There have been a lot of things over the last week that I have felt like talking about, stupid stuff mostly but this is my website and I’ll do what I want. I haven’t written any of it yet, though, because I felt like there was one big thing I needed to get out of the way before I could do anything else. It just feels weird not to talk about it.
Last Friday, the World’s Most Handsome Dog left us.
If you’ve read this blog or read temerity-jane for any length of time, you know all about Brinkley. When I first met Brinkley, I was obsessed. Totally obsessed with this dog. For a year or so, probably every 4th post was about Brinkley or had a picture of Brinkley or a mention of something Brinkley did. He was Phil’s dog. He was four years old when I met him. Honestly, a not insignificant part of the reason I agreed to date Phil (after a very long year of attempts on his part) was because this dog was part of the package. He was Phil’s since he was a puppy, but he was my first dog. Because he was certainly mine, too, though of course I recognize the significance of Phil raising him from being a terrible puppy into being a frankly kind of terrible dog.
He was so lazy. He was the world’s laziest dog. Whenever he’d get sick – and if you’ve followed along, you know that was a lot over the last couple of years – it was hard to describe it to the vet, because he just LAID AROUND ANYWAY so what was the difference? But we always knew.
Anyway, I don’t want to go into some overwrought thing about my dog, because that will make me cry and it will make you cry and it won’t be any good for anyone. Instead, I want to Swistle this whole thing and tell you what happened, how it went, and what you might expect if you ever have to do this. I don’t really know what else to do here. You know I loved this dog. You know I’m totally devastated in a way that feels like it’s never going to stop. We don’t need to go over that and I don’t want to drag you down into it with me.
So you know last summer, Brinkley was diagnosed with serious, serious cancer. We honestly thought we’d lose him within a couple of weeks. But he held on, and he held on. We had him to the vet now and then to adjust his medications and to make him as comfortable as possible. Everyone told us we’d just know when it was time, but I want you to know it’s not that easy for everyone and every dog. We didn’t know. I still don’t know. And that’s really hard.
Picture by Allie Brosh
About two weeks ago, he started looking really bad. Very slow to move around. Very reluctant to get up. In fact, he had this spot he liked to lay in, right in front of the back door, and if you were trying to come in, he just… wouldn’t move. You either had to try to shove him WITH the door, or yell through the crack for someone to come help you. But then, he was always a lazy dog. Regardless, my “something is not quite right here” instincts with Brinkley have always been pretty accurate, so we made him an appointment for Thursday. We knew that this was the appointment where we were going to ask – is it time?
Over that weekend, he stopped eating his food. He’d still go for a pizza crust if you had one to offer, and he was still taking his pain medication wrapped in lunch meat. He’d done this before, stopping eating for a day or so, but this stretched on for more days than ever. On Monday morning, the week of that Thursday appointment, I called the vet and asked if they could please work him in, and they did.
It was good and bad, that appointment. They said his heart sounded terrific and strong. They said his teeth looked like he’d lived a long healthy life. They also said he was clearly in pain in his back legs. That the femoral pulse was very weak. That he was anemic, that his liver was swollen, and that he was full tumors – some harmless fatty tumors, some certainly the spread of the cancer. He was confused. But they said he looked happy.
Happy, so that means it’s not time, right? No, not exactly. The vet said it was time to talk about Brinkley’s promotion. That’s exactly how he phrased it – talking about Brinkley’s promotion. We talked about how he certainly didn’t have long, and I understood that the longer we waited, for every extra day we tried to steal, we were running the risk of some major traumatic event happening. A seizure, or a rupture of some sort, or the loss of use of his legs, or something else that would constitute an emergency. Something that would mean we’d have to rush him in to be put down. So he was happy, but he was on his way out, and it became clear that it was a good time. We scheduled it for that Friday, four days later. It felt really, really wrong.
These are the things I want you to know about choosing to euthanize your sick or elderly pet. If you’ve already done this or you don’t want to know about it, maybe don’t read any more.
Things That Were Easier Than Expected:
Enjoying Brinkley’s last days without the constant questioning we’d been doing for nearly a year. Is he okay? Is this it? Is it time? Is this what they mean when they say you’ll know? All of that had been going on for a long time, and it made it really hard to enjoy Brinkley as Brinkley. He was a constant source of worry for us. That’s selfish, I know, but taking that off our plate brought him back to being just our big dumb goofy dog.
The ability to make his last days special. He got lots of attention. He got to get up on the furniture. He got so, so, so many treats and snacks. We had a hamburger party the night before. He ate three hamburgers and a whole lot of fries. He was in Brinkley heaven.
