I wasn’t sure how to get out from this dark gray cloud. In late March it started looming. The vet told us six months, “and that’s being very optimistic.” Our dog’s liver was failing. His ALT values were so high the technicians had to dilute the sample in order for the machine to run. My husband and I left shattered. I cancelled my plans for the rest of the day.
Moses would be 14 this November. In April, one year had passed since his ACL surgery. There would be no heroics, not another surgery we decided. Instead we switched his diet to raw meaty bones and gave him some pain meds and supplements.
He loved eating the new food. Chicken quarters and raw salmon. His eyes were ravenous with delight in eating like a wild dog tearing through sinewy breasts and thighs of meat and chomping bones. We hand fed him to monitor his eating, and this interaction I think strengthened our bond.
Everthing seemed to be going well. I planned a first hiking trip to Yosemite for the weekend of Mother’s day. We asked the dog sitter if she could care for Moses in June while we would be away in Kentucky for a wedding. The weekend before the trip we went shopping for some hiking essentials. Then he started refusing the raw meat patties, so we gave him some salmon and he ate it happily. The next day he refused the fish. He started rejecting everything to the point where he would not accept even peanut butter or his favorite treats.
Tuesday and Wednesday brought vomitting. My husband was away on business set to return Thursday. I left work early that day to be with my pet, and tried to accept he was dying. At dinner he ate some wet food I scavenged from the pantry trying to get something in his stomach. I rejoiced. This no eating bullshit was just a phase. Over now. He was back.
Hard decisions came abruptly, quicker than the six months I held on to in my mind.
Friday, I cancelled my spot on the hiking trip. My husband and I slept most of Saturday and escaped to Litchfield and the lives of women in orange jumpsuits. Nyquist won the Kentucky Derby. That evening we watched the sun set at the park we took Moses to regularly, and we shared our memories of him, reading aloud. Like how he exterminated at our command silver dollar fish bugs in the bathroom. Moses sat in my lap the whole time.
Sunday, Mother’s Day
A call was made to the vet to ask about the process. A time was set after waiting an agonizing two hours for a call back. Hours lost not wanting to make the call to delay the inevitable. It was dark; the blinds were still drawn shut. My husband finally said, “Let’s get some light in here for him.” We hung out on the porch and went to the pool. Moses had been trying to drag me there all week. The body of water must have been like a siren. We let him partake, though as his mom I still hovered over him and chirped, “Not too much.”
Our vet was performing a surgery at the designated time we were told to come in. So we were told to come back in forty-five minutes. To leave and have to gather the courage to come back seemed like torture. We bought a cone and french fries at McDonalds and drove to a park. Moses reluctantly ate one fry.
I think he was telling us he was ready. I like to believe that when we left the park for the ride over finally to say goodbye, he was ready and did not want to walk around. We said goodbye and parted with Moses to be cremated with his blanket and favorite chew toy, Mr. Sheep.
Time does heal all wounds. When we made the raw food transition, my thumb got punctured by his canine while I was trying to have him slowly eat a chicken piece. Two months now and the nail is half grown out and the wound sealed. The period of devastation following the loss of Moses has ebbed with the busyness of summer: weekend trips, softball, and picnics. Enough time has passed for the grief, anger, and denial to move through our systems, but the tears are still plentiful as I think back on the events and the last images of him in my mind.
It took me awhile to feel like writing and to find some happiness among the grief. I know now that sorrow is not the opposite of happiness. Sorrow can be beautiful when the feeling comes from a mixture of great appreciation and extreme longing. That is exactly how I felt saying goodbye; there was something profoundly beautiful in that moment. In the following days my husband said, “We made the decision out of our love for him.” I have peace knowing that.
These are some helpful quotes I liked about finding light in the dark.
“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Charles A. Beard
“Twilight fell: The sky turned to a light, dusky purple littered with tiny silver stars.” J.K. Rowling
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” Rachel Carson