just a week ago . . .
The past 40 hours have stopped my world.
Thursday morning, I got up for our walk. Evan always watches me get dressed, tail wagging, and hops off the bed, excited. But not this morning. He was still laying on the bed when I was ready to go downstairs. I said, "What's the matter, baby? You ready for our walk?"
The "W" word always get him moving. But he was moving slow. Usually while I put my shoes on, he dances around excitedly. Thursday, he just stood near me wagging his tail. He was walking much more slowly, stopping to eat grass, not pulling to get to the dog park.
Juno the Husky was there when we arrived and he was wagging his tail, but not running around like he always did. They left and Evan had one little, hard poop nugget. I started to think he must be constipated and tummy messed up so we headed back home. As we were walking away, Regan and Sadie showed up. Normally, he'd be pulling to go back to run after them. He barely looked up. It was the slowest walk home.
Later that day, on one of our usual breaks to the backyard, I threw the ball he'd brought to me and he returned it, not really running, dropped it a few feet away, and thumped down on the ground to lay down. This alarmed me. But, he's a healthy middle aged dog. I'm being paranoid.
He wouldn't touch his food, but he'd still lick the kitty can and take kitty treats. I asked Bob to get some canned dog food for the evening and some pumpkin for constipation. He slowly ate it that night. I hoped by Friday morning (when it was going to be raining and we'd skip the walk) he'd get to pooping.
Friday morning, he wouldn't even touch the canned food. Of course, it was the last day of the month and I was going to be crazy busy and not able to get away from work, so Bob said he'd leave work early and take him. I got him an appointment for 4:20 Friday.
We were expecting Bob Sr. Friday afternoon for a week's visit.
Evan laid still most of the day, going outside when coaxed, but very lethargic and not eating anything.
Bob was gone with him for longer than I thought would be normal for some intestinal trouble. Evan came galumpfing up the stairs happy to be home. Bob looked like he was going to cry.
I play this moment back over and over.
He sat down in front of me and said, "Sweetie, Evan is very, very sick."
I'm in the middle of several more hours of work, and I freeze.
The vet listened to his breathing, took him back for blood work and x-rays, and came in with the news that his lungs were filled with masses, advanced lung cancer, late stage. His white blood cell count was non-existent. There was absolutely nothing to be done except steroids to help him breath a bit easier, but just for a bit longer.
My beautiful, gentle, sweet dog had kept this from me entirely. Until the past two days, he was still bounding around, tail wagging, tongue hanging out, happy to be with me every minute of the day. I guess he waited until he just couldn't anymore to let me know it was time to go.
The vet actually suggested to Bob that euthanasia, right then, could be done to keep him from suffering.
Bob looked at her, after begging for any treatment option, and said, "I have to take him home."
So Friday night, his breathing getting raspier and more jagged by the hour, I learned that I was to be cheated out of half of his life that I had never actually been promised in the first place.
That's actually what I gasped when Bob told me.
"He's just 8 years old!"
Like there was some contract I could enforce to keep him with me and grow old and gray and slow down gradually, preparing me for the end.
I had him for 7 years and three months and now, suddenly, shockingly, it was going to all be over in less than a day. I could not process it.
It took staying up with him overnight Friday into Saturday's dawn for me to being to wrap my mind around the fact that this would be the last night I would be holding him in my arms, on our bed, where he had slept right up next to me every night for years. Where, for years, I could say from my chair, where he would be laying on his bed, "Is it nap time?" and he would immediately hop up, tap into the bedroom, and hop up on his side of the bed. Where, every night, when I would click my laptop shut and say, "It is nigh nigh time?" and he would do the same. Just before he and Bru would share kitty treats before turning out the lights.
And in this spot, that last night, he hopped up and I opened the kitty treats, he perked his ears up. I managed to squash a prednisone in between two of the hearts shaped ones and he gobbled it up. I videoed him taking the treats so gently. All night, as he struggled to breathe, and I wrapped him in my arms and kissed his face and just kept whispering, "It's okay. Mama's here. I love you." And I would rub my fingers through his lovely white curls and cry. I would get up every half hour to bring the water bowl up on the bed, over a towel, so he could messily drink.
As light started to creep through the windows, I looked up the Caring Pathways number. They started taking calls at 7. I showered and cried, loved on Evan and cried, and coaxed him downstairs. I knew each of these things would be lasts, so I couldn't help but video them. I ended up with so much by lunchtime I had to offload in order to keep taking pictures.
I was unable to speak more than a couple of words so Bob made the call. Their first availability was 2:30. So I started counting the hours, 8 more hours with my Evan. 7 more.
Each hour was filled with nothing but laying beside him (he was so tired) and petting and kissing and talking to him. His tail never stopped wagging as I whispered to him. Mid morning I looked at him and said "is it time for naps?"
Sure enough, up he got from his bed on the floor, tapped into the bedroom, and hopped up on the bed. I filmed it. And cried. And we drifted for a nap.
3 hours left with my Evan.
We were supposed to have gotten inches of snow overnight, but all that was on the ground in the morning was the lightest trace, just enough to film last little puppy pawprints one more time. It was just gray and cold.
Each time we'd go outside, I'd film. He still wanted to play with the ball, but was so tired. He still wanted to wag his tail at the dog next door, but not much.
At 2:30 Lori from Caring Pathways arrived. She sat on the floor with me as I was laying beside Evan and spoke so gently and let me tell her what an amazing dog he was. And how 24 hours ago, I just thought he had tummy troubles. She comforted us. I had asked over and over every hour, when he would nibble on treats and wag his tail, does he have more time? And then I would hear him struggling to breathe. She said that he wasn't showing it, but he was in more pain than we could know. That it was the right thing and the right time.
