Good Boy, Goodbye
It started with poop. You know how obsessed we are with your bowel movements and you hadn’t gone in over a day. On Thursday, November 9, Conn noticed you wouldn’t eat the crust off his fig bar, something you’d never refuse, and you were having trouble climbing the back steps. He thought maybe you hurt your hip when you tried to jump on the couch the night before and missed. He put the heating pad out for you to rest your hip on. You love that heating pad. On Friday, November 10, he texted me about feeding you pumpkin pureé to help relieve your constipation or what we thought was constipation. He said you fell asleep on his chest for an hour on the couch.
It turns out, you did poop, we simply hadn’t witnessed you doing it. Your belly was still bloated though. We hoped the pumpkin would eventually alleviate that.
Because of your trouble getting up stairs, we were making plans to help with your hip pain by getting you back on the CBD oil and taking you to acupuncture. For immediate relief we started giving you half a doggie pain killer. I got home a little late that day. As usual, you and George greeted me at the door.
Sunday, November 12, I took a photo of you sleeping on the couch which, I think we can agree, was your favorite place, especially when the low sun floods the living room with rays of warm light. Nothing pleased me more than to fall asleep with you there in that light, which I most likely did on that Sunday afternoon.
You started to veer from your usual poop behavior that week. Instead of meandering along the edges of yard, searching for the perfect spot to squat, you took to pooping out in the open grass. I made a mental note of this change, but was relieved that you were on your regular two-poop-a-day schedule.
Another behavioral change was the way you slept in bed. You started laying on your belly when you were always a side-sleeper. And you took to sleeping on the upholstered bench at the foot of the bed in the early dawn hours. I thought you were just eager for breakfast, like you wanted us to notice you were out of bed. Daylight Savings made a mess of your morning schedule.
At around 5am on Thursday, November 15, with you awake on the bench, Conn got up to see if, just in case, you needed to go out to pee or poop, which, much to my surprise, you did. George followed as usual, never one to turn down an opportunity to go out. It was odd though, you can normally hold your bladder through the night.
I had Thursday off. Though it wasn’t unbearably cold, I lit a fire in the wood stove. I partly did it for you because I know how much you like it. It always made me happy to hear you hop in behind me at the sound of the shovel scooping out the ashes from yesterday’s fire.
Sure enough, you were lounging on the day bed next to the stove when I went out to split wood in the late morning. Conn brought you and George out front to see me after a while. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and unseasonably warm. He decided to pack you both in the car and back it up out of the garage so that the rear was in my sight line. You and George lay down on the tailgate with your heads on your paws, soaking up sun and sniffing the outside air. At one point I stopped and walked over to give you both some love. It warmed my heart to have you out there with me.
I went inside for lunch and as usual, you chomped on some of my apple slices. I even gave you both some bits of turkey. After lunch I went out to scatter leaves with the leaf blower. I was inside the fenced area at the back of the house when Conn opened the sliding glass door to let you and George out onto the deck. I could faintly hear him over my headphones, “There’s Daddy!” You and George spotted me on the other side of the railing and excitedly sauntered over. I pressed my face to the spindles and you gave me sweet, sloppy kisses that filled me with joy. More so than the usual ones. Maybe they were special because the sun was in my eyes and you seemed so genuinely happy to find me out there. If nothing else Blake, I will always love you for that, for being the happiest to see me.
That night, when I went to bed, I looked up what a bloated dog belly might mean. Why did it take me so long to do that? I don’t know, Blake. I was probably in denial. I didn’t want to face another potential medical problem. The results of my search prompted me to text the link to Daddy. He had also looked it up that night but didn’t want to say anything until morning when we could call the vet.
At around 4:45am Friday, you again got down from bed and lay on the bench. This time I got up and let you out to pee. I was down there on the grass with you. When you showed no energy to climb the steps I carried you up and you hopped back inside the house. I wiped your paws, gave you and George a treat, and told you both to come back to bed.
On Friday morning, your routine was normal though instead of joining me on the couch while I had breakfast, you went back to bed with George and Daddy.
