(This is a republished post. You can view the original posting HERE.)
I'm going to warn you in advance, dear reader; you probably don't want to read this. This is a painful writing about the loss of a loved one. If you decide to stop here and now, I will truly understand, and it will probably be for the better. I'm not writing this for you, after all; I'm writing this for me. Not that I expect it to do any good.
With that said:
It's been about a month and a half since I had to say goodbye to our family dog, our forever puppy, Evvy. And I am still feeling it very deeply. It haunts me, and I still see it and feel it every second of every day. I've been falling further and further down, and I honestly don't even know how to recover at this point.
Right here, I feel I should point out that I am a very empathetic person; too empathetic in fact. I feel too deeply. I can't even read articles about strangers that suffer without crying myself; that is just who I am. Many people over the years have tried to make me feel bad about this, and maybe I am just a freak. I don't see these levels of empathy from others, so yeah, I am a freak. But I cannot change that about myself; god how I wish I could. This level of empathy has been of great cost to me throughout my life, I have gone to great lengths to suppress this empathy in fact, and this situation is just yet another example of how detrimentally it affects me.
Anyway, moving on.
This situation with our puppy had been building for about two years, with the last year or so representing a rapid deterioration of our once happy, healthy, and buoyant puppy. She really was a special dog. Everyone who met her can attest to that.
About a year and a half ago, I posted about her 'episodes
', which lasted until her final days. But as bad as those were, and they did get worse in my opinion, it's almost nothing compared to the overall deterioration she suffered.
In her final year of life, she began losing hearing, her sense of smell, and I believe even her eyesight. She was exhibiting signs of dementia, constantly walking in circles, or getting lost on the way outside or back inside, as well as just aimlessly wandering around the house. She was in pain, as she did not like being touched on most parts of her body, making it almost impossible to pet her. She couldn't jump up onto the couch or bed, and often had trouble getting up the stairs of our home. In some cases she'd have to be picked up and carried, which caused her to snap at whoever was attempting to help; something she never did before. For most of her life, she was the most gentle creature in the world.
She had a growth on her eye as well, some weird thing that looked like a glob of goo or something. Whatever it was, there was little that could be done; any treatment would have required her to be put under, and because of her age, there was too large of a chance that she wouldn't be able to wake up. And this would repeat with the situation that ultimately led us to deciding to put her to sleep.
One day, my ex wife had me make an appointment for Evvy, as it appeared she had an abscess tooth, something she's had before many times throughout her life. However, it turned out to be much, much worse. We never found out exactly what it was, but the vet quickly found out that she had a growth, a tumor in her mouth. And it was large. Very large.
As in the case of that growth on her eye, we were left with very little options. Any diagnosis or treatment would have involved anesthesia, which is something that at her age (16) would have meant a strong possibility that she would not wake up. We were basically given four options:
Option 1, attempt to find out what was wrong and fix it. This would involve blood tests, x-rays, and a biopsy. A biopsy would require the anesthesia.
Option 2, just treat. Put her under (anesthesia) and just operate not knowing exactly what it was.
Both of these options came with the overwhelming risk that should she be put under, she would never wake up due to her age. There was also a very real possibility that this tumor would turn out to be cancerous, and it was entirely possible that we could have found out that the cancer had spread.
Option 3 would be to just monitor and see how it progressed.
Option 4 was euthanasia.
Options 1 and 2 were out of the question. The chances at her age of her not surviving just seemed cruel to risk it with what she'd be put through. We were not ready for option 4. So we went with simply monitoring. What else could we do?
It didn't take long, maybe a week or two, before this tumor became so large that it could no longer be concealed in her mouth. Basically, it was now clearly visible whether her mouth was open or closed. She even had trouble eating because of it. And it wasn't just growing outward, it was growing inward as well. Eventually, it was going to grow so far inward that it would cause unknown damage. So it really was just a matter of time.
Then came the final day.
Before I get into this, I want to give a brief insight into life at my house. Ever since the separation, my ex kept Evvy in her room at night. She had a dog bed for Evvy at the foot of her bed, since the poor thing couldn't get up onto the bed. My ex tends to go to bed early, so around 8 PM I would give Evvy her bedtime snack, take her outside, and then one way or another, get her to my ex's room.
