When my wife Rochana and I were buying our home in Cazadero, CA we read in the property disclosures that there was a siren that went off at 7pm on Thursdays and everyday at noon. We found that occasionally when those times came around we could encourage our wonderful pup Sammi to howl. My wife would howl, I would join in and then Sammi. Sometimes it was just Ro and Sammi and sometimes it was Sammi by herself.
It has been almost 3 years since we read the property disclosures, and since then Sammi’s health declined. She is a rottweiler mix, and that breed has a life span of about 10 – 12 years. Her time with us is rapidly coming to a close. A few days ago Ro brought Sammi to the vet and the vet discovered a grapefruit sized tumor on her spleen. Sammi is 65 pounds so having this much mass in her belly is painful. Operation at this point would probably only give her a few months. After the examination the vet said that Sammi’s time was near. It could be hours, or days…possibly weeks with her current condition. So, Ro made the painful and difficult decision to have the vet come to our house to perform end of life services for Sammi. Last nite, Thursday, at 7pm, the siren went off on it’s weekly cycle. Ro and I started to howl to see if she would join in one more time. I didn’t think she would but she did. She sang her doggie song for the last time.
Today is July 31st, 2020. We are in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic and so the process has certain protocols built in. We will have to do this outside. When the vet is near the dog, we will need to be at least 6 feet away. There are two drugs involved, one is a strong sedative that puts her to sleep. Once she’s asleep the vet will move away and we will have a few minutes to say goodbye until the second drug is administered ending her life.
Our appointment today is at 3pm. We have a spot on our deck that she loved to sit at and so we moved the umbrella out there. If it’s too hot there, we will move to our lawn in the front of the house. It’s 12:30 right now and we gave sammi her last meal. Ground beef, chicken livers and a raw egg. One thing that she hasn’t lost is her appetite. Now, she’s even more hungry due to the internal bleeding that is leaving her anemic. I think that her meal was the human equivalent of a nice filet with all the fixings. Earlier today she was up for a walk so Ro put her on her leash and we walked a short distance down Austin Creek Road. It is a cool day today and it was a peaceful walk. Sammi wanted to walk farther so we walked just a few more steps, then turned around back home. When we got back we sat out on the lawn. She sniffed the grass, pooped, and then came to sit by us again.
She is resting now. The vet provided a sedative and it seems to be working. She breathes shallowly and rapidly, most likely due to fear and her current physical condition. We, all three of us sit here for the angel of death, disguised in khakis, or jeans or whatever the vet is dressed in to come to us and turn Sammi into a doggie angel.
I first met Sammi when I started seeing Ro, back in 2012. She adopted me into her pack and showed nothing but love and affection for me. She would often grab a toy with her mouth and put it in my lap. When I picked it up, she’d latch on and play growl, and try to take it back. I’d fight her for a bit then let her win, and then she’d want to do this all over again. I never felt afraid when she’d do this. I always knew she was playing. If I petted her, she couldn’t get enough. WHen I’d stop, she’d nudge my arm as if to say, “Hey, you aren’t done yet!” She loved treats, Especially apples. I couldn’t get away from eating a whole apple without giving her a bite or 8. I’d take a bite, take the bite out of my mouth and give it to her. She’d have a bite and want another, and another. I loved that. It was our special thing.
It’s 1:15 and we were just texted by the vet. They should be here sometime between 2:30 and 3. Things will be different in the house. We have a dog bed upstairs that we move back and forth between our living room and our upper deck. She has a dog bed on the lower deck. We have a dog crate that Sammi enjoyed solace in when the vacuum cleaner came out. All of her chew toys, her dog bowl, her water bowl… All of these things will no longer be used. This is all happening too fast. Even up until a week ago or so, I thought we had more time together. I thought that her death was months or years away, even though Ro kept on telling me that her time with us was short.
The loss of any pet would be hard, but Sammi truly is a special, loving doggie. She pulled me in and didn’t just tug, but yanked hard on my heart strings. I am now in my late 50s and have never felt so bonded to another animal. I don’t have anything like this to compare to. I’ve lost parents, relatives, friends, but have never lost a dear beloved dog that I’ve bonded with. But grief is not the same as comparative shopping. We lose, we grieve, we feel what we feel. Be it human, lover, friend, parent, child, or animal. I wish there was a playbook though that warned me, “Hey Mark, when it’s time to say good bye, it’s going to be really hard.” But again, i’m not sure what I could have done to prepare for this. I mean, cmon… Logically, I know that I will most likely outlive our furbaby, but maybe for the simple and illogical reason we all tell ourselves, this isn’t till the future, even if the future is a month, week or day away.
