Our dog died yesterday.
Anyone who’s read this site before knows of my love/hate relationship with that dog, strong emphasis on the hate. I had only known him for the last six years of his 13-year life, and the last two were a seemingly unending series of pain-in-the-ass events that involved me cleaning his urine, feces or vomit out of the carpet, or repairing whatever part of the house he destroyed that afternoon. Given this, and my none too kind remarks about him in the past, you might think that I’m happy that he’s gone.
Well, I’m not. I’m actually deeply saddened that he’s no longer here, and I find myself close to tears just writing this.
And before you even start, don’t think I don’t get the absolutely hypocritical assholeness of me feeling that way… I clearly didn’t appreciate the dog when he was alive, so I don’t have the right to feel sad now that he’s gone.
But y’know what? Tough shit. I do feel this way. I miss that dog.
Thursday he didn’t want to eat. Given his past stomach problems, this wasn’t anything surprising. We gave him some Rolaids and made plans to pick up some canned dog food from the vet the next morning. If this was the typical flare-up, a week of the special diet would clear it up. The next morning, Friday, he again didn’t want to eat. He wouldn’t even eat the Rolaids, which he usually takes no problem. But still, not a big cause for alarm. I got the little girl ready and took her to day care.
When I got there, The Scientist called me and asked me to come home. The dog was acting strange, and she was afraid he was dying. I rushed home.
After I had left, he had followed my wife down stairs. While she was attending to the littlest girl, he laid down in front of the door and crapped himself. When she let him out, he squatted to pee and fell over. He was still laying in the same spot when I got there.
His breathing was labored, and he seemed very weak. He was clearly in a bad way. I went out front to get the truck, and he followed me. Actually, he staggered toward the front of the house, and collapsed when he got to the driveway. After I lifted him up into the back of the Explorer, and he continued to pant. He always enjoyed car rides, so I hope that this was a comfortable spot for him. Of course, we were heading to the vet’s office, which he didn’t like at all.
When we got there, he was even worse. I lifted him down out of the truck into a sitting position, and he just fell over. The Scientist got the vet, who looked at Tucker right there in the parking lot. The poor dog tried to get up, but had no strength. The vet and I carried him into the examining room.
It didn’t take long for the vet to assess how bad he was. His temperature was low, his breathing even more labored, his pulse was weak. His gums were pale, meaning that even though he was panting like crazy, he wasn’t getting enough oxygen into his blood.
In the kindest possible way, the vet told us that it was clear that something major had happened. I had taken the dog into see this guy just a couple of weeks ago, and he seemed fine than. A major organ or system had failed, maybe his spleen had burst, it was possible that he had a tumor we didn’t know about and it was bleeding… it could be a lot of things, but the result was the same.
Tucker was dying right in front of us.
He didn’t seem to be in any pain, just appeared very tired and weak. For a 13-year-old dog he was in really good shape. I don’t know how long he could have lasted in his current state. Minutes? Hours? Neither my wife nor I really wanted to find out.
On our wishes, the vet put Tucker to sleep. His blood pressure was so low that it was difficult to find a vein. But he did, and within moments he went to sleep, his breathing evened out, and finally, while my wife held his head and looked him in the eye, his heart stopped.
Only now do I realize what I have lost. I have no idea why, but that dog loved me. I was unkind, and sometimes outright cruel to him… but he didn’t hold a grudge and never stopped loving me.
Often he would go to bed when my wife did, only to wonder back downstairs hours later to check on me. He’d give me a blinky look as if to say, “jeez, aren’t you coming to bed?” He wanted his people all in the same room, I guess so he didn’t have to worry about us.
He was excited to see me when I came home from work every day. Part of that was a little self-serving, I guess, since I was the designated dog walker. But more than that, I think he was happy that again, all his people were home and accounted for.
And yeah, he was often in the way, and he did dumb things sometimes… But I now see that it was only because he was such a good, obedient dog most of the time, that it just seemed worse when he was bad.
And while I have a lot of regrets about this dog -- God knows I should have been nicer to him -- that’s not the only reason I feel this way. I miss him. I miss having him check in on me, I miss seeing his big, fat head snoring in the doorway while I write, I miss his drive-by lickings while I’m crashed on the couch.
Our lives will be easier now, no doubt. We won’t have to worry about kenneling him when we’re out of town, we won’t have to worry about him eating more of the door when we’re at work. Our lives will be easier… but not better.
Definitely not better.
If there’s any saving grace in all of this it’s that The Scientist was at home full time for the last two months of his life. Because if that dog loved me, he loved my wife to a power of 10. She had that dog since he was six weeks old, and he was the biggest mama’s boy you’ve ever seen. I know this wasn’t the life he would have chosen -- new babies to compete with for attention, being corralled into a foyer because of his incontinence -- but I know he appreciated ever moment spent with her. Even if it was just being in the same room at the same time. He saw my wife every moment of every day until his last day… and even then she was the last thing he saw. If nothing else, I hope this brought him some happiness.
I’m sorry, Tucker. I wish I had been a better owner. I wish I had appreciated you more when you were here. All those times you were underfoot and in the way, you were just trying to tell me you loved me.
I get it now. Too late, I get it.