I woke up yesterday morning at 1 a.m. – wide awake for no reason. I went to check on my dog, Lucky, simply to make sure that he was okay. I heard him coughing and went to comfort him. I held him for awhile and realized that today would be the day we would say goodbye. His coughing was fierce and would not let him rest. I made some tea and grabbed some chocolate chip cookies I had made the day before. For the past few months, Lucky hasn’t been able to have any extra treats because he just craps everywhere. But, this night was different. We sat and shared cookies. I let him eat all he wanted.
From 1:00 a.m. until 6:00 a.m. I held him on my lap. His thin body trembled and wretched with the coughing. An x-ray last spring had shown a mass in his lungs, and I knew for sure that this tumor was getting the best of him. I yearned for the sun to come up so I could go about the business of doing what needed to be done. But, I dreaded for the sun to come up so I could go about the business of doing what needed to be done. I cherished with every part of my being these sacred and quiet moments with my dog. For the past ten years we’ve been inseparable.
I woke up the kids around 7:00 a.m., much too early for a Saturday when they usually get the luxury of sleeping in. I told them today would be Lucky’s last day and they needed to say their goodbyes. Sam came up and laid with Lucky while Lucky licked Sam’s thigh. This made me laugh for some reason. Big bulky teenager letting a dog lick his thigh. Emma, 11 years old, was so heartbroken she could not leave her bed. She has never known a day without this dog. I called my mom and dad and my dad came to say his goodbyes. When I wasn’t around, my dad was the one Lucky went to for comfort and for love.
I finally coaxed Emma out of bed. We decided to spend the next two hours doing things Lucky loved. Being awake and on his feet, Lucky was feeling pretty good. It’s the nighttimes when he lays down and the tumor presses on his windpipe that the suffers. We got him in the car and rolled down the windows to let him feel the wind on his face. Car rides have always been his most favorite thing. We went through the McDonald’s drive thru and got him a sausage McGriddle. He wolfed it down. We took him for a walk and that McGriddle was already making it’s way out the other end. Gross but expected! We let him have some quality time with the guinea pig, Betty Sue, who he loves to lick. Then it was time to go.
I sat in the backseat, Lucky on my lap. I wept the whole way to the vet’s office. We got stuck by a train and this was both torture and the chance to soak up a few more moments with Lucky. At the vet, Sam waited in the waiting room while Ken and I went into the exam room. By this time, Lucky was running around sniffing and wagging his tail. This just made it harder. The vet explained what would happen. I had never been through this before. Every single cell of my being wanted to scoop up Lucky and take him home. But, I kept thinking of his suffering the night before and knew I could not watch him through another night like that.
The medicine went in and within seconds his little legs started to buckle and we softly laid him down. I cried like a baby, probably harder than I’ve ever cried and rubbed and kissed his little head as I had done a million time before. A quick check with the stethoscope and the vet said, “He’s gone.” I cannot explain the heartbreak, but if you’ve been through it, you know. It was gut wrenching. But, I knew it was the right thing. I hugged and kissed him and marveled at how perfectly peaceful and beautiful he looked. Man I love that dog.
I thought I would feel relieved, but I just feel empty and sad. I know it was the right decision, but there is not joy or satisfaction in that now. I see his empty bed and his water bowl still half full and my heart aches. Emma said it best when she told me, “I would rather for Lucky to be happy right now than for me to be happy right now”.
This dog was a fighter. We no one wanted to adopt him ten years ago because he only had three legs, we saw his loving and strong spirit and never hesitated. Then two years ago he lost his eye. He never really slowed down and he always put himself at the center of our family, no matter how bad he felt. He was a lover (and humper!) in the truest and simplest sense of the word. His happiness was based on human connection (and food and licking himself).
I know he is no long suffering, but selfishly I just want him back with me.
The thing that is the hardest about losing someone or something is that there is absolutely nothing you can do to bring them back. There are no extra opportunities for a last hug, there are more more chances to take a walk in the park or to say something you need to say. What you do have, however, is the spirit that lives on – the memories and energy of that person or pet that remains steadfastly in your heart. And, this poem has given me comfort last night and today.
As you know, writing is like therapy for me. So thank you for reading my words and for letting me have a caring platform to express my sadness.
RIP Lucky Dog.