I had Leika euthanized today. Her heart stopped beating on October 3, 2009 4:03pm EST.
She made it to sixteen. Just barely, but she made it. I guess that’s a ripe old age for a dog. 16 x 7 = 112.
I apologize to everyone who should have gotten the chance to say goodbye.
If you read the blog before this one you know that she was sick last weekend. I gave her some table scraps. Very few, but still. She got sick but then got better. I live on the 2nd floor and the only way to get to terra firma is down the cement, horizontal slat stairs.
Anyway, she was able to go up and down the steps this week. Friday night I got home from work and she was a bit shaky, but managing. This morning, Saturday morning, same thing but … something was off. She didn’t seem to be in pain, but she was walking stiffly. Not in pain, as far as I could tell but not in great shape.
Last night, Friday night, I put the leash on and we went on to the landing. She walked to the top of one flight of stairs, looked at it and turned around. I nudged her toward the opposing stairs, same thing. She looked at them, turned around walked back to our door, stopping mid way to relieve herself right there on the landing.
Getting desperate, was I.
Ever since last weekend I’ve been trying to brainstorm some way to easily carry her up and down the stairs. She wouldn’t let me lift her, bodily, and I’ve been afraid to hear another shriek of pain even though she wasn’t having stomach issues any more. I’ve been looking at things online. Looked for a plastic kennel that I could carry, maybe. Big duffel bags. And this morning I set my mind to it. I’m part engineer and when I set my mind to solving a problem, it usually gets solved.
I looked for giant duffels at Full Metal Jacket in Alexandria. Nothing. But there was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever in the store who followed me around and insisted that I pet him/her. Such clear, big, brown soulful eyes. That made me more determined to do right by Leika.
I went to REI. None of the fancy backpack bags were big enough. Eventually, a young woman asked if I needed help. I said no at first and then I said, “Okay, I’ve got a strange question for you.”
I told her about my situation and that I was trying to find a way to carry an old, infirmed dog. She listened, commiserated where appropriate. I expected a blank expression and sincere but misguided help from her. But she said that she used to carry and/or lift her dog into her tree house. I was like, “Of all the people I could have asked for help, I got you. Is that lucky or what?”
I walked out with a XXXL REI duffel bag and a self-inflating sleeping pad that would fit inside for support. Of course, the only problem was how to get Leika to sit in it.
I stopped at Safeway on the way home and picked up some dog food. Forgot the snacks like a dummy.
When I got home, Leika was laying there, but she didn’t get up. When she did get up it was evident that she didn’t have full control of her legs. She could stand but walking was a chore. She was previously diagnosed with having a possible brain or spinal tumor. Ever since her illness last weekend, the neurological issues seem to have been exacerbated.
Usually when I open the patio screen she charges out. Or she walks purposefully out, if she’s sore or stiff. Today, she started to walk out but it was like her legs locked up on her. So she just sat down because that’s all she could do.
And that was it. No way in hell she could do stairs. She couldn’t even support herself to go to the bathroom. And she whined once in frustration, I think.
I called the vet and asked about euthanizing her. There was nothing I could do to help her, to fix her.
Ultimately, the tarp trick worked to lift her into the giant, padded duffel. It worked perfectly.
When I bought this stuff today, I thought I would just be helping her to avoid the stairs and that we would have months if not a few more aging, slow years together. I didn’t think it would be for her final voyage.
I was there at the end. Something I had promised to do and was kind of afraid that some circumstance would arrive that would prevent me from being there for her. But I was there. It was quiet and peaceful. As always, the staff at Sacramento Veterinary Hospital were professional and compassionate and helpful.
Fourteen and a half years of friendship. We’ve driven across the country between the Bay Area to Baltimore together three times. When she stayed with my grandmother and aunt in Baltimore, I would drive up every weekend to pick her up. Then drive back to drop her off. Because I had promised her long ago (I was the third person to adopt her) that I would never abandon her. Yes, I did actually make a promise to a dog. Word is bond.
It’s so quiet. So empty. I keep expecting her to be in the other room. To see her tomorrow. It’s surreal. An hour ago she was here. An hour later … she’s gone.
No more leashes.
No more collars.
No more fences.