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Hold on to me, ’cause I’m a little unsteady… A little unsteady… If you love me don’t let go… The radio played in the background. Almost perfect. Except for the ‘don’t’ part, I thought.
I euthanized my neurologic dog tonight.
Three years ago, we adopted her as a senior from a breed rescue. We were only supposed to foster her but she stole our hearts before she even jumped into the car.
Seven days ago, she looked a little stiff so I started her on pain meds.
Six days ago, she looked a little worse.
Five days ago, in a matter of hours, she lost the use of her hind legs.
Four days ago, an MRI showed a large tumor pressing against her spine.
Three days ago, I took my other dogs to daycare so they wouldn’t jump all over her all day.
Two days ago, I bought her a bigger kennel and zip-tied foam to the sides so she couldn’t fall and hurt herself.
One day ago, my husband ordered a special harness to help support her paraplegic little body.
Today, we found out that she has aggressive spinal cancer. Which kind of explains why the steroids didn’t make her better, didn’t help her walk again like we’d hoped.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we can’t leave her like this.”
Surgery wouldn’t remove the whole tumor and might make her worse. If it did work, it’d only buy us two months. Her specialists were hesitant to irradiate. And chemo may or may not help, but eventually we’d be back to where we were today–with a proud little dog who couldn’t stand up on her own and who cried when she urinated in her kennel. With a pitiful little dog who was visibly exhausted but couldn’t get any rest.
On my way home from work, I stopped at Wendy’s to get a bacon cheeseburger and fries. Then I stopped at Chik-Fil-A, because milkshakes are better than Frostys. She always tried to drink out of our milk glasses.
When I got home, she was cuddling on the couch with my husband. The one place that allowed her to forget she couldn’t walk. I cut the burger into pieces and watched her inhale every crumb. We watched her drink her milkshake. And once she was finished, with a full tummy and an empty bladder, we stroked her and kissed her, trying to memorize every idiosyncrasy, until she relaxed. She’s the rare dog who enjoyed hugs and PDA.
I didn’t want to wait too long for fear of GI upset. I couldn’t do it too soon for fear of rushing my husband. I couldn’t let tears fill my eyes as I was executing this most important mission. And as her body relaxed and her eyes closed with long-overdue sleep, I slipped my syringe of propofol into her IV catheter. Not too fast, not too slow….
She yawned and exhaled. Then I snuck in the euthanasia solution. And when I was done, she looked perfectly asleep.
I’m not a particularly religious person, but I silently thanked God for allowing her to have a good death. And allowing me to give her a good death.
I know nothing will fill the empty space in my heart. Instead, I’ll do my best to stopper the hole. I’ll remember how she could raise anyone’s self-esteem by making them think they were the BEST DOG-PETTER EVER. I’ll remember how she would tap her tail and stare in annoyance if you stopped scratching her chest. I’ll remember chasing her away from eating the other dogs’ poo in the backyard. And I’ll remember the soft curves of that kissable little head, the head full of experiences I will never know, which turned her into my perfect little once-in-a-lifetime dog.
I don’t think there’s such a thing as a perfect euthanasia, a happy ending. Because nobody wants to lose their best friend. But tonight, I feel lucky that I came close.
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