I just wanted more time.
I laid his head in my lap and loved on him when she gave him the sedative. He looked up at me and I said, "It's okay baby, one little prick and you can rest." I felt his head grow heavier on my arm and his breath start to puff out the sides of his cheeks. He never closed his eyes.
He was completely under, unaware of any pain, when she shaved a little place on his paw and found the vein. I watched and listened as his breathing slowed and he grew more and more . . . still. In a kind of finality I cannot describe. I kept saying "it's okay baby. You can go. I will miss you forever. I will love you for longer."
I watched those beautiful brown eyes slowly fade from their gloss as he quietly left me. Lori listened for a long time at his big, beautiful heart, and said he was gone. About that time, I looked out the window, and realized it had started to snow, just as he was slipping away. He did so love the snow.
Unlike Katy, who required three times the amount, fifteen pokes, finally directly at her heart, my sweetest, kindest, gentlest Evan slipped away effortlessly. Such a good, good boy.
Lori gave us time to say goodbye as she waited outside and told us to take as much time as we needed.
Nick had asked to be on Face Time to be with us, and Bob Sr. held the phone so we could continue to love on him. I laid down beside him and held him and sobbed and petted him and could not let him go. I was the last time I would be able to hold him, even though I knew he was already gone.
Finally, I told Bob to tell Lori to bring the stretcher. Bob and I took him from his bed to the stretcher, lovingly surrounded by blankets, and we carried him downstairs and out of his home for the last time. We laid him gently in the back of her vehicle and I kept kissing his face. Lori drove away slowly and I watched until he was out of sight. I walked back inside and there was his leash, hanging from the coat rack where we'd hung it on our last walk Thursday morning. And I lost it.
I stared out the back window at the snow falling on the little tennis balls on the ground where he had left them, one last time.
I couldn't face going back upstairs. He should be up there on his bed, wagging his tail as I peeked over the banister into the loft. I sat in the front room with wracking sobs. The first thing I got out was, "24 hours ago he was FINE". Of course, he wasn't. He'd been sick for a long time to have that many tumors on his lungs. And until he couldn't go any more, he never left my side as the happy, bouncy wonderful special dog he was.
I got seven years and three months. There was never any guarantee, but I was angry nevertheless.
I was in shock. I was grief stricken in a way I've never experienced. The nearest I had gotten was when my very first dog, Shelby, died in my arms when I was 9 months pregnant with Nick and I started labor that same day, probably due to the endless walking to her grave and sobbing at the sudden, inexplicable loss.
But this is deeper. I had Evan longer, in different times, as children left home and he was my baby, as we explored beautiful Colorado together, and I spent every waking moment with him. He never left my side. When I would travel, my main concern was leaving him. But our reunions were always oh so sweet.
Eventually, Bob made me go upstairs and lie down. I was exhausted having not slept except for our last little nap. I fell asleep clutching his collar and the clippings I had taken of his lovely white curls and tail and fringe. An hour later, I woke. For a split second, I reached for him like I always did upon waking. And then it hit me. Inconsolable is a good word.
I got up to go to the bathroom and there was his food and water bowl. His food, still untouched since Wednesday. I lost it. Again.
I walked it downstairs and poured it back in the bag and clung to his bowl like it was going to fly away from me. I looked out the kitchen window and saw those tennis balls again and had to go get them. I walked out into the cold (the snow had stopped) and got them, and held them, and wept wildly. I had to sit down. I realized later when I sat in my swing, where Evan should be at my feet, that I was sitting in wet snow. I didn't feel it until later when I came inside and sat down and left the chair wet. I hadn't been able to eat since the news Friday night and was getting pretty weak from all the dehydration, so it makes sense I wasn't quite all there.
I fell asleep after taking a handful of Benadryl, clutching his collar and fur.
I got up this morning and Google helpfully notified me it had made a video of my stuff from yesterday. Thanks Google, rip my heart out again.
I fed the cats and looked down at the kitty can. I should be putting it on the floor for Evan to lick, scraping across the stone. When he had it sparkling, he should walk over to the foot of the stairs and look at me. I should be saying, "it's okay, you wanna go upstairs?" and he'd make that wonderful galumphing sound and be waiting for me on his bed as I came up with a cup of coffee.
I said the words anyway and wept for the millionth time.
You should be here Evan. I will miss you forever. I will love you for longer.
For those of you still reading, bear with me, as this blog has always been half Evan and sunrises, and I'm not sure how to go on. This will likely be a grief and memory blog for the foreseeable future, as I cry and type and process and cry.
What follows are my last few days with my beautiful boy.
Our last sunrise together at the dog park, when he was so slow but so happy to be with me. I don't know that I'll ever be able to be go back.
Friday night, in shock. He hadn't even eaten from his kitty can or touched his food. But he perked up at kitty treats with Bru.
He always waited for me to step down before he would start. Such a gentleman.
one last kitty can, which I brought up to him instead of having him come downstairs again
I love those floppy little dew claws
my boy's lovely curls
and his lovely brown eyes
one of the other of us was always reaching out to hang on to the other.
how can this be the end?
animations Google made from the above
His breathing was getting worse by the hour.
Nick sent these to me after it was all over.
He'd taken them via screenshot while he was with us.
This is the last picture I will ever have of me with my beloved.
One last whisper, one last kiss.
The pain is unbearable at times.
I am covered in his fur and I cannot bring myself to pick any of it off. I may never wash this sweatshirt again. I slept in it and I am still wearing it as I type this now.
The movie Google sent me this morning
My friend Jennifer sent me this last night. I hadn't read it before.
Grief is the receipt we wave in the air that says to the world:
Look! Love was once mine. I love well.
Here is my proof that I paid the price.
~Glennon Doyle Melton