In the mornings, typically early, my ex would get up and come downstairs, bringing Evvy with her. We had another dog bed downstairs, and that's where Evvy would spend probably 75% of her day. When I would get up, I'd go downstairs, get my coffee, and often let Evvy out. Around 8 AM, whomever got to it first would give Evvy her breakfast.
5 PM would be Evvy's dinner.
Rinse and repeat.
I also want to point out that all of her meals were laced with medications, primarily pain killers and cough suppressants, all aimed at keeping her comfortable. These worked to varying degrees, and in fact, sometimes, that happy puppy would shine through; she would bounce and hop, get excited for dinner, and even allow anyone around her to pet her. These were very welcomed moments where she was who she had always been before. It gave hope; maybe just false hope.
So on her last night, Evvy had trouble getting up the stairs. She tried twice, and both times tumbled down. The second time was especially bad as she fell at least halfway down. I was trying my best to catch her, to steady her, but that only caused her to snap at me viciously. I ultimately had to bare it and pick her up and carry her, which caused even more snapping. The next morning, my ex knocked on my door in a panic.
She informed me that the tumor opened up and bled; Evvy was bleeding heavily. It wasn't so much that there was imminent danger of her bleeding out, but it was enough that it could not be ignored. It was enough that we knew we had to make a decision, and at that point, there really seemed to be only one decision to make. Her tumor was actively bleeding, and even though it slowed down a little, it never stopped. Any option to fix would lead us right back to the initial problem; anesthesia and the risks that runs for a dog of 16.
As heartbreaking as it was, and still is to this day, we knew we had to let her go. We had to end her pain; her suffering.
We quickly made an appointment and gathered those who wanted - or simply needed - to be there.
The honest truth was that I never really wanted a pet. I love animals, but the pain of losing them has always been too much for me. And I have never experienced this before; having to make that decision, having to choose to put them to sleep. Any previous pet I had as a child or young adult died without warning. Hit by a car, old age, or run away, gone so long you just know they are probably no longer living.
When I was 18 or 19, my childhood cat died while my parents were out of town. I came home to find him in the driveway with no real indications of exactly what happened. He was old, so I always just assumed it was age related. I thought that that was one of the worst things to experience, coming home to find a loved one dead in the driveway. I was wrong.
The vet tried to be comforting. He had been very supportive overall, from the moment Evvy's health started to decline in so many ways. And with this tumor, he said that there was no wrong choice; that whatever we decided would be something he would support. But in that moment, in that room, there are no words that can actually comfort a grieving family. I'll spare the details, but watching my sweet puppy take her last breaths is something that I still cannot get out of my head. I see it almost every single time I close my eyes.
And now I am plagued with guilt. Guilt for making the decision to end her life; maybe I should have tried more to keep her with us? Guilt for not making the decision sooner; her health and well-being had been deteriorating for over a year, possibly two, so why did we take so long? Why did we prolong her suffering?
I also keep wishing that I had chosen not to be there in the room, which also makes me feel guilty. After all, I was there for her in the first place. I wanted her to be as at peace as possible. And what could make my sweet puppy feel more at peace than being surrounded by people who loved her, who she loved deeply, all there for her. And from her perspective, she simply got sleepy and dozed off, surrounded by such love (I constantly tell myself this, as if to make it better. To convince myself of what she must have understood as if it could make things better; it doesn't). We all did this for her. How dare I even think about not being there?
The first few weeks without Evvy were excruciatingly tough, especially that day; obviously. She took her last breath early afternoon. I was broken, of course. I didn't care; I went out and got some whiskey. My day was done. But that didn't stop instinct from kicking in at 5 PM. I literally had to remind myself that there was no need to prepare her meal.
At 8 PM, it was the same basic thing.
The next morning I got up like normal. I am not a morning person, so I function mostly on routine. I get up, go straight downstairs and to the coffee. Except for this morning, as I hit the bottom of the steps and turned towards the kitchen, my heart sank as I noticed the empty dog bed and it hit me. She was gone.
