Saturday, May 08, 2010

My Heart Is Broken.


1996 - 2010

Kitty was about 14 years old. We're not entirely sure - we adopted her about 12 years ago, and we know that her previous owner wasn't completely honest with us.

They were a neighbor of a cousin of a co-worker of Scott's. We had a year-and-a-half year old Weimaraner, and were thinking of getting her a companion. Scott heard of this family who had a Weimaraner of the same age, who wanted to give her to a good home because their family was growing and they couldn't give their dog the attention it deserved. Scott called this woman, described Stoli (our dog), and she exclaimed "They sound like twins!" We arranged to drive down to Federal Way (about 20 miles south of Seattle) so that the dogs could meet.

We left Stoli in the car when we first met their dog. They lived in a neat split-level house in a quiet neighborhood with a fenced-in back yard. She showed us through the side gate to the yard, where we first saw "Jill" (her name back then).

She was not what we were expecting to see.

While Stoli was a smaller (but VERY athletic) dark-haired Weimaraner, "Jill" was ... well, the opposite. Lighter-haired (a more typical Weimaraner coat), large, a bit out-of-shape. The woman explained her skin condition as something she had always had ("She just keeps chewing on that spot!"). She showed us up the deck stairs into their kitchen, the only room in the house that "Jill" was allowed in. There was her crate, a food bowl, a water bowl, and I think one toy. She wasn't allowed to leave the linoleum-floored kitchen when she was inside. She wasn't petted. She wasn't hugged. Her mate ("Jack") had run away a few months before. I wonder why. The woman told us that while "Jill" wasn't spayed, she hadn't had a litter. That was very obviously not true.

Scott and I went outside to talk it over. This was NOT the dog we thought we were coming to meet. This wasn't the dog we thought would be our new family member.

But, there was something about her. We brought Stoli back to the yard to meet her. They didn't play, they didn't fight, they were kinda indifferent to each other. But we couldn't just leave this dog with that family. They could care less about her. She was a liability to them, an accessory to their little suburban existence, something they had because that's what a family had, but they were tired of her.

We took her home.

Once at home, we brought her inside to check it all out ... and she was scared to walk on the carpet. She wasn't allowed. We showed her the back yard, and she looked up at us as if saying "I can live here?" Later that night we coaxed her up the carpeted stairs to her bed next to ours. She was in awe.

We couldn't call her "Jill". She wasn't a Jill. She was big and sturdy, but sweet. Needed cuddling. Scott used to jokingly call big dogs "Kitty" when he saw them, as in "Kitty cat". We called her that once and she came running, tail wagging. That became her name.

Kitty became the alpha dog, much to Stoli's chagrin. There were fights, and more than a few drops of blood, but they settled into the fact that they just had to live with each other. Slowly - VERY slowly - they sorta became buddies.

She didn't have an easy life, even with us. She hadn't been spayed, and we put it off since we couldn't easily afford the surgery, so there was the uterine infection. Massive. Almost killed her. We think there was a mummified pup that hadn't been birthed. Thousands of dollars later, we had her back, more grateful than ever, and more bouncy. Then we adopted Kali, a Weimaraner puppy, four years ago, knowing that Stoli and Kitty were getting up there in years. Now, THERE was some fighting. The Christmas Day Massacre is still a legend in our house (and we still don't know where that part of Kali's ear went - our guess is Kitty swallowed it). Kitty became seriously ill about two years ago, we feared that she had swallowed something and had perforated her stomach or intestine and that she was a goner - and she pulled through, more grateful than ever.

She grew older, her hips stiffened up, she fell on the stairs a few times. But, she was still wagging her tail every time she saw us, still eating voraciously, still being a big smiley dog.

Two days ago, while Scott was off and at home, she started vomiting. Eventually she vomited up a paper towel (we're careful about making sure they can't get into the trash, but somehow she got one). She seemed to be better after that, although she wasn't interested in dinner that night.

She vomited again later that night as we were going to bed - mostly water and mucus. Again first thing in the morning. She still got up with no problem and went down the stairs and outside ... but while she drank a little water, she had no interest in food. Scott was already at work; four of the six team members at my work were off that day. I justified that Kitty would be fine, I couldn't really do anything, we'd see how she was when I got home. All day, my stomach was in knots.

I got home, and she was pretty much the same - but more lethargic. Suddenly she looked skinny to me, frail, tired. She had never ever looked frail, that I had noticed. After Scott came home, we decided to take her to the emergency clinic.

They admitted her. Her temperature was low, heart rate high. Not good. They put her on an IV, took x-rays, did blood work. We were told to call back in an hour or so.

She had something blocking her digestive system, between her stomach and her intestines. Keep her on fluids, it might pass. Keep your phone by the bed and call back in the morning.

The doctor called this morning - no change, the blockage might be getting more impacted. They could bring in a specialist (on a Saturday) to do an endoscopy. They may have to do surgery. Low end - a grand. Surgery - many thousands of dollars.

I wish I was confident that our decision was sound, not just financially based. If money were no object, I probably would have had them bring in the endoscopologist (?). But to be quite honest - we couldn't afford either option. We had already spent almost a thousand at that point. And, she's about 14 years old. How much do we want to put her through?

She's tired. She doesn't feel well. She's not happy.

We decided to let her go.

We drove up there, tears down our faces the whole time. They brought us into a room, where we had to sign that we were her legal owners, we were deciding to end her life, we wanted her to be cremated and her remains not returned to us. Then they asked us if we wanted them to make a paw print in clay to take with us.

We both started sobbing. No. We don't need that. We hadn't even thought of it.

