It is with the heaviest heart that I write that Blue died last night. We didn’t see it coming.
He was in the midst of a full recovery from his last bout of giardia and clostridium. He was eating and pooping normally and his spirits were fine. He even did a stellar job of making sure that no one got anywhere near me, which was his self-appointed job.
If you’ve ever been in my home, you know that Blue felt it was his life’s purpose to put his magnificent self between me and anyone else. He was fiercely protective and today was no exception.
We went on plenty of small walks, I talked to him the whole time while resting my hand on his neck as was my wont. I loved how easy it was to connect with him that way when we walked, I never had to bend down to touch him.
Around 4:00 he needed to go out and threw up in the backyard, he didn’t want to come back inside. I forced him to come in when it started raining and he couldn’t seem to get comfortable. He didn’t want to lie down for long, was shivering (which I thought was from being outside), panted and drooled profusely.
Because of his recent illness, Lonny and I thought that perhaps he was relapsing but would be okay with more meds. Around 7:00 I felt that his distress was beyond what we should try to manage at home and despite being loathe to take him to a strange vet, we loaded him up in the car and took him to the 24 hour emergency clinic.
He couldn’t get in the car so Lonny picked him up. Thinking of Lonny with that 120 pound dog in his arms breaks my heart. Lonny loved him so much.
He hasn’t been in the car for a few years. I chose our vet in part because we could walk to her. Blue didn’t want to get in the car anymore despite getting in it every day for the two years that Tabby and I took the dogs to Coot Lake.
Loony carried Blue into the clinic and an x-ray revealed that he had bloat and gastric torsion. For no particular reason his gut filled with gas and his stomach twisted. It is unfortunately common in large dogs and 100% fatal if not treated immediately with surgery.
Given his age and the nerve pain he has in his back and hips (he drags his back feet which is why we no longer go on long walks, just a block or two) the vet felt that his recovery would be excruciating if he recovered at all.
The surgery was likely to make his pain worse and he would have to undergo extensive rehabilitation to walk again. There was also that troubling growth on his rib that we suspected could be cancer.
There is one thing that Lonny and I have always agreed on. No heroics. But it didn’t make our decision any easier.
I don’t have any regrets about Blue’s life, not one. He was so loved, we made every accommodation for him, we absolutely loved him for the dog he was without wishing he was something he wasn’t. Sure, I complained about the 5am wake-up calls to go out and his funny habits, but humor and sarcasm is my language of love. He bore that burden with the stoicism of a Norse warrior.
My only regret was how he died. I didn’t want him to be in a strange vet’s office full of the wails of other dogs, chaos, slippery floors, and strangers. I didn’t want him to be stressed or scared.
I wanted him to be home, in his bed with his family around him, a belly full of melon and steak and bread, fed to him from my hand. I wanted him to gently drift off without all the distress and pain that was his last few hours.
He died with his head in my lap, with us talking to him and stroking him. The last part was mercifully quick and peaceful.
Returning home without him was horrible. Casey was distraught. He saw us without Blue and started wailing at the top of his lungs and didn’t stop until he fell asleep a couple hours later. Micah’s pain came in waves.
Lonny is sleeping with Casey downstairs, he lulled him to sleep with stories. Micah is beside me and I held him as memories washed over him. He was incredulous, “I saw you take him to the vet, but I thought he would come home like he always does. I wish I had known.”
We considered getting the boys but that would have prolonged Blue’s suffering and I don’t know if it would have given the boys closure or just haunted them. I wish they had been able to say goodbye as well.
I feel like this last few months have been a long goodbye.
We took this poor, malnourished, neglected dog and gave him a family.
He went on road trips, camping, family reunions, he got to have a family that loved him without bounds, he was adored by so many people who visited our home.
Perhaps one day I’ll write a more fitting tribute to his life, but his story is here in my blog, starting with this post.
Now I have to get up and decide what to do. Do I try to erase him from our home? Do I pick up all the dog beds, blanket, food dishes, carpet runners, and toys and load them into the car to donate to Big Paws? Or do I leave them for a while? And how long?
Do I take this screensaver off my phone?
Just today I told Patty how we wouldn’t have so many rugs if it weren’t for him. Would it be horrible to remove them now that he is gone? Was it really that bad having rugs if it was what he needed to feel comfortable?
And the kids, what do we do? It’s their last week of school. Is it better to keep them at home or send them to class where they can be distracted? I don’t know what to do.
I love you Blue. Why did you have to die? Why couldn’t you have been my big dog forever? Why couldn’t you have proven everyone wrong and lived another five years?
Who will protect me now? Who will get us out of bed a 5am for a walk? Who will put his head in our laps when we sit on the couch? Who will be our endless source of love and humor?
Our lives won’t be the same without you. You are so loved.
As a note to my friends who I know will want to reach out in love … please, no wine, no flowers, no sweets. If you want to give me something, take me for a walk, I miss my walking buddy already.