And even after that, when my daily reminder went off to take my pills at 8 AM, a reminder that had served a dual use for years, I STILL had a moment where I almost went to get her meal ready.
For weeks these kinds of moments continued. Not too long after, my ex put the cat's food dish down next to the water bowl. We've always kept the cat food dishes up somewhere Evvy cannot reach, and right next to the water bowl is where Evvy used to be fed. I actually opened my mouth to say, 'What are you doing? The dog'll eat that!' when it hit me again.
After a few days, my ex came to me crying, asking me to do something with the dog beds. I grabbed her bed from my ex's room, then the one from downstairs, and several blankets that had become hers. I put them through the washer and dryer, then just boxed them up and set them in the garage.
A good two or three weeks later, my ex and I were going to watch something downstairs, a YouTube video if I remember correctly. She was cold and grabbed a blanket and immediately began crying; it smelled like Evvy. I grabbed it, and I could smell it too.
Like I said, I never wanted a pet, and this is exactly why. But Evvy came to us in a very unique and special way.
It was 2007. Our youngest child had just been born, maybe two months prior. A coworker of my wife-at-the-time was going through a divorce, and long story short, they had to get rid of their one year old Jack Russel Terrier. They came to us because they didn't know anyone else that had the resources to care for a dog. The coworker was going to be living in an apartment that didn't allow pets. Their next option was going to be their last; the pound.
With a newborn in the house, we were of course very hesitant. We didn't want an animal that could potentially harm our baby; but we also hated the idea of an animal going to the pound (if Lady and the Tramp has taught me anything). We had the coworker bring this puppy over just to see how she would handle being around a newborn.
When they arrived, this springy, bouncy, energetic ball of pup came hopping in, barking and racing all around. She went from person to person, sniffing and licking and pawing at every new person. Then she saw the baby, sprawled out on the floor. We all held our breath, waiting on edge, ready to jump in and intervene.
But this ball of energy calmed right down, crouched on the floor, and sort of presented herself to the baby. She put her paw out or something, very gently. Then the baby grabbed hold of the puppy's ear and tugged; hard enough that it at least looked painful.
Everyone gasped, literally.
Evvy, however, just took it. She didn't react.
We of course jumped in, got the baby's hand free and picked him up. Then Evvy just went back to hopping and springing all around. It was official; we were hers. And the real test; she would be great around our newborn - something that was proven again and again over the course of 15 years.
The coworker had given us a laser pointer. Evvy, like a cat, loved to chase around the little red dot. I would navigate it along the floor, then up a wall; Evvy could get at least 4 feet off the ground, running up the length of a wall or door. Outside she'd chase the red dot, or any ball, and she'd equally soar at least 4 feet off the ground, back-flipping all the while.
She was so sweet too. She'd jump up on the couch with you and lay her head in your lap, or put her back against your legs. She'd also too often just crawl onto your lap; she seriously believed that she was a lap-dog even though she was just too big for that realistically.
This really was Evvy for at least the first 13 years that we had her. I remember someone once telling us that with Jack Russel Terriers, they are basically puppies their whole lives; they just go and go until one day they stop. This was true for Evvy, at least up until the last year, maybe two.
I know that everyone always says that the joy an animal brings you for 90% of their time is worth the 10% of grief and sorrow you feel at their loss. That sounds great on paper, and I'm trying so hard to believe it, to experience it. But all I can feel right now is loss and sorrow. Pain. Regret. I miss her so much I cannot begin to articulate it; no, this writing here hasn't even scratched the surface. I'm broken right now. And have been since we lost her; no, longer. Like I said earlier, she had been deteriorating for at least a year, maybe two.
For months - and I mean months - I'd come home and everything about her was so different that it pained me. I absolutely hated seeing what she was going through, what she was becoming. Too many times to count, she'd be asleep, but I'd have to watch her for signs of breath, or shake her to make sure she was still alive. And every single time she had one of her 'episodes' my very soul shattered.
I want to focus on the good times; I want to remember the joy. But right now, at the very least, I can't. Right now I am broken. If you never knew her, I wish you did. Goddamn she was so special.
Rest in peace my sweet, forever puppy; Evvy.