Sunday, March 05, 2006

Farewell, Old Friend.

There aren’t usually obituaries published for dogs, but I need some catharsis so here it goes.

Buddy was a lhasa apso and toy poodle mutt born in May of 1990. As fortune would have it, this was near the end of the school year on the year of my tenth birthday. Mom and Dad had told me I would get a puppy for my birthday that year, and that we should get it at the beginning of the summer so that we’d have time to train and look after it without school getting in the way for me or for Mom. After looking at a few pet shops and shelters for a puppy, we followed up on an ad in the newspaper and headed to a private residence where there was a litter of puppies for sale at $75 each. Each of the puppies had distinctive markings and different colors. Some were brown or black all over, others were black with white tummies. I chose a black one with brown eyebrows, a white tummy, white paws and a white tip at the end of his tail. He was 6 weeks old when we took him home.

Buddy died last Wednesday, March 1st, 2005, at about 11:50 am at the El Cajon Valley Veterinary Hospital. After about 5 days of problems with his digestive system, Mom and I decided that we had to let him go, much as we wanted to keep him around. He has been losing weight for over a year, and he was no longer able to eat or drink anything without throwing it back up shortly after. He had gone into advanced renal failure, and his liver was shutting down as well. This caused him to start throwing up every couple of hours on Saturday, and before too long he was dehydrated. I spent all day with him on Monday, and he seemed exhausted. He was so weak from dehydration and malnutrition that he could only walk several steps at a time before stopping to stand and rest for a few seconds. Anything he tried to eat or drink would be thrown up an hour or two later, despite anti-nausea medicine we were giving him, and eventually he stopped even trying to eat or drink.

In addition to the problems with his digestive system, he had congestive heart failure. We were trying to re-hydrate him at the vet from Monday through Wednesday, hoping he could get back to a point where he would eat and drink on his own, but the vets had to decrease the flow rate on his IV, since putting too much fluid into his system could aggrevate his weak heart and give him a heart attack. After laboring over the decision of whether or not to continue the therapy, Mom and I made him a meal that he would normally find delicious: finely cut pieces of chicken breast soaked in broth. He was not interested in that or anything else we offered him. That was that. We didn’t want him to starve to death, and sustaining him with nutrition intravenously would be traumatic and uncomfortable for him. At this point his kidneys had stopped filtering the toxins out of his blood stream, and his body was forcing him to throw up, even when he had nothing but bile in his stomach. There were just too many strikes against us. It was time to let him go.

I asked to stay with Buddy when he was given the injection that would end his life. I just wanted to make sure that he could at least perceive someone he knew during his last few seconds. I didn’t want himto be alone in an unfamiliar place and with unfamiliar people. As the vet prepared to inject the overdose of anesthesia that would euthanize Buddy, I looked into his eyes, held his head close, and told him over and over that he was a good dog. Buddy has been practically deaf for over a year, but maybe he could at least sense the vibrations from my loud affirmations of “Good dog. . . . Good boy!”, and feel my embrace. Dr. Paulsen squeezed the syringe, and perhaps it stung a little bit as it went in, as Buddy whimpered faintly. I held him a little more tightly. After a few seconds, his muscles relaxed and his breathing slowed. He fell limp, though his eyes stayed open. I had kept my face in his field of view the whole time, trying to smile and continuing to tell him he was a good dog. He died looking into my eyes.

It’s funny the way we become attached to our pets. Common sense might tell you that the loss of a pet should not be comparable to the loss of a human relative or friend. But anyone with a dog will tell you that they quickly become a part of your family, and that you often care for and interact with them as if they were your relative or friend. Buddy was a good friend, and a member of my family. He gave his companionship and affection willingly, and asked only to be cared for in return. The fact that his lifespan is naturally shorter than my own is what separates him from me the most, and little else. It was heartrending to seem him go, but I take comfort in the fact that he won’t be suffering any longer, and that we tried just about every humane way of keeping him both alive and comfortable. His life was not long by human standards, but I guess that, from his point of view, it was longer than he could remember. It was all of time.

Buddy was 15 years and 10 months old. He was a good dog, and I will never forget him.

Farewell, old friend.

No comments: