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