They brought her into the room to say goodbye. She was tired, lethargic, out of it. Happy to see us, but no tail-wagging, no smile, no kisses. She just wanted to lay down. We petted her, hugged her, kissed her, sobbed even though we were trying not to. I went out and told them we were ready.

I thought the doctor would come in and ask if we wanted to come back and be with her. Instead, he came in with his vials and syringes, ready to go, and explained to us what would happen. Scott used to work for a vet clinic, years ago, and understood. I didn't know how long it would take, what would happen, what I would have to see.

I started crying. I couldn't stay. I wanted to be there with her, I did. But I had to leave.

I went out to the car, where a couple was just getting out of their car with a beautiful young black lab. I was crying as I got into my car, shut the door, and broke down. I was holding Kitty's collar and the fleece that I had left the night before so she could smell us. I cried harder than I can ever remember crying. It hurt.

Three minutes later Scott came out. She was gone. She wasn't upset, she just went to sleep. He had left the room and walked through the lobby past the couple with their dog, and he said the look on their faces was heartbreak when they saw him walk out. We sat in the car and cried and cried and cried ...

We came home on this beautiful warm sunny spring day, with a collar and a receipt and without Kitty. Scott dug a hole in the spot where Kitty loved to sit in the sun in the back yard, where we buried her collar and tags and burned the receipt. We talked about how we loved hearing her snore, the way she rubbed her paws over her eyes, how she tried to curl up on the cat house for a bed, how she used to chew on our lips when she kissed us.

How grateful she was that we loved her.

My heart is broken.

Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really. ~ Agnes Sligh Turnbull


emcitychris said...

I'm heartbroken just reading this. My thoughts are with you all right now.

LSL said...

My heart is broken for you all and I am just crying my eyes out after reading this. Over a year ago we lost Amos, and just yesterday I was petting another lab and talking to this lab about Amos. It's a terrible thing that money comes into play with pets, but the facts are that Kitty was in pain, and she had a long life, and you did a loving, loving thing. I was furious reading about her previous owners - she must have been in heaven to live with you all those years. And my little JJ, on his last leg, is asleep on my lap as I type this, and I'll give him extra hugs and kisses for sure.

Animals are so loving and unselfish and they'll just never give up and let go. It's endlessly painful, but it makes sense that we have to make that decision for them. They would never choose to leave their families, despite their own pain and health problems. You guys did the hardest, most loving thing.

PS I laughed a little over the Christmas Day Massacre. Sounds bad. xo

A Lewis said...

Oh Boys....I cannot imagine. All so sudden-like. I promise to think of you often. With hope for tomorrow. With someone nearby, perhaps a friend, to wipe your tears and hold you take good care of you like you did her. I need to go and kiss Mason right now and tell him the story...I think he understands. He will recognize my tears. I'm so sorry.

cb said...

I'm bawling here. I'm so sorry you had to make that decision. It reminds me of losing my dog.

It's very sad-- but always remember you rescued her gave her a good life!

Scott in Iowa said...

Oh, Matt. I'm so sorry. I don't know what else to say that hasn't already been said and that you don't already know.
I know your pain. I've had to let two dogs go like that and it's never easy.
I hope there is at least some comfort for you and Scott knowing that you gave Kitty a life that any dog would be lucky to have.
My heart is with you guys.

Chris said...

I'm so sorry, Matt. I know how hard it is, and I feel so much for the both of you.

Kitty was so lucky to have you guys, and you her. I know it's trite, but I hope you'll hold on to that.

Kelly said...

i am bawling too... i know it is a tough choice... but you guys did the right thing and as i said on FB... Kitty will be wathcing over you as you have watched over Kitty... take some time together and remember the good times...

jo said...

I am crying as I read this. I know what it feels like to have to put a dog down. I am so sorry for you both. ((((hugs))))

Mr & Mrs Smith said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I remember how difficult it was to lose my cat Trixie back in 2001, she was 13 years old. She slept next to me every day for 10 years and I was kicking myself of why I didn't notice the night before she passed why she didn't sleep next to me. I didn't get to say goodbye to her but I took some comfort in knowing that we were best friends for 10 years and that she still watches over me. It helped me to put together memories of her - by pulling out photos and such to put it into a book and remember all the great times we had together.

Curtis said...

I'm very sorry for your loss.

Blair said...

I'm so sorry. I'm am here in Chicago crying in my hotel room. You are in our thoughts. A beautiful post to remember her by....

Healing thoughts....

lovesmukiwa said...

So very, very, sorry for your loss.

tornwordo said...

Now I'm crying too. It hurts so bad, but you did the right thing. Big hugs to both of you.

Sizzle said...

I am crying for your loss. She sounds like she was a really special dog and you guys gave her a wonderful life full of love.

Losing a pet is one of the hardest things in life.

Big, big hugs.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my heart is breaking for you both. I know the pain all too well. I'm crying as hard as I did when we had to make the same decision for our Dharma over five years ago. Rest assured, if you can, that you did the right thing. It's as much an issue of quality of life as money, and Kitty would approve. She was so lucky you guys rescued her and gave her such a wonderful life.

Big hugs to you both.

(Don't click this link until/unless you're ready to hear Dharma's story:

Dogeared said...

What a sad 12 of 12 for pets :-( I cried reading this, I have to say. Kitty was loved immensely by both of you, and I think you did the right thing - even if you'd spent the thousands for surgery, it probably wouldn't have given her much time, if she was already at least 14. Better to let her go peacefully now, even though it hurts you both so much.

I wish I could give you both (and your other pets) a big hug, because I'm sure they miss her as much as you do.