shadow.
These are the things Shadow loved in order:
We got to Avila Beach early enough that the dogs can race around off leash. Seymour, naturally, could barely contain himself.
“I can race!”
Shadow and I walked down the paved walkway to the beach that Elizabeth and I found a few weeks ago. Shadow and stairs have disliked one another for many years now.
Within five minutes, he looked happy. His gait straightened out and he was smiling. Astonished, John exclaimed, “We want to give him the needle?” But unlike every other time on the beach, the spurt of health and vitality did not last. Within another couple of minutes, Shadow lowered his head against John’s leg. Leaning.
He never leaned.
“Thank you for bringing me here. But I am so very tired.”
The staff at the Primary Care Hospital could not have been kinder or more accomodating. We had an appointment within two hours after making the call. And yes, we could go in with him. When we arrived, we were led through the rear door where there was a good-sized grassy lawn enclosure with a brightly striped blanket lying on it. Next to it was a table with two kinds of dog treats and a box of tissues.
Shadow never got to see much grass in northern Nevada where he lived most of his nineteen or so years on this planet. Up there, it’s crushed granite. So when we walked him out there, he had to have thought, “Grass?” “Really?” “Wow!”
Because I sure did.
Once I got down on the grass, Shadow mostly collapsed next to me. Finally, I think, that brave, noble heart accepted that I have stayed as long as I could. But I cannot stay any longer.
The panting stopped.
Heart rate slowed.
By the time the veterinarian, Dr. Bennett, came out to meet us and look at the way his leg was crumpled under him, he was just about unconscious. When she straightened out that leg, he never moved. Never knew she was there.
And he never felt the needles.
That he decided, after being invited in by many neighbors, no, “I’m going to pledge my troth with those people in that gray house.”
“I will help their big, injured red dobie. He’s sad, lonely, and in pain, I can help him.”
“Then when he has to leave, I’m going to watch out for the dobie puppy they will get next.”
“I will guard him, and then grieve with them when he has to leave, too.”
“Along the way, I will teach them lessons about life, happiness, and joy.”
“And okay, I’ll accept that crazy Seymour into our pack.”
“I lose a part of my heart with the loss of each dog. And when my next dog gifts me with a piece of his heart, I know that another piece of my heart will be buried with him when he dies. Maybe someday my heart will be transformed into these pieces- these gifts- and finally create a heart filled only with generosity and love, like that of a dog.”My Friend Rache’s Dog Houdini Died in January.
Thank you for all these wonderful pictures, Elizabeth. This one a perfect ode to Shadow- I can’t stay any longer.