Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An Appointment Kept

Elvis has finally left the building. Such a stubborn dog to demand 4 more months of life instead of accepting the 2-3 weeks the vet had given him. I can appreciate his stubbornness; appreciate his unwillingness to leave, as i was just as unwilling for him to leave. But the fight was lost on Aug 23, just 2 days before his 9th birthday.

The vet had advised me to keep a happy face, as attitude was everything. I didn't want to depress Elvis and impede his...well, not progress, but maybe affect his attitude in a negative way? Dogs live in the moment, and if I were depressed or upset, he'd feel it. He had already proved that point on those first few nights when I went to bed crying, and he came up for me to love on until I fell asleep. Once I stopped crying and upsetting him, he stopped coming up to comfort me.

Elvis on his bed at the foot of ours.

I remember that when Elvis was a pup he was constantly carsick. Thank goodness he finally outgrew it, because he was always eager to go for car rides with us. He wasn't one to hang his head out the window, though. He just enjoyed hanging with his humans.

Elvis just chilling in the living room

He hadn't lost much weight towards the end, but he lost most of his body mass. The only thing thriving was the damned cancer. The tumors were growing in leaps and bounds, his gut and abdomen expanding even as his ribs started poking out and his spine rose sharply from his once broad back. His hipbones stood out like knife blades, and we had to stop patting his butt for fear of hurting him. Yet he still liked the spot about his nub rubbed.

Elvis and his beloved ball. You can see how the
tumors have distended his abdomen.

We had delayed our anniversary trip because of Elvis, but it got to the point that we had to go or lose our deposit, so off we went, leaving Elvis and the other fur kids in the capable hands of my neighbor. She made a deal with Elvis: he didn't die on her watch, and he got rotisserie chicken! For the three days we were gone, things rolled along smoothly back home, with everyone in great shape when we got back home.

For some reason Elvis had taken to howling when the phone
rang in the last 2 years. Here he is answering a call. Cocoa
(in the background) can't be bothered to answer the phone.

Then my husband planned an overnight trip to celebrate my momentous birthday milestone: I was turning a half a century old, so it called for a special trip. Once again my neighbor came to our aid, and she informed Elvis the same deal stood: no dying on her watch, and he got all he could eat chicken. But this time the ending was different. When we got home the next day, it was as if you could see Elvis relax. My neighbor said he gave a small sigh as we walked in the door, like "finally!". That was the night he refused to take his medication.

Maybe you have heard of The Pioneer Woman. The blog rocks! Terrific recipes, wonderful stories about living on a working ranch. Gorgeous photos. One of the recipes is for mashed potatoes...with cream cheese...mmmmmmm. My wonderful neighbor discovered that Elvis luuuuuved those special mashed potatoes, so whenever she made some, she made sure Elvis got his share. So when he refused his meds, we tried cheese, special dog pill pockets, cat pill pockets, and yes, The Pioneer Woman Mashed Potatoes. Nothing worked. So we let him have his way.

Elvis with his collection of balls.

I upset my husband as I tried to persuade Elvis to take his meds. They were only an anti-inflammatory and pain killers. Nothing that could cure him, only help him be comfortable until his time came. But cancer tends to eat pain pills for lunch. We had to increase the dosage, but we were losing the battle. I think Elvis knew this and decided enough was enough. When at first he refused his meds, I tried begging and coercing him. My husband thought I was trying to keep him alive, but I just wanted him to be painfree. I knew I couldn't keep him alive. It hurt my husband to see me expressing my pain in such a way. He's a fix-it type, and this was something he couldn't fix.

Typical pose for Elvis; surveying all he protected from squirrels!

While he was a smart dog, evidently he didn't
feel like coming in out of the rain.
I call this "The Missing Dog Deck Formation".

When he refused the pills the next morning as well, we knew he was telling us it was time. I took him in to the vet, who took one look and agreed with me. He gave Elvis a shot for pain, and we arranged to bring him back that afternoon after hubby got off work. My neighbor came along as well, for Elvis had come to mean nearly as much to her as he did to us. We were all three present when he came back to the little exam room after getting a sedative to relax him. He quickly went down on the blanket, his head lolling and a dopey grin on his face.

I won't go into the rest of what happened, but it really looked like he was gone before the vet could administer the last shot. The vet said that because of the speed that he went down, he had very little blood actually feeding his body. Most of it was tied up feeding the tumors. When he got the sedative, his entire body relaxed to the point that he could just let go of everything.

We left his body to be cremated, and my husband decided we would eat Taco Bell in his honor. That last month we were giving him Crunchwrap Supremes to eat. The vet had said to give him ANYTHING he would eat, and while he liked Arby's, he simply adored Taco Bell. So we had his last meal for him, eating Taco Bell in his name.

That Friday we had a bonfire, with the neighbor and her family invited. Her family just couldn't bring themselves to come over, as they were just as emotional as I, and I cry at the drop of a hat! So just my neighbor came over. We watched the fire and just sat and talked, sipping sodas while my hubby was drinking a little tequila. We talked about what a smart dog Elvis had been, learning how to operate the doggie gumball machine, and even teaching the cat how to operate it! Did I mention how smart he was??

My husband proved he is as sentimental as I when he stood to announce a toast to Elvis. After we all toasted, he warned everyone to stand back, then tossed a glass of tequila on the fire. Where I can be one big, sniffling tear factory, husband isn't one to show a whole lot of emotion, but this night spoke volumes. He had been just as attached to the putz as I was!
So the saga of Elvis has come to an end. We are waiting for his ashes so we can finish his stone. We got his pawprints in a little cement block just a few weeks before he died. When we get his ashes, some of them will be mixed in cement for a larger stone, into which the pawprint stone will be set. Once cured, this stone will then be placed in our little zen garden, so he'll still be sitting with me when I'm outside on my glider bench. Sigh. I sure do miss him.

Happy to the end.

As a post script to this journey, I've discovered there are many different internet sites that deal with grief over loss of a pet. Just a few years ago there really wasn't much out there, and now they abound. If you find yourself on the same journey that my family has completed, please do check them out, even if you don't think you need to.

On Mourning the Death of a Pet is very good, with a personal story and excerpts from another site: Pet Loss Support Page. I found this to be a wonderful site, and highly recommend it! It has a particular chapter on Pre-Loss Bereavement, which is what my family suffered. I hadn't known there was a name for this! It was almost mindblowing to discover I had actually followed each of these steps, and in order!

Rainbow's Bridge is a beautiful site that has a forum where you can talk about your loss, find support, and even offer support for someone else. They talk about a candle service held every Monday night for our lost pets. They also have a chat section with caring people to talk to.

There's a different Pet Loss Support site that has a lot of good links.
Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
My Pet Loss
Pet Loss Tracks In The Sand
American Veterinary Medical Association
Humane Society
About dot com pet loss
About dot com Loss & Grief

These are just some of the offerings out there for those of us who have suffered the loss of a pet. If you or someone you know has suffered such a loss, please check these sites out. Talk to someone. If ANYONE says "It was just a dog/cat/reptile/critter-of-your-choice", just give them a dirty look. I'd say smack them upside their pointy little head, but that could land you in jail. Dirty looks, however, are free. Your pet was NOT "just" an animal; they were your companion, buddy, confidante. Even family member. Don't be ashamed to grieve, cry, throw pillows. Write down how you feel; this blog has helped yours truly keep her sanity, trust me! AND tell the story of Elvis.

1 comment:

  1. Elvis was so lucky to have landed a place in your family. I know you will love and miss him forever. That's how I feel about all those who came before the two I have now.