Yesterday morning I called the vet. I requested that Harry be put to sleep due to his discomfort level, trouble breathing, and the knowledge that we could not beat cancer. I asked the vet to come to my home. When the phone rang this morning, it was the front desk of the vet clinic calling to say the vet was one his way and would arrive in 10 minutes. My heart pounded against the walls of my chest. My eyes welled up. I let Comet and Bugsy outside, then put them in the garage.
Harry and I have been hanging out all morning. We were inseparable since I made the decision, even before I called the clinic. Heck, we've been inseparable since the start. I sat for hours with Harry on the couch for the second morning in a row, his head on my lap my hand very gently stroking his ears, his belly, his back. Every now and again I would say out loud "remember when......" and starting tearing up, sobbing. No human could understand my whimpering. Could Harry?
He had a beef femur with Comet and Bugsy last night and then he laid in bed with me as he had so many nights before. I woke up in the morning and massaged his sore legs before encouraging us both out of bed. I fed him cheddar and hot dogs with his butternut squash and beef for breakfast. We had a short walk late morning when the sun had warmed things up a little bit. Harry is happy, I'm sure, that he doesn't have to tolerate the cold that is coming in this evening. I had laid out towels, and an old blanket on the couch and like I said we just stayed there, I sat, he laid down. Once we snuggled in that was it, neither of us was going anywhere. When the call came, like I said, I hustled the boys to the garage. I had the cats already confined to the office. I didn't want any trouble. I just wanted to sit with my dog, tell him he was a good boy and let him go .
I sat with him until the truck pulled in. When I got up to answer the door Harry didn't move an inch. Harry did not get up to see who was at the door, give them a sniff, a bark or a tail wag. After 24 hours of happy Harry the thought had crossed my mind , is it too soon? Is this a mistake? Am I really sure? I always came to the same answer. Better not to wait until the pain and suffering is too great. Enough is enough. In my learning of death and dieing I have come to know that the dieing have sudden bursts of energy in which they may get up and do things they haven't been able to do in some time. They may surprise people, and then disappoint them when they are not in fact better, then they return to the suffering they were in the day before. I consider it a blessing that his last 48 hours were lived in minimal pain, and no stress. It gives me comfort to know that his last moments with us were as joyful and peaceful as I could make them for him. The vet said "owwwwwhhh" upon seeing Harry, who still did not get up despite this man in his living room. Harry not getting up was also a gift to me, reminding me that this decision was the right choice for both of us.
I held him next to me, both of us on our couch as the vet administered the lethal injection. He went peacefully without a whimper and settled his head onto my lap for one last time. I dropped tears as the vet checked his heart rate, then confirmed he was gone. I asked him if he minded please showing himself out.
After saying another goodbye I let the boys, now just Comet and Bugsy, back in. They sniffed Harry's lifeless body. I could see no clear understanding, no empathy, no sadness, no sign that they understood what had changed. Still, I am glad I gave them this chance to see that he was gone. To sniff that he was gone. I wont speculate on what they think. In the last month this house has had several losses. Craig and Matilda may come and visit once or twice, but Harry will not be back. I needed to try to give them this piece of information.
I have a memory of Harry and I, one of those pure joy moments between a person and dog. It must have been September and the two of us hadn't yet been together very long. We still lived in Minneapolis. The two of us explored the neighborhood in a way new to me, in the way a person and a dog explores together. Wondering around. Finding dead squirrels. Sniffing smelly garbage. We looked for new ways to walk to the near by park. It wasn't a "nice" neighborhood per-say and sometimes we crossed paths with shady characters. But I was never afraid because I had MY DOG with me.
We come close to the park at sunset and the sidewalk ends near a hill that slopes down into the park. That hill and the grassy open area below it are awash with dandelion puffs. "Lets go!" I cry and the two of us run in a zig zag pattern down the hill kicking up as many puffs as we can in the process. We run circles in them when we reach the bottom and when we are out of breath, or when I am, I pet his head tell him "Good boy! Com'on buddy, lets go." and we keep on walking, down the path and through the park; stopping for Harry to pee on all the trees that come across our path. Harry is happy. I am happy. We are a perfect pair.
For those of you who read regularly, you know that Harry's full name is Aquarius. On his adoption papers it says "Aquarius, Harry for short". I mostly called him Harry, sometimes I called him Buddy, but occasionally I would call him Aquarius and it always made me get this song in my head.