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Searching for beauty in the dissonance

Witnessing pain and saying goodbye

On Friday evening, I watched my dog have two seizures.

It was a fluke that anyone was home when it happened. My mom had come home early and I was sick at home, reading upstairs. She didn’t know I was there, so I decided to come down to say hi and share a joke. I had stepped into her office to take a look at things on her computer when we heard the noise from the hallway.

Sydney was 12 years old, but still like a puppy in many ways, until a couple weeks ago. She began to stumble and stopped eating for the most part. Weeks earlier, she was still stealing food off the table, literally, right in front of and under the direct watch of my brother and his 15-year-old pizza-devouring friends. She was aging exponentially and I witnessed it hit a whole other order of magnitude.

When it happened, I could only think of Bishop Sheen’s voice shouting through the confusion: “Pain is God’s megaphone… Pain is Heaven’s loudspeaker!”

Lying in the hallway, she slowly regained awareness and became alert and responsive again. We realized there weren’t many options. The vet was about to close, and we were afraid to take her to an emergency animal hospital and have her spent the night (and possible pass away or have another seizure) alone in a cage. She had just been in for testing a few days earlier and we knew something was seriously wrong. She was deteriorating, quickly. We made her comfortable where she lay. She kept trying to get up, but just didn’t have the strength. About an hour later, she had another seizure, though smaller. You could only see it in her eyes.

After that, she stabilized a bit. I saw her ears perk up when she heard a noise outside. She wagged her tail a few times, tried to turn around as she heard others arrive home. We sat with her for a while and she was calm, but weak. She kept trying to get up, but it just wasn’t happening.

At one point though, I left to get a drink from the kitchen. I thought I heard her paws on the slate, but figured I must have been imagining things, until I heard my mom rushing down the hall behind her. She was walking, though hardly with ease or grace. My mom took her outside and we brought her back in to the hallway with her basket set up for the night.

We had decided to make her comfortable and, if she made it through the night, bring her to the vet in the morning. Around 7:30pm, we went down the hall to the kitchen to eat. I was still in the living room when I saw her get up and stumble down the hall to the kitchen, so she could lie where everyone was. Her personality was still the same. She wanted to be near the action. And the food.

And there she stayed for the rest of the night. She went out once more, and we gave her some water. It was difficult because she didn’t have the balance to reach down to the bowl, so we had to elevate it slightly off the ground. My girlfriend came over, and we stayed with her through the night. She finally went for a rawhide we had offered earlier. She didn’t have the strength to chew it, but she sure was happy to hold it and assert her ownership. “I may not be able to eat this, but it’s mine.” She lay down, but would often make efforts to sit up and, upon giving up, just drop her head to the floor. It was a challenge to position the cushions so that her head would fall onto them, instead of the hard tiles. Every time I heard her move, I awoke. She was a danger to herself walking or sitting up. I didn’t sleep much.

Part of me hoped she would pass away during the night, but she didn’t.

In the morning, we were left with the hard task of getting her out to the car and saying our goodbyes. She still became excited at the sight of the leash, even though she could barely walk. My parents drove her to the vet and stayed in the room with her as she was put down.

It’s weird making food in the kitchen and not having to guard it. It’s lonely, wandering downstairs for a snack at 3am and realizing there’s no risk of waking anyone. It’s odd to see her things — snacks, leashes, baskets — and know that she’s gone.

I feel fortunate to have been around to help her through the pain. At least she wasn’t alone.

Sydney, watching us make cake a few years back.

Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. (CCC, no. 2416)

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One Response to “Witnessing pain and saying goodbye”

  1. Mike Masnick says:

    Hey man.

    Having just gone through a similar loss (http://www.masnick.com/2008/09/21/end-of-an-era/) my thoughts go out to you. As plenty of people told us, as sad as it is at the end, be thankful for all those great years you got.

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