The actual process. A lot of the dread – not nearly all of it, but a lot of it – that I had in that week was not really being able to understand what was going to happen, having never seen it before. It was not scary. The tech came in and gave Brinkley a lot of treats. She gave him a shot that was a major sedative, then she left. We hung out with Brinkley and loved on him until he got tired, then we helped him to lay down on a blanket. About 10 minutes later, two techs came back. They shaved a spot on his leg and took out a very large syringe filled with bright pink liquid. They told us it works fast. They started the injection with no delay. It was a very thick fluid, so it was a slow injection. About halfway through the syringe, they stopped and checked his heart, and he was gone.
The next day or two. They weren’t terrible. They weren’t good, but they weren’t terrible. I was significantly more torn up in the two or three days before than I was in the two or three days after. Something we’d been dreading for a very long time was over, and our sick dog wasn’t in pain anymore. I felt good about our decision and I still feel good about our decision.
Things That Were Harder Than Expected:
The techs and vets at this office have seen Brinkley a lot over the two years we’ve lived here. In fact, our very first order of business upon arrival was to find a vet. He was at the vet before we had furniture, for a sick and terrible abscess on his leg that we didn’t know if he’d survive, let alone keep the leg. He did both. Point is, everyone there knew him. I felt very collected, mostly, when we were in the vet’s office, until the tech gave him a treat. Then she got down on the ground and kissed him a bunch and told him what a good dog he was. Then she leaned in and had private words with him in his ear. That was hard. That was really, really hard. There was ugly snort crying.
That second injection. They said it worked fast. I thought they’d put it in, then we’d see his breathing slow, then he would slowly leave us. That’s not what happened at all. When they took it out halfway through, I was upset. I thought that his old leg had blown a vein or something and they needed to start somewhere else. That wasn’t it. They bring in more than they think they’ll need, and they administer more than needed. There was no slow slipping away. He was there, and then he wasn’t. It was so fast. I was ready, but I wasn’t ready.
The sick “oh god undo undo” feeling that kept cropping up at random for the rest of that night. Feeling like we made a mistake. That he could have had maybe a couple more days or maybe even a week. Being absolutely unable to grasp the reality of the fact that we’d made a permanent decision we couldn’t change. Questioning myself over and over if we should have waited for what other people mention – that their dogs can’t move without assistance, that they have accidents in the house, that they refuse to get up at all. Brinkley was such a people dog. He wanted nothing more than to be with us and make him happy. He wouldn’t have behaved like that even in his worst pain – which we know he was in – because it would have kept him away from us. Still. It just kept dawning on me that we couldn’t undo it. Then I’d not think about it for awhile. Then it would dawn on me all over like it was a new realization. That was brutal.
And speaking of brutal. Penny was fine that first night. And the next day. But Saturday night, it seemed to hit her. I can’t go into descriptions on this, but it was awful. Awful, awful, awful. Phil and I had to trade her off between us to handle it. It was so terrible. We expected it, sure, but the reality was harsh.
It’s been over a week now, and it was just yesterday or the day before that I looked around and really realized he’s not here. And that he’s not coming back. At all. Ever. Just… gone. No Brinkley anymore. If that could stop cropping up out of nowhere, that would be swell. Any time now.
Something I’ve had to tell myself over and over is that it’s better a week too early than a minute too late. Most of the time, that makes sense and I find it comforting. The rest of the time, it sounds like the most horrible combination of words I’ve ever heard. How could a whole week too early be better? How could a minute too early be better? And I can’t stand, CAN’T STAND, to hear “better place” one more time, not ONE MORE TIME. Brinkley’s very best place in the world was right next to us and there’s nowhere ANYWHERE EVER that dog would want to be. He’s not in pain anymore, and that’s good. He doesn’t need his sick old body anymore, and that’s good. But there’s NO better place for Brinkley than right where he was, and he can’t be here anymore.
Sheldon hasn’t been eating much at all since it happened. He was confused the first day, then mopey. He’s slowly coming out of his mope, but he needs to be around us at all times, and he’s very subdued.
What’s funny and terrible is that now that Brinkley’s gone, we’re noticing what a really great dog Sheldon is. He listens to commands. Brinkley didn’t, Brinkley didn’t give a shit, Brinkley does what Brinkley wants. He doesn’t eat toys – we’ve been able to take down all the gates that kept Brinkley separated from everything Penny owned, and Sheldon has just calmly followed us around to hang out. He’s so patient with Penny, where Brinkley had very little interest. Sheldon wore pants on his head for five minutes today, because Penny put them there, and what the hell, Sheldon’s game.
Sheldon was decidedly not a good dog when we first got him. He bit me all the time and tore my pants right off me in the yard one time. He jumped and punched people in the stomach. He got over our fence and ran away every damn chance he got. But somewhere in the last six years, he’s changed, and we missed it, because I am telling you without shame, Brinkley was the favorite dog. Now Sheldon’s the only dog, and he’s really not so bad at all.
Anyway. Brinkley was a great, great dog. The very best. He’s gone now, and we miss him.