"Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole."
- Roger Caras
K (in back), B (in front), Me, Mermaid Girl and Sharky Boy (in utero)
On December 15 or dog Kali became paralyzed from the chest down. She was fine when we all first woke up, and then very suddenly when we took her out to go pee, she couldn't walk. It was obvious she was in a whole lot of pain. She wouldn't eat, drink or go to the bathroom. We took her to the vet, who prescribed some steroids and painkillers. She determined that it was very likely that Kali had ruptured a disk (or more) in her back. And according to several other factors, the prognosis didn't look good. But we had to give the steroids a try, to see if they could help reduce the inflammation and return some of her mobility back, and reduce the pain. The next few days were hard. It was heartbreaking to see her laying there, in pain and unable to do the things she enjoyed. Kali was an avid food searcher. And now, she would barely even touch food hand-fed to her.
The pain meds helped a bit and she began eating and drinking a bit more, but she still wasn't herself. She couldn't go pee or poo on her own, and even when we carried her outside and helped her squat, she was in so much pain she couldn't relax enough to go. So, she ended up peeing and pooping on the towel or her doggy bed she was laying on in the house.
It's hard seeing your dog deteriorate. And it's hard having to clean up after them. And worse, it was hard to see the pain and shame in Kali's eyes. She was such a proud, happy dog....and she was now so unhappy and felt guilty for not being able to control her pee and poo.
After almost a week, with no improvement, we had another vet consult. Surgery was not an option because of her age and the extent of the damage, further investigation was deemed to not really be helpful. Because of her age a lot of the options were also not an feasible or recommended.
So, together with the vet, we made the very hard decision to euthanize. She wasn't going to get better. But because she still had her consciousness, it was so hard to look her in the eye and tell her goodbye. I don't think I've ever had to do anything so hard. Deep down, I knew she would not let go on her own. She was loyal to the end, and wouldn't let her guard down, even to end the pain and die quietly and peacefully...no way, not on her watch. So we had to help her and relieve her pain.
We thought that because the kids, in particular Mermaid Girl, had just witnessed the death of our other dog Bobbi just 2 months ago, that seeing her other dog die as well would be too much.
So, it was just hubby and I holding her while it all happened. And it happened so quickly. A little needle for a tranquilizer, which made her sleepy and she drifted off, and then the pentobarbitol, which stopped her heart within 2 minutes. Then she was gone.
When we got home, without Kali, Mermaid Girl freaked out. We had been preparing her for this since the day she got paralyzed, but it was still a shock to her. And I learned a mighty important lesson from her...among her sobs and cries of sorrow she asked, "Why didn't I get to be there too?" I explained to her that I wanted to protect her from seeing Kali dying because she had not long ago seen Bobbi dying. And she replied, "But I don't need you to protect me! I wanted to be there!"
This broke my heart even more. Of course she wanted to be there. I knew that, but I just couldn't bring myself to putting her through that again. In the end, whatever we choose, we do so knowing that we may make a mistake. Perhaps if I had brought her with us, she would have been traumatized and I would have had to live with that decision.
I suppose it all played out how it was supposed to. Mermaid Girl is doing better, but there are times she gets so sad and I ask her if she misses Kali and she just nods. I am considering grief counseling, I just recognize that perhaps this is beyond my ability to help her deal with it, as I am grieving too. But I don't know...perhaps she just needs time to go through the process.
The house certainly feels a little more empty. All of the important milestones in our lives as a family have our dogs entwined into them. We went from having two dogs, to not having dogs at all, within the span of 2 months. Kali was 12 1/2 years when she died and Bobbi was almost 7 years. And we went from having a dog in the family for over 20 years, to now, having none. And I don't think we'll get another one anytime soon, if at all.
We still look over to were they used to lay and think, "Oh it's time to take them out." I also find myself thinking I need to fill their water bowl or feed them. We still have their leashes and their kennel and their cushion bed. We had hung up a stocking for Kali, which we left up for Christmas. It was too soon to remove all aspects of her memory.
I suppose it's part of what you sign up for when you decide to get a pet. But no matter how much you prepare mentally for it, when the end comes, it's still heartbreaking. It's even more heartbreaking because there were times they did drive me crazy! Like barking when the babies were sleeping and all their hair EVERYWHERE. But now, those things seem trivial. When you lose the whole being, you realize the little things they did or were that bothered you are nothing compared to what their complete absence feels like.
I don't think even time will be able to completely erase the routines we had with them. But little by little, we are putting things away. Not thrown away, just tucked away somewhere safe, just like our memories of our sweet, loyal, loving dogs.