Yesterday evening, I brought Buddy’s corpse home in a cardboard shipping box.
Was with him for the three injections – anesthetic, cardiac arrest, flush. He was laid out on his side on a stainless steel table, on top of the same white towels he’s still wrapped up in right now, out in my truck. The catheter had already been inserted in his foreleg and wrapped in a bright yellow flexi-bandage. The other foreleg was also bandaged: He had been so de-hydrated that they had had to search hard for a vein – the cause for a “last yelp” I had heard a few minutes earlier while paying the bills. (The clinic knows to take care of that stuff first.)
When I re-joined Bud in examining room #2, it seemed as though he was better than half of the way over to the other side already. The nurse offered to let me have some time alone with him, then signal the vet via the computer network when I was ready, but I told her I’d already spent the whole day with him – we should just do it. I suspected the vet would end up taking a few minutes anyway – they always do – and there wasn’t much Bud still there to be with. I petted what was left of him some more and told him right in his ear that he was a good dog. No need to prolong things.
When the injections were done, and the vet – a sweet young woman – verified that Bud’s heart had stopped beating, I laughed involuntarily under my breath, in wonderment over how easily he had passed over, having hardly moved a muscle, his blind eyes having remained completely still, the entire time. I had been steeling myself for possible reactions to the injections I’d been told about – evacuation of his bowels, an autonomic “agonized breath” or two. I hadn’t wanted to break down before the clinic staff or clients, and I guess I had some stored-up counter-emotion left over.
Good dog, or, as I like to say when the treats are all gone, “All done!”
You might say that, as it turned out, I succeeded a bit too well in getting all of the crying done beforehand. I hadn’t done that much crying since my mom passed away, and was adequately wrung out.
That recollection about my mother, the simple fact of it, makes me feel compelled to complete a certain circle: I was playing fetch with Buddy in the very moments that my mother died, and there was laughter involved there, too. I’d been enjoying the spectacle of Annie, then about a year old, chasing Bud’s tale, gripping it in her pin-sharp teeth, and forcing him to drag her around. He would, of course, attend to the supreme priority – THE BALL – but he’d intermittently snap or bark at her, to little avail (it was unintentionally freight-training over her that cured her of the habit). In what I think was the first time I’d let myself go since my mother’s hospitalization, I was laughing so hard I collapsed onto the grass. It was then that the phone rang from inside with the news – not out of nowhere, but quite unexpected: We’d been told Mom’s surgery weeks earlier had been successful, and no one had given us the idea she was still in danger. (“You sure there’s no mistake?” I stupidly asked.)
So, I’ll bury my dog with a well-fetched ball for him to chase and catch and return and chase and catch and return eternally. I’m not sentimental, really, but I like symbolic statements: “This is one you don’t have to bring back, Bud. Keep it. We’ll play later. I promise.”
There’s so much skillfulness on your part with all this, Colin, and the best thing is that the skillfulness includes leaving room for our tears. Thank you. Experiencing this with you, even second hand, was important to me on several levels, so thanks for sharing it. I feel you. What a great love you two have.