I had a burst of cleaning energy, suddenly driven to Windex the windows. Conn called the vet as soon as they opened and secured a 9:30 slot. He let you out the back where you rather quickly pooped. I grabbed a ziplock bag and told him to bag some of it in case the vet would want to run tests. He carried you back up the stairs.
At 9:07am, I told you we were going to go for a ride to the doctor and you perked up as you followed me to the garage. You hesitated at the top of the two steps so I picked you up and placed you on the passenger seat. On the ride there, you lay down with your head facing the shift box. I put my right hand down as a rest for your head. It gave me comfort when you placed your head there for more than a while. I looked down at one point and you stared back at me. Your look was one of resignation.
We waited in the parking lot for the vet to call us in. You were sitting up in the passenger seat, your tail tucked under your butt, an endearing trait that stuck with you from puppyhood. You were hesitant to go into the building. Highly unusual for you as you always loved going in there. I had to coax you up the entrance ramp. But once we were inside, you seemed ok. You hopped right up onto the scale.
The tech’s questions were taking up some time so I sat in a chair. You were getting antsy, looking up at me with pleading eyes that seemed to indicate that you wanted to leave. To quiet you, I scooped you up onto my lap and firmly hugged you to my chest. You immediately calmed down. The tech turned from her screen and made an audible “aww” sound when she saw us.
You were so at peace in my arms. We had a minute or two of that calm before the vet entered the exam room. She was happy to see you. I stood you up on the scale as she raised it to waist level. She examined your gums and asked me if Daddy Conn was available to talk. She was listening to your heartbeat when Daddy answered the phone. At this point, Blake, I was starting to get worried.
Visibly flustered, she let out a deep breath and said, “You know how much I love this dog….” I knew what followed was only going to be bad news. The pale white color of your gums indicated you were anemic and the belly bloat was due to internal bleeding. She listed potential causes at which point my brain slowed, cherry-picking words like “spleen” and “liver” and “sarcoma.” A nurse brought in an ultra-sound scanner and the doctor went straight to the task of wetting the fur on the left side of your abdomen. As she did this, she went through possible treatment options. I’ll spare you the details, bottom line was that surgery would only give you a few extra weeks, most of which would be spent in recovery mode, no playing, no running, no fun. I think after performing three major surgeries, she was drawing a line—go any further and there’d only be more pain.
I glanced over to you numerous times during the exam. Panting and excited, you also looked a little scared. You said a lot with those expressive eyes. I smiled and tried to reassure you. The sonogram revealed a large splenic tumor in your abdomen called a hemangiosarcoma that caused the severe internal hemorrhage. She said because of the anemia you’d eventually loose muscle function and that you only had a few days left. She offered to end your suffering at home that night or the following. They left the room so I could discuss it with Daddy Conn. You stepped off the scale and were looking up at me as if to say, Ok, let’s get out of here.
We did not want your life to end at the vet’s office, Daddy and I chose to have her do it rather than a complete stranger. You led me out of the exam room and we found the vet to relay our decision. She hugged me. You were still eager to leave but I had to fill out papers. We asked for a private cremation with free paw impression. A regret suddenly sank in, we should have taken a paw impression of your right one before the amputation in 2020.
As I filled out the papers, the vet came back out of her office and talked to you. She gave you the last two treats that were in the jar on the reception counter. You were pulling the leash so fervently that I had to pick you up while I finished signing.
Many folks in the office expressed their sorrow and said their goodbyes as we left the vet for the last time. When we got to the bottom of the ramp, you sat in the parking lot next to a random car. I told you, “Blake, that’s not our car, it’s over there” as I pulled you but you wouldn’t budge. I picked you up and brought you over to our car. I put you in the back thinking that you might want to lay down since you seemed exhausted. As we drove away, you performed your usual maneuver, wedging yourself between the front seats with your one front paw perched on the center console. You looked over to the passenger seat and attempted to hop in. I did not want to deprive you so I pulled over and put you in the front.
