Catharsis

This entry has nothing to do with writing. I just wanted to let you know before you got too far into it to turn back.

Still here? Good. I’m glad.

While I’d love to say you’ll be rewarded with a pleasant story about Liam, or something funny that my wife did, that’s just not the case today. This isn’t going to be a pleasant entry, but it’s something I have to write about.

I buried my dog yesterday.

Shortly after we moved into the new house, and he was already at home.

He had been in severe pain for nearly a week, and we were told by his vet that he just wasn’t going to get better. He had been sick for quite some time, but he never showed any real outward signs of it. I like to think that he knew what we were going through with Liam’s ups and downs, and he just didn’t want us to worry over him at the time.

Last Friday, I noticed that Fezzik had begun to walk with his back hunched. He was also wincing in pain here and there. I thought it was just the arthritis in his back legs acting up. He’s had a history of pain in his back legs, so I didn’t really think twice about it. On Saturday, he began vomiting anything he ate or drank. By Sunday, he had stopped eating and drinking altogether. We went to the vet on Monday, and he received some medication for the pain, plus something to help his stomach and possibly get him to eating again. When he didn’t, he went back to the vet Tuesday afternoon to receive fluids. By Wednesday, they had determined that his symptoms matched pancreatitis. Thursday morning, I brought him back to the vet; he had begun having violent tremors, and he could no longer stand up at all. The tests confirmed pancreatitis — but that wasn’t all. His pancreatitis was just a symptom.

Fezzik had cancer.

The vet went over the options with me over the phone. We must have talked for twenty minutes, and even she was getting choked up about it by the time we hung up. I asked if he would ever be the same after this; if, even after he pulled through (which, with his age, was not likely), he would ever go back to being the dog that was part of our family. She told me that if he was going to get better, he would have been getting better already . . . and he was getting worse. I asked if it was time to put him down. She said that if he was her dog, that’s what she would do. He was in too much pain, and it was the best thing we could do for him.

We went over all the specifics, and I hung up. I stood outside my office and cried. I walked the path that runs behind the building — the same path that Michelle and I had walked with Fezzik several times when we lived nearby. While walking, I decided that I wanted to be with him when it happened. I called my own desk and told my supervising partner what was going on, and that I’d be back a little later.

By the time I got to the vet, they had already sedated him. They wrapped him up in a blanket and brought him into an examination room with me. I had mixed feelings about watching him die, but I’m glad I went. It was nice to see him relaxed again. He wasn’t wincing anymore, and he wasn’t trembling. He just lied there on the table while I scratched him behind the ears and under his chin. I let the vet know that I was ready, and she gave him the injection.

She warned me beforehand that it was common for the dog to let out a yelp or a whine when the needle was inserted, even while sedated — but Fezzik didn’t. He just lied there, ready to let go. Once the solution was in his veins, the vet placed her stethoscope against his chest.

Ten seconds later, he was gone.

In case you were wondering: yes, this was his most common pose. He was kind of lazy, and we loved him for it. Particularly after we got Marlo and experienced the exact opposite end of that spectrum.

I’m glad that we were able to do this for him — that we were able to give him a quick, painless release instead of the kind of death he would have experienced otherwise. The type of cancer he had would have slowly eaten away at his internal organs; he would have been dealing with a constant pain so intense that no medication could have given him any lasting relief. No matter what we did, he would have died. This way, he died without pain, without suffering. And I was there with him to see him off.

I opted to bring him home with me and bury him in our backyard. I didn’t want him to end up in a bag in the city dump. So we went on one last ride back to the house, and he waited patiently while I dug him a new home.

I hadn’t anticipated the sense of closure that digging his grave would give me. It felt like one last thing I was doing for him. “Here you go, pup. I’m doing this so your body doesn’t end up in a pile of garbage.” I’d like to think he would have appreciated it.

The further down I dug, the harder it became. The soil was more compact and harder to break up. Roots from a nearby tree were starting to poke through and get in the way. But I kept digging. At that moment, it was my mission; it was something I just had to do.

When the hole was finished, I wrapped Fezzik in the bag the vet had given me. I placed him at the bottom of the hole, then covered it up. I packed it as best I could, watering the soil to help further the process. A good rain or two, and you probably won’t even be able to tell where his body is buried.

But I’ll always know. I’ll never forget.

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About [rlh]

Ryan L. Haddock is an aspiring writer, emphasis on the "aspiring." He mostly writes short stories, but that is only because he doesn't seem to have the attention span necessary to write a novel. At least, not yet. He is also a husband and a father . . . yet he is still struggling valiantly against the notion that he has to grow up. View all posts by [rlh]

4 responses to “Catharsis

  • Dad

    Good job son…. I know it’s a touch thing to do, but in the end, it’s the best for everyone. I’ve been through it before and the way you handled it is the best. Getting the closure from placing him where you know how he is taken care of. Even though it’s tough to go through it’s best for all of you. We will miss Fezzik, as I’m sure you and Michelle will. But, you did the best you could and the best for him….

  • Mom

    I teared up again reading this. Yes, we will miss Fezzik, but he’s better off now. No pain. I’m glad you were able to be with him at the end. I’m sure he felt your presence and you brought him home to rest. You did all you could for him.

  • Julia

    michelle’s friend here,

    We had to put our dog down last summer because of cancer. It is so sad and hurts so much – well it is losing a friend.
    I hope your pain fades quickly and the memories last forever.

  • Ryan

    Thanks everyone. It’s been a tough process, but we’re already starting to feel a little less sad. I still miss him terribly, but I know it was the right thing to do for all of us . . . including him.

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