There’s pain. I miss him terribly. The hole in my life is huge. Sometimes, out of the blue, it hits me: “THIS IS IT, he’s NEVER coming back” and I feel my heart start to pound; it’s hard to catch my breath. I feel like the grief is going to sweep me away and I struggle to repeat the mantra I learned so long ago with Bess, “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.” Or, at least I try to, through the tears. “Why?” I whisper, “Why?” There is no answer.
There’s anger. I have lost three remarkable dogs in three years; one with each year. And the only one I am truly at peace with is Finn. He was 13 and had lived a rich, full, healthy life. He had never known an unkind hand, had never missed a meal. I feel robbed by both Bess’s death and Enzo’s. I didn’t have nearly long enough with Bess. Even though I know she had five wonderful years with me, she deserved more. And Enzo. Enzo wasn’t even four years old. He was in fact, three years and 7 months… to the day. I sometimes rage. It doesn’t help.
Then, there’s guilt. Should I have waited longer? Was there more I could have done? Did I really, truly exhaust all possible routes? Was there another medication I could have tried? And then I remember back to that horrible day: September 19, 2020. He cluster-seized so badly I had to administer rectal diazapam in order to stop the seizures to get him into the Jeep for transport to the emergency veterinarian. I don’t remember getting there. I just remember them coming out to whisk him away. It was COVID and I could not go with him. They took my boy and I remember being alone in the parking lot, sobbing uncontrollably… thinking I would never see him again. He was going to die and I would not be there with him.
And that’s the memory I flashed back to when he first seized after over six glorious, wonderful months–that’s what took control of my thoughts–the fear and the helplessness I felt that day, the violence of the seizures and what they did to him. The pain, my pain at not being able to say, good bye. And the abject terror that he would die alone, without me. When the clinic called and told me he was finally stable, when they told me I could bring him home… I was overjoyed, relieved, and so very thankful. When he saw me, he made this odd, heart-wrenching moan and flew to me. The vet tech had to let go of the leash. I dropped to my knees and just hugged him. He was worn out and looked like hell, but he was alive. We leaned into each other and all was right in the world.
That night, as I sat beside him on the floor while he lay, exhausted, on his bed, his magnificent head on my lap, I made a promise to him, a vow. I promised him that when it was time, it would be on OUR terms. I promised him we would take our last walk together and savor it; it would be a lovely, long one. We would share the last of the French Vanilla ice cream he loved for post-seizure. I promised him we would chat and I would stroke his glorious, velvet ears and laugh at his gigantic slippered feet. I would fluff out his ridiculous eyebrows and he could lay his water-soaked beard on my lap. There would be treats, no pain and no fear. He would know I was by his side. I promised him we would be together when it was time for good-bye.
So on April 20, 2021 when he had two grand mal seizures with a 5-minute respite between them, I told him I hadn’t forgotten my vow. But we still had time. Three days later, he had three grand mal seizures, but since they were spaced a few hours apart, I told him we still had time. But did we? I wasn’t sure. I asked the Universe for more time. I demanded more time. We had plans. We were back tracking in the fields and learning tricks for the Advanced title. He’d finally nailed “back up”. Yeah, it was crooked and wobbly, but when that boy backed up, he swaggered! He had panache. We’d worked hard on that trick and we were both damn proud of it.
And then a few minutes past midnight, on the morning of April 26, they kept coming… and coming. And I knew our time was up. I prayed I had not waited too long. I prayed for a respite before the vet arrived. And my prayers were answered. We had seven and a half hours together, free of seizures. We had our last, glorious walk… and I was able to keep all the promises I had made to my beloved boy. Every. Single. One.