Saturday, December 19, my new and wonderful husband and I had to say goodbye to Sonny, his sixteen year old miniature poodle.
Sonny had been ailing for some time, nothing in particular, just age showing. In the last couple of weeks he took a major downward turn. He was clearly having trouble with walking, plus suddenly confused–not knowing his way out of rooms. After several bouts of vomiting a couple of days ago, he stopped eating and nearly stopped drinking water.
We had both hoped Sonny would just go to sleep and not wake up. But death in pets, just as in humans, is never by our time-table or particularly easy.
We had run errands in the morning. Whenever Gene and I are out together and return home, my first job has been to let Sonny out of his crate and take him outside.
I opened the crate. Sonny looked at me. He tried to get up, but couldn’t. I reached in for him, but realized he was so far back in the crate that I might easily hurt him trying to get him out.
I walked away, not sure what to do. He managed to drag himself out a few minutes later. I gently picked him up, carried him out and placed him on the grass. He stumbled around a bit, relieved himself and then just stood there, unable to find his way to the house.
Gene wrestled with whether to call the vet or just watch him for a few more days to see if he might improve. Together, we finally decided it was best to go ahead and see the vet immediately. Time pressures are huge with Christmas week coming and we needed some answers.
As we drove across town, I held Sonny in my lap. He’s a smart dog and has always known when being driven to the vet for his monthly groomings and periodic check-ups or to the dog-sitter where he stays when we leave town. Normally, he trembles uncontrollably with tension and fear the entire trip. He would stay much calmer when returning home, although always alert.
On this trip, he lay quietly in my lap with his head resting against my arm, something he has never done before. He was relaxed, at peace, preternaturally calm.
We were seen quickly, and offered deep sympathy and understanding. There was no fix here–just a very much aging dog whose body and mind were inexorably and quickly giving out. Quality of life had disappeared because of his hip/bone pain and mental confusion. It would be a matter of days before he would be unable to walk at all.
We signed the necessary papers. After they put the IV in, Sonny settled comfortably in Gene’s arms while the drugs were given. As Gene wept, and as I held both my wonderful husband and his dog, Sonny took a couple of more breaths. It was over.
My husband is not one who can be still in the face of tough times. Within 30 minutes after returning home, evidence of Sonny’s long life here was packed up. We’ll give away as much as possible; what had to be tossed is now in the trash.
That’s just Gene’s way of dealing with life. I very much understood and did my part.
Later, we poured a drink and started talking. We talked about knowing this was coming for some time, the relief that it is now over, how odd it will be to sleep through the night as Sonny’s nighttime needs had become more and more urgent and frequent recently.
Then Gene said, “I can just hear Sonny saying to me, ‘OK Dad, I was finally calm on my way to the vet and you had me put to sleep! What’s the deal here?'”
We broke out laughing, knowing good grief is always a mixture of tears and laughter. Gene thanked me for coming into his life and into the life of his dog, whom I described from the beginning as the most neurotic dog I had ever met. I had done everything possible in this past year to make Sonny’s little life comfortable and happy.
I replied, “Yesterday, as you were holding him and we both knew there was little time left, tears just started to flow. He adored you, only tolerated me, and nearly drove me crazy, but I became extremely attached to him.”
A toast to you, Sonny, a funny, crotchety, weird, handsome, neurotic, smart, manipulative, toilet-paper-tearing, and loyal dog. We’ll miss you.