Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Loss of a Furry Loved One

Last night, Tuesday, June 9th, around 11pm my mom was knocking at my bedroom door. Our family dog, Hunter, had pooped in our hallway and was acting strange. At first I thought he was just feeling a little off and was acting weird because he never has accidents in the house (we got him at 12 weeks old and now that he was just shy of 11 years old I could count how many times he had an accident inside on one hand). After vomiting his entire dinner he started to lose balance and wasn’t steady on his feet. Eventually he slowly was able to climb onto my mom’s bed where he eventually lost all ability to move his back legs. He then lost control of his bowels completely. He definitely was not okay.

Within an hour my dog had gone from perfectly normal to obviously distressed and seriously ill. At over 75 pounds my mom, sister and I had no idea how we were going to lift him from her bedroom, down a few stairs, and into the car. My boyfriend, Michael, ended up coming over and carrying him out for us.

Because we Hunter was taking up two spots in the backseat of the car I asked my boyfriend to drive my mom and sister with Hunter to the emergency vet clinic. I pet Hunter, I told him what a good boy he was and how much I loved him. Once they left I knew I wouldn’t see Hunter again.

I sat with my other dog at home and waited for my family to come back. I’m glad I sent my boyfriend because he had to do most of the talking with the vet because my mom and sister were so distressed. I also knew that because they were going to have to put our dog down that he would be able to handle the situation and drive them home.

I am so thankful to have such an amazing person in my life. I don’t know many people that would drop what they are doing, get urine and feces on them to lift a lanky, 75-pound dog, and sit with two crying women in a waiting room past midnight. He was so patient and kind to my family, and I will forever be grateful he was able to be there for us all.

Hunter was an incredible dog. My sister and I would refer to him as our brother, and I’m not being cliche when I say he was a family member. He was there through good times, and he was there through times of sickness, heartbreak, divorce, struggles with depression, and so many more. Living in a house with three women he had his nails painted and wore holiday costumes, yet we still called him the man of the house.

Hunter typically didn’t like men. I knew Michael was a keeper the first time he came over and Hunter was all over him. Over the past four years Hunter and Michael have probably spent more time cuddling than Michael and I have.

Hunter loved to howl, run, and swim. He loved his morning piece of toast, dog biscuits every time he came in from the outdoors, and sleeping in a pile of pillows. Hunter had the most beautiful ears that felt like velvet and he loved being scratched behind them. He hated having his nails cut so they usually grew really long before we did anything with them, and we lovingly referred to them as his “witch nails.” He howled at everyone we passed during walks or at the dog park, and he usually got a howl in return.

The last time I took him to the dog park, just a few weeks ago, I was asked how old he was.

“Almost 11.” I replied proudly. His bones were a little stiffer and his had some white around his face that was new, but he still moved like a young pup. No one ever believed he was that old.

When I came home from work yesterday Hunter was running along the fence like howling at the neighbours’ dog like he always did. He ate all of his dinner like he always did. He cuddled with me and enjoyed some ear scratches while I watched Netflix like he always did. He went outside one final time before bed and howled to come back in like he always did. If someone had come to me 30 minutes before it all happened and told me what was in store I would not have believed them.

I think that’s what makes this so hard. I always thought we would look into his old eyes and see that he was in pain and know it was time to put him down. I thought it would be a slow progression over time.

Dogs are a lot of responsibility but the hardest part of owning one will always be the end. You don’t remember how much poop you picked up, or how much they whined, or what they chewed over the years. You will look into their loving eyes and see all of the good times you had, and all the times they loved you unconditionally, and in that moment you will really want to invest all of your life savings into trying to heal them, but you will know the most humane thing to do is let them go and it will break your heart

As sad as I am today, having Hunter in our lives was completely worth it. Without him our family won’t really feel complete but the unconditional love he gave us over the years taught us about patience, kindness, love, and survival. All I hope is that he knew that he was so loved and cherished and when he slipped away he was at peace.

No questions. Go hug something furry (or slimy or scaly, whatever has your heart) for me.

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