Friday, April 4, 2014

Last Days

As Booboo approached his fifteenth birthday, his congestive heart failure took a serious turn for the worse. Combining that problem with his blindness, deafness, and advanced spinal arthritis, it became clear that his time with us was wrapping up. If we let his congestive heart failure run its course, his last moments on earth would be spent gasping for breath and dying in a panic. Not an acceptable scenario for someone so deeply loved.

I’d been struggling with this decision for weeks. My biggest fear was the possibility of euthanizing him too soon…before he was ready…before we were ready. I talked to Chuck and our three grown children about their feelings and concerns. We all came to the same conclusion. When the time was right, we would know. If we had any doubts, then it wasn’t time yet.

What we want, and what we know is right, are often two very different things. I wanted to be able to help Booboo get better, but as his health continued to decline and all glimpses of his personality were overwhelmed by his failing body, I soon had to face the fact that it was time to let him go…for his sake, far more than for ours.The rest of the family sadly agreed.

The date and time were set. Our vet, Kevin, agreed to come to our house. This was a true example of Kevin’s complete understanding of the loving bond between humans and their animal companions. I am deeply grateful that he was willing to do the euthanasia at our home, and I know that Booboo was grateful as well. Booboo never liked going to the vet.

The night before his last day, we had a picnic dinner with Booboo on our living room floor, while we watched a movie together. It was our last supper with him. A celebration of our time together and the start of our goodbyes. Booboo’s appetite had waned significantly in the past week. It was becoming quite a challenge to get him to eat at all. Our daughter Carolyn, who lived in town, brought cheese and speck for the picnic…which peaked Boo’s interest a bit.

The chosen movie had a picture of a human brain in the shape of a dog on the cover. “Wrong” was about a man desperately searching for his lost dog. It was a very strange movie, yet entirely appropriate for the situation. Booboo cuddled on our laps and snacked with us here and there, as we all basked in the moment.

That night Booboo had trouble sleeping again, due to discomfort from his troubled body. Although I was already pretty exhausted from disrupted sleep during many previous nights, I was able to approach this one differently. As our last night together, I would stay up with him for as long as he needed me. A couple hours later, we were able to settle back down to sleep.

On Booboo’s last day, he was not left alone. I brought him with me to work, so I could take care of a few tasks and then take the rest of the day off. People were surprised when I explained that this was Booboo’s last day. That he would be leaving us at 5pm. But then they looked straight at him, petted him gently, and said their goodbyes. We don’t always get the opportunity to say goodbye. When it happens, it should be appreciated and treasured.

Boo and I walked downtown a bit. Actually, I did the walking. His blindness, deafness, and tendency to walk in compulsive circles made it impossible for him to go on walks anymore. So I carried him. We stopped by one of his favorite parks. I put him in the sand of the volleyball court, which used to trigger an immediate need to dig…but not anymore. He stood there confused. I gently picked him up and we headed home.

For the next couple of hours, Booboo and I lay on the couch together, with him on my chest, sharing the warmth of our love and saying our wordless goodbyes. At about 4pm, Carolyn arrived and took over the Boo cuddling. At 5pm, Chuck got home…and shortly after that Kevin arrived.

The first injection was a general anesthetic to make Booboo unconscious. As the drug took effect, we held him close and showered him with our love. Booboo was then laid next to me on the couch, and Kevin gave him the final injection to shut down his poor, tired body. A few minutes later he was gone. His spirit released. No longer in pain.

Chuck sent a text to our out-of-town kids that said, “Hey, hey, Booboo! Let’s go get us some pic-a-nic baskets.” Booboo was now free to do just that.