But now the future is only minutes. Less than 100. I sit next to her while she breathes shallowly. I grabbed a toy and she was mildly interested but she lost interest. It’s good that she’s sedated. I think she’s comfortable. I’m a mess today as is my wife. I cry, i pick up my macbook and write a couple of sentences, I pet sammi and tell her that everything is going to be OK. My wife does the same. We are both still trying to process while keeping Sammi comfortable and letting her know how much we love her. I’m not sure I know what the point is of writing this other than to write and sort out my feelings. Reflections, minute by minute, perceptions… Maybe this is the process I need to go through, shedding my thoughts on the screen. Wash, rinse, repeat.
It’s almost 2:00 o’clock. I grabbed our last apple and cut it into slices. My wife and I took turns to share with Sammi. She seemed to like that and kind of sprung to life. She seemed to enjoy playing with her toy and Ro would roll a squeaky tennis ball to her and she’d nudge it bak. Ro just went to her toy bin and grabbed some more of her toys. She is doing her fake growling now when we try and take a toy away. A few moments ago she grabbed a toy and swung it around like she used to do, albeit a bit weaker than she used to. She would swing it in a figure 8 direction, guided by her primal instinct as a hunter to knock the life out of her prey. For now, all that matters is she’s happy and content. We have a teddy bear, another teddy bear and a star trek stuffed red shirt that she enjoyed. (then there was the time a few years ago when we took a video of her playing with the redshirt in slow mo… pretty epic if you ask me. https://www.facebook.com/markdeso/videos/10153660438043850/)
It’s 2:07 and she’s perked up a little. She is definitely like me (motivated by food that is) and after the apple, she was showing her playful nature. I’ma put down the macbook for a bit and enjoy this time. It is becoming ever so much shorter.
2:30. She really perked up and showed signs of her old self. I’m not sure if this makes it easier or harder. I have a need to want to plead with the vet, “Please, she’s fine. She’s perky and fun and playing with all her old toys and please don’t take her.” but this is selfish. I know that if given enough time, she would lapse back into shallow and fast breathing. Not long now till the vet comes.
It is now 3:26. Sammi is gone. We spent the last few moments on our deck. We put the umbrella up and put her bed out. She came to join us on the deck and we layed next to her, half on and half off her small bed, Ro and I flanking her. We pet her and praised her for being such a good dog. I wanted one more time to share a slice of apple but she didn’t want it. I think she was full from the liver and ground beef and previous apple bites. The vet and her husband both came. They knocked on the door to let us know that they were here and then went down to prepare the two injections. They were very kind, compassionate. They explained what was going to happen. One shot put her to sleep, the next allowed her to pass. Ro had told me that this was going to happen but it was ok for them to relay the information.
They greeted Sammi and she welcomed them. Sammi always loved to meet new people. She was happy to see them and they did a great job soothing her. She came back to her bed, and after a few moments, the vet asked us if we were ready and we said she was. The vet talked softly to her, while her husband held her. She then administered the first shot. After a few moments, Sammi crawled up back on her bed and went to sleep. Her tongue slipped out of her mouth and we layed next to her, telling her we loved her and how she was such a good girl. Ro put a couple of drops of a flower essence on her tongue. The vets stepped out while we said goodbye, and after a few moments we told them to come back. They came back in and administered the final shot. We came back around to let her hear our voices as she drifted away. After a couple minutes, the vet checked her heart and confirmed that she had in fact passed.
It is now a little past 9:30pm. Ro needed to get out of the house so we took a down the coast for a bite. We talked about how special she was, how we understood that grief and recovery are never a straight line but fraught with peaks and valleys: one step up, two steps back. We talked about the empty house we were going back to. There is a complete mix of emotions. Pain, loss, love, happiness, relief, sadness, joy all play in the mix. Loss is not a logical thing, and if loss is not logical then recovery from loss would not follow logic either.
I’m now left with my final thoughts for the day. So I will say simply this: Sammi, I love you more than I thought possible for a pet. Maybe that’s because you weren’t a pet, but rather a 4 legged member of our family. I know you loved us too, and I know that you cared about us as well. My heart is broken because you are not with us anymore. You were a special, sweet, whimsical, angelic, gentle being that came into my life when I came into Ro’s. You took me in and adopted me as one of your pack. Sometimes you were relentless for attention. You wouldn’t let me stop petting you and would nudge your head underneath my arm for more affection. I will never forget that. I will never forget your stinky dog kisses, your growly playful nature and your benevolent and loving heart. I will miss our time howling at the siren as it went off at 7pm on Thursdays and 12pm everyday at noon. I will choose to believe that you know all of this, how we loved you so much and I will choose to believe that as your pain ended, you had us in your doggy thoughts as you crossed over the rainbow bridge.