On the drive home you had to endure my crying, sobbing, and blubbering apologies in between messages of love. When we pulled into our driveway you weren’t all that excited to get out. I opened the passenger side door and you again stared at me, then looked down and back at me as if to say, I can’t jump down. I placed you on the pavement and talked to you, encouraging you to walk up to the front door with me. You again hesitated but then eventually hobbled up the two steps and in the door.
Daddy Conn and George greeted us. Daddy seemed glazed over, numb. All I wanted to do, Blake, was to hold you and ease your pain. At 11:35am I took a selfie of us on the couch, I had you nestled against my left side with my arm around you. You normally would be relaxed and sleep at any opportunity but as I mentioned before, the blank stares were overtaking your relaxed, slumber states. Feeling the weight of you on me was comforting, I whispered repeatedly how much we love you, how handsome you are, how smart you are and what a good boy you are. I asked you of you were tired. I could see your eyelids lower so I kept asking, telling you to rest and sleep. You finally passed out and I was happy for a moment. Conn kept busy cleaning the house. He was trying to keep things “normal” and didn’t want to show you any sadness or fear.
Our aim was to love on you the entire day. At 12:10pm I plopped you down on the couch, with your head on a pillow, I covered you with your gray and tan striped blanket. You looked comfortable, basking in the long rays of the November sun. I got up to eat an apple. Instead of coming into the kitchen at the sound of the knife hitting the cutting board, you stayed put on the couch. It’s ok Blake, I was happy to bring some slices to you.
Around 1pm we all went outside for a walk in the 60 degree weather. We put your cot out next to the bench under the pine tree. George sat next to me, Daddy Conn sat next to you on the cot. We talked to you as you enjoyed the breeze and the sun, lifting your head, sniffing the autumn air. Then you had more photo opps with Conn as I walked George around the yard.
You exhibited obvious signs of immobility, showing no interest in walking at all. Daddy carried you back in the house and assumed his favorite position: laying down on the couch with you stretched out on top of him, your head resting under his chin. We hinted to you that if you were in too much pain, you could let go and leave us, bathed in sun, huddled all together.
Uncle Paul and cousin Paulie came over to inspect the attic around 3pm. I greeted them in the garage. Daddy let George out, you stayed standing behind the door to the garage. I watched as your head peeked out and cousin Paulie said “Hey, buddy!”
Daddy’s voice broke as he told them that today was your last day. Before they left at around 4pm, they said their goodbyes to you in the front room. Auntie Patricia came over to see you, give you hugs and say her goodbyes too.
After she left we all sat on the couch with you and waited. We once again told you it was ok to go. At around 4:45 Daddy Conn announced it was dinnertime! Normally you’d jump up and run to the kitchen. But you were subdued. Sitting next to you on the couch, I reiterated that it was dinnertime and you finally hobbled down and made your way but you stopped short of the doorway, another sign that you were not yourself. We filled your bowl with a Thanksgiving special: roasted turkey, pumpkin puree and dried cranberries. You took your time eating it up, licking, licking, licking… Daddy gave you some peanut butter for dessert.
We regrouped on the couch, waiting for the vet. Around 5:45 we wondered if she had forgotten. Though we knew you were ready to go, we wouldn’t have minded another day with you. I kissed you every chance I got, which was never enough.
I plugged in the string of lights on the front porch to help guide her to the house in the dark. They showed up at around 6:25. George was his usual animated self, greeting them first. You hopped to the front door soon after. No jumping up or barking when they entered, just a sniff of her leg then retiring to your bed in the kitchen.
We hunkered down on the throw rug in the front room, next to the wood stove that you love. Conn and I called to you but you didn’t budge. I’ll never forget the blank look on your face, Blake. I have since labored to imagine what you were thinking. If I had to guess, you looked a little scared. Or is that a projection of my own feelings?
Daddy went to fetch you. When he sat back down, you slumped on floor with your head on his knee. Then we called for George who was definitely not having any of it. I got up and carried him over, holding him tightly on my lap next you. The vet explained the procedure. You’d first get a poke of sedative in your hind leg to relax you. She said that sometimes, after the euthanizing agent was administered, some pets have a reflex action of movement and to not be alarmed should that happen.
