Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Our beautiful dog Riser died yesterday


Sheila curled up next to Riser on her last morning
















Riser before we knew her--a champion show dog












The boys and I took her in the morning to put her to sleep.

It *was* like putting her to sleep; her eyes just gently closed and she was done.

I picture her shoulders, and the space between her shoulder blades as she laid her head down. The magnificent coat she had, yellow with the hints of red that made an almost orange color. Her long neck that I stroked. This image is emblematic of that experience; that, and the shaved spot on her leg where the needle went in and the bit of blood that oozed from it.

(Then I feel troubled by images that have to do with the death-by-injection controversy for humans where supposedly they die in great pain only we don't see it because they are paralyzed by the first drug. I hate to think that maybe it only *looked* peaceful. I was then troubled by thoughts that maybe she hadn't really died, and that they were going to 'finish her off' after we left. Lastly I was troubled by images of them tossing her body like so much garbage onto a heap of carcasses burning in a furnace somewhere. Second-guessing my decision to not have her ashes returned to us. Bringing in financial concerns.)

I hope it was the right thing to have taken the boys. Intuitively, I think it was important for us to have gone through the process together.

Over the weekend she was off her food. I was uneasy about that because that's unusual for her. I noticed Sunday night that a lump she had by her nipple had grown. I'd been trying to ignore that but thought if it was growing it was time to have it excised. So I took her in only to have the lump take a backseat to the fact that she had fluid in her abdomen.

A very difficult day with Gary just home from Asia the afternoon before and the cool atmosphere between us. I'd decided to take her that day, Monday, as well as do the little bit of Christmas shopping I was willing to do because Gary was not going in to the office. I took Riser with me and after concluding shopping went straight over the hill to the vet's. When the fluid was discovered I left since they couldn't do the tap right away. I drove home to get the message from the dr. that it was bloody fluid and most likely a blood vessel tumor that had caused a rupture and internal bleeding. Essentially she was bleeding to death. I'd been weighing options about how far to go, even drew a sort of algorithm to help me separate the strands of my options; blood in the abdomen had been a stop-go-no-further. I felt ashamed about how the financial costs were such a factor. The vet was so kind and talked to me for quite a long time to help me sort out what I needed to be able to decide. I got back in the car and went and got her to bring her home so the boys would be able to say goodbye. Scott had a vision therapy appointment so I barely had time to drive down the hill, pick up the dog (as well as a list of prices for euthanizing), run over to the school to grab Scott and take him. Then later that night when we were all home together I told the boys that our dog was going to die. We spent the night with her on the floor then woke up yesterday with her weak, but still alive. I wasn't sure if she'd be able to get out the door let alone into the van, and I worried how I could get her up without hurting her belly.

When I talk about this experience I keep saying 'the three of us'. Me and the boys. Gary played only a peripheral part, if he could be said to have been involved at all. He did bring up the sleeping pads and bags for us and spread them, but he didn't sleep with us on the floor. I can see that just being 24 hours back from Asia he needed a good night's sleep before going in to work. However, he did seem to be outside of our grief circle. He never did bond much with the dog. At one point Connor accused, "You don't even care." I think part of that accusation is the awareness of how detached Gary had been all along. Should I have made more of an effort to include Gary? Did I in effect exclude him? Did he need a more positive invitation from me in order to include himself?

It was definitely the shared experience of the boys and me; I hope that they got a sense of the comfort they can take in shared loss and the need to show lovingkindness to each other. Intuitively it seemed right that we make the day an official day of mourning and do nothing else. Cry together in the sanctuary of our home.

1 comment:

Lori said...

"Second-guessing my decision to not have her ashes returned to us. Bringing in financial concerns."

20 years after the fact, I still feel guilty about the same two things with my childhood dog.

I am so sorry for your loss.