Friday was a hard day. Not a bad day, but a hard day.
Devon, our dog, had a rough morning. I was awakened by her having a choking fit that lasted close to twenty minutes. This seemed to be a signal that she had suffered enough with her failing health. It was time to have her put down.
I'd been to the vet with her about a month ago, and he gently suggested that it was time to have her euthanized back then. Now, she was trying to tell me the same message in her own way. It was going to be so hard, saying goodbye to someone that I loved so much. To think that I was the one that had to make the decision to proceed with such an action was going to tear me up inside, too.
I called and booked the appointment that morning. I called Jenn at 1 pm and told her what was going on. At 2 pm she came and picked me up from work. Jenn had tears in her eyes as she opened the back door of the van and showed that she had brought Devon along. Devon sat in the back, a shadow of the dog she had once been. The grey hair on her face and the cloudiness in her eyes spoke to a constant fatigue and dimming of her once-sharp senses; her fur had pretty much all fallen out due to an adrenal gland problem; her body had mostly wasted away due to inactivity (bad hips) and the pain that must have been caused by eating anything that required chewing (periodontitis and infected gums). She was weak from malnutrition and looked tired. The fact that she sat listlessly on the seat when I saw her told me that her health had failed in so many ways. I know that had she been a healthy dog (as she was when she was young), she would be hyperactive, pawing at the door and window upon seeing a recognizable face. Having us, her pack, around wasn't much comfort compared to all that was wrong with her.
It was time.
We went and got the girls out of school 1/2 an hour early. McMonk was very perceptive - she immediately asked what was wrong. We waited until we got out of the school building before we told her what was up and where we were going. Banana was brave and tried hard not to let her sorrow show. Weeks before, Jenn and I had discussed this with the girls and spoke of the inevitability of it. There had even been a date set once that we didn't have the courage to follow through with. The girls knew, and they had told us that they wanted to be with her when she went to sleep for the final time.
We had 45 minutes until the appointment, so we stopped at the park behind our house. We all (Devon included) sat in the grass as we talked about how much fun we had with Devon as a family. We talked of our favorite memories of her as a young dog. Devon had walked over from the van with us, but at a slower pace. She didn't find pleasure in exploring the field like she might have - perhaps she sensed the sorrow that we all felt and for that reason wanted to be physically close to us. She always was good to cuddle when you were feeling down. We all took our turns crying and telling funny stories until finally, it was time to get going.
We piled into the van, Devon coming along slower than the rest, as we had come to expect of her these days. We drove to the vet clinic and all went inside. I took care of the payment details as I knew I would be in no shape to do this on the way out. Jenn had been thoughtful enough to bring Devon's blanket that she slept on, so when we went into the examination room, she wouldn't have to sit on the steel table. We all gathered around Devon and petted her. The doctor explained that he would give her two injections - the first would tranquilize her and would take about 15 minutes; the second would quickly make her heart stop beating and she would fade away without any pain or awareness. We told him we were ready, and stood and cried softly as Devon was given the first injection. After the initial pinch of the first needle, she just lay down like she usually did and became comfortable on her blanket. We all petted her and showed our love for her as her consciousness faded.
I have Devon to thank for so many things. Comfort when I was feeling blue. A playmate for me when she was a puppy and I had too much energy. A reason for Jenn and I to come back to the house in the days before we had children. A constant source of material for my banter with the girls, as she did normal dog things and I put human emotions and ulterior motives to them. Boundless energy in her role (in younger days) as a portable alarm and exercise device for Banana and McMonk on our trips to the playground. Patience with my daughters as they carried, dressed, chauffeured and ordered her through all of the things that they needed a canine pal for.
Finally, I have Devon to thank for seeing my two daughters, holding and comforting each other as their best friend (apart from each other) gently drifted away from them.
Devon, your presence was a blessing to us. We promise to keep you dear in our hearts.