Wednesday, February 3rd, the day that no pet owner/parent/guardian wants to face came for me. I had to say goodbye to Dane, my first little dog, my guy, my constant companion of nearly 15 years. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
Backing up a little here, I have lost family pets before. However, with every single family pet before Dane, there was always a clear cut, medical reason that eliminated choice. Dane, of course, had to be different (and difficult). The last year and a half or so, I’d have to guess, Dane slowed down dramatically. He went from being a perpetually spunky little sh!t to suddenly… Slower. Walks took more out of him than they once had. Heat affected him far more than it ever did before. Cold was even worse and his back end occasionally collapsed.
This past September he was diagnosed with early stage kidney disease. He had lost weight and was hunched most of the time. He was already on a joint supplement at this point. After talking with the vet we agreed that daily pain meds were now on the menu along with special food for his kidney function. My sisters (that do not live with me) had been saying for a couple months that he looked like a sad puppy but I brushed it off. “He gets nervous because Milo gets so excited when company comes over,” I’d say. That explanation made sense for the first five minutes until Milo settled in and no longer posed a threat of knocking Dane out. It didn’t explain away his not looking comfortable or the constant nervousness while people he loved were over.
Still, Dane and I trudged on. I bought him a doggy stroller (something I abhor) just so he could continue to go on walks in the neighborhood. I invested in orthopedic dog beds since he couldn’t sleep in my bed anymore for fear of him peeing it. When winter set in I even bought self heating dog beds which I put in the orthopedic bed to help soothe his arthritis.
Since December Dane’s accidents in the house had become more frequent, earning him the nickname “Mr. Puddles.” Thanks to my at home job I was able to put him outside literally every two hours (twenty-four hours a day) but even that wasn’t always enough. My sister and I would be walking around the house in our stocking feet and discover he’d left us a puddle.
I was good with all of this, the additional work of taking care of my senior dog. After all, he was my heart dog, my shadow, my constant companion. Still, I struggled internally for months wondering if it was time, or close to time for us to part ways. My dog loving friends would tell me, “When its time, you’ll know.” The thing is, unless it was a major medical calamity, I wasn’t sure how to tell…
A few weeks ago now Dane started to pee in his dog beds. Sometimes as he was sleeping in them, usually when he was trying to get out of them. I upped his pain meds to his full dose, assuming that it was pain slowing him down from getting out of the bed in time. It didn’t help. Even with going out constantly, he’d still end up peeing his dog bed as he attempted to get out of it and then ultimately crawl back in the wet bed and lay down. It broke my heart. No one deserves to lay in their own filth and no matter if I washed dog beds daily, I couldn’t keep up with him. There are 6 dog beds in my house but still he’d end up laying in urine.
I attempted bellybands but Dane could pee it within an hour. Keeping a wet bellyband against his skin didn’t seem like a wise idea. In a desperate attempt at fixing things I bought a supplement from the internet that was supposed to help with doggy incontinence. I gave him the pills twice a day for a week. I didn’t see a change.
On the one week mark, I couldn’t let him go on this way anymore. It no longer seemed fair to him. I drove my family and friends insane I am sure. Long winded texts explaining our situation and asking what they would do if they were in my shoes. Nearly everyone told me that it was time to let him go. A week before I actually did it, a couple of my close friends came over. Two women who have known Dane for several years now. They both told me he didn’t seem happy or comfortable anymore.
The night before our appointment I took Dane to Wendy’s. He has always loved french fries but for the last few years couldn’t really have them for fear of causing a pancreatitis attack. I got him fries and a plain hamburger. He devoured them! I stayed up nearly all night with him just watching him sleep. I talked to him a lot, cried a lot, pet him a lot, kissed him a lot. My dad came over that morning to go with us. We both cried before we even left my house.
At the vet’s office they took us into a really nice room set up for those last moments with your loved one. There was a couch with pillows, end tables stocked with kleenex, a fake fireplace heater, a little rock fountain. There was also a rug on the floor and a thick comforter on top of that. They wrapped Dane in a soft fleece blanket and I held him, sobbing, during his last moments here on earth. Feeling him relax, seeing his body without any of the tension I’d grown accustomed to seeing made it abundantly clear that I had done the right thing. Even my dad commented, “He hasn’t been that relaxed in years.”
His remains were delivered back home to me the very next day. The crematorium also made his little paw prints into plaster or whatever they use. I put his paw prints in my office so he is there with me, in a way. I know that I did the right thing. I know that Mr. Dane was difficult and made me measure the quality of his life to determine when it was time to let him go. He has forever changed me and I know that he isn’t far away even now.
It’s been heartbreaking and difficult adjusting to my new normal. Dane had
followed me, either physically or with his eyes, nearly every moment of the last 15 years. If I was home I was never out of his sight for long. He always knew where I was and chances are, he was right there with me. After I got home that day and my dad left, I crawled into bed with Frankie and Milo and barely moved. Oliver came in and visited now and then. I’m still not used to the fact Dane is gone. I look for him at times or think, “Oh it’s been awhile, I need to let him out,” only to remember… I don’t… Every break I took Saturday from work, I instinctively reached to lift him from his dog bed to take him outside. It will take time for me to heal but I am at peace, knowing he has found peace at last. He deserved it. Love you Daney Butt.