I had to put Scout down on Friday. I’m still in shock. It all happened so quickly. Which, looking back, was how it had to happen.
I thought I would be dropping him off for his vet visit and then boarding. We were leaving for Wisconsin Saturday morning and I knew timing would be tight and the morning chaos would take precedence over everything.
He’s had a cold for a few weeks.
The last time I boarded him, at the end of April, he also saw the vet. He had a runny nose and some congestion, which the vet thought could be some sort of infection or a cold.
So, he went on antibiotics. When it didn’t seem those were working, he suggested stronger antibiotics. He mentioned something about a possible tumor, but I didn’t consider it.
I was home in Wisconsin for my dad’s celebration of life. I was knee deep in grief already, struggling to put one foot in front of the other.
No. There would be no tumor talk. Not today.
I agreed to the stronger antibiotics.
I came home and picked him up a few days later. He still had his cold and his nose was still runny, but he also still had another week left of his antibiotics.
They just haven’t kicked in, I thought. We need more time.
Scout sneezed and wheezed through that next week. He went a full day without eating, and I freaked. I went to bed knowing that if he didn’t eat the next morning, I had to go to the ER.
But, the next morning he had pep in his step. He seemed to be on the mend. He scarfed down deli meat and even wanted to play.
As the next week passed, his energy waned.
The mucous from his nose got worse, too. I tried to wipe it, but he wasn’t having it. Just like the kiddos, I thought. No one likes to have his nose wiped.
He slept all day, but that wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary. He couldn’t make it up the stairs anymore, his little joints wracked with arthritis and his hips as wobbly as ever.
He almost couldn’t stand to bear the weight of his tiny frame. His 6 pounds might as well have been 30.
Still, I couldn’t see it.
I didn’t want to.
Friday came, and it was time to get ready for our Wisconsin adventure. We were heading to northern Wisconsin to visit family. We were looking forward to connecting and unplugging.
I knew I had to talk with the vet again, before checking Scout in to board.
We headed to the vet. I told him what I was seeing – that even after the round of antibiotics, he wasn’t getting better. And, he seemed to be getting worse. The tech came to the car to get Scout. COVID precautions. I stayed in the car. Waiting.
The doc called me after 10 minutes.
“He’s gotten progressively worse since I saw him a few weeks ago. His breathing is labored, his lungs are filling with fluid. And since we know it’s not a cold, my best guess is that he has a mass or tumor obstructing his airway. We could scope him, but I’m not sure he would make it through that. And that would just be diagnostic. You and I both know we’re out of medical options.”
My breath caught in my throat.
“I…I-I-I know. I just, I don’t know, I mean, my dad just passed away and I’m…I don’t…” I stammered.
“I’m so sorry.” He said.
“I know it’s time. I know. It’s just…I’m not…I know I’m being selfish.” I said.
I couldn’t think. I had to make a decision.
We talked it through. He’d treated Scout for the last 8 years. He assured me that I’d given Scout a good life. Almost 18 years.
“When do you get back?” he asked.
“Tuesday,” I said.
“I can’t assure you that he would be able to hold out until then. We would make him as comfortable as possible. But I can’t promise anything, especially knowing how much he’s worse he’s gotten in the past few days.”
I felt a weight in the center of my chest. My throat tightened. Tears burned my eyes.
It was time.
I finally accepted what everyone around me could already see: it was time to let my boy go. Time to put an end to his struggles.
From there, it was a whirlwind.
The bereavement room. My boy, a catheter in his teeny tiny vein in his teeny tiny leg, wrapped in bright red tape. A fleece blanket. A nurse with kind eyes. The vet, solemn and steady.
It happened so quickly. First, the anesthesia. Then, the fluid that made his cloudy eyes heavy, his frail body go limp.
With my nose to his, I told him how much I loved him and how proud I was to grow right alongside him for 18 years.
The vet put a stethoscope to his heart.
“He’s passed,” he whispered.
He’s passed, I thought to myself.
My dog of 18 years. My companion. The only other being who was along to witness my entire adult life. My sidekick. My best friend.
In that precise moment, he became my past.
I walked into the vet with my pup and I left with 18 years of memories.
As always, I turned to my brother for guidance.
“He had a great life with you. You had him for 18 years, “ he said, in an attempt to comfort me and remind me that I got out all the life that I could out of that little guy.
“Is that supposed to make it easier or harder?” I asked.
“Hmm. Harder.” He said quietly.
In a cruel twist of fate, I lost my dad and my dog of 18 years within just 2 months of each other.
My two anchors.
I don’t have a tidy ending to this story. The ends are loose and frayed.
I know that eventually the sharp edge of grief will become a dull ache. I know my heart will survive this break and keep beating.
Right now, though, I’m torn apart by the fucking grief.