We saw you slowly drift off and relax as we stroked your fur, telling you how much we loved you and what a good boy you are. Daddy Conn thanked you for being our beautiful boy. We thanked you for all your years of devotion. We asked you for kisses one last time but you were too out of it. Don’t worry, we understand. We kissed you anyway. I repeat the promise that I made to you earlier in the day, “It’s ok, Blake. Don’t worry about us, we’ll be ok.”
The vet inserted an IV for the last time. Nothing happened. You didn’t flinch. Daddy and I were sad, I held back tears as we continued to say “good boy.”
With a stethoscope on your chest, she announced that your sweet heart stopped beating. She tested your eye reflexes to make sure you were truly gone. That action left your left eye in a half-open position. They went outside to give us time with you. I let go of George. He immediately sniffed the IV area of your arm, there was a spot or two of blood on your paw. When Daddy shifted, your head popped around and for a spilt second I thought you were still alive and I lost all composure. I let out out a guttural cry as if my insides were spilling onto the floor. I refused to accept you were gone.
Daddy comforted me. Then he pulled you up onto his chest and we both laid back on the edge of the daybed with our hands on you, telling you all the things we had already, remembering that promise I made to you, “Don’t worry Blake, we’ll be ok.” George sat behind and above us. After a few minutes, Daddy noticed you pee’d a little so I got him a tissue. The time was 6:42pm. We were ready to take you out to the vet’s car but when he got up, your lifeless body was letting out a poop. Sure enough, you pooped on him. Don’t worry Blake, it’s ok, you know how we are.
The vet and her assistant wrapped you up in the blanket they brought and walked you out of the house. George sniffed and watched you go with them. Outside it was humid and unseasonably warm. It had drizzled rain. The moist air felt good on my salty cheeks and stinging eyes. We hugged and thanked them for their service and care of you over the years.
Back in the house, we talked to George. Asking him if he was ok and if he knew where you were. He walked into the front room, hurriedly sniffing the spot where you left us and plopped himself down under the coffee table we had returned to its home in the center of the throw rug.
George sat there for a short while. He was looking for you and it shattered our hearts. He repeated this on Saturday evening after he had dinner as if to punctuate the dissonance of not having you there to eat with him. Saturday was intolerable. In the morning, I sobbed uncontrollably at the edge of the bed. Conn went from making fun of me to crying his own eyes out.
We walked George around the yard with your leash in hand, ugly crying on and off along the way. Every corner of the house and property reminds us of you. We still see you curled up in your swivel chair, spread out on your pillow bed, and basking in the sun on the couch. I see you next to George when he is in the kitchen begging for a treat. We see you peeking around every corner with a look of love (or hunger, usually hunger).
Daddy started searching for a beautiful wooden box for your ashes. Thinking something made from a Hawaiian wood like koa would be perfect. On November 24, the vet called and said you were ready to be picked up—we went straight away.
Low and behold, they put your ashes in a bamboo box. Our conversations were always about you going poop or not. On Maui, your FAVORITE place to poop was tucked in under the bamboo hedge. It was a perfect spot, neatly tucked away. You were such a shy or maybe a polite pooper. It seems fitting the box you would be in would be made of bamboo.
Your passing brought Conn and I closer together. Something you would have none of when you were here. You’d bark and jump anytime we hugged each other. And yet you absolutely lit up when we were both outside with you. Daddy Conn always called that an “all skate” when all four of us would go. There was something about both of our energies together outside that made you a happy boy.
We love you Boo-Boo, Chicken, Pumpkin Puss, Little Baby Blake, Boo-Boo Bear, Lover Puss, Lil’ Pink Piglet, Shnicklefritz, Lazy Play’a, Bunny Boo, Honey Bear, Boobie, Shit Ass.
Good boy, goodbye. We’ll see you later.
Jamie Anderson said, “Grief, I've learned, is really just love. It's all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”