My dog is scheduled to die on April 24th.
I dislike the euphemisms people use for death, but particularly the animal ones. “Put down” is vile to me. “Put to sleep”, while I understand is meant to spare feelings, is distancing to the point of disconnecting–I think it makes it too easy for people to justify decisions that are often selfish. The cat is old and requiring a lot of care–it’s okay, it’s been “put to sleep”. That surgery is expensive–the dog can be “put to sleep”. The animal is inconvenient–we’ll have it “put to sleep”.
While I tend to prefer clinical terms (yes, I am that client at the vet office who says “defecate” instead of “poop”) and usually use euthanasia for that reason, I have veered toward much harsher language.
Kill. The word is kill. When you take a life, regardless of the reason or method, it is killing.
And I use that word deliberately to always keep at the forefront of my mind why that choice is the last choice; to not soften it for myself, to not make it easy, and to always feel the weight of it and not take it lightly.
Once she is gone, she’ll be gone. I will never see her again. I will never hold her again. I will never be comforted by her or walk her or chuckle as she chases Miss Dinah across the room. Guardianship of a life is a scared duty; choosing to end that life, not something to be done lightly.
So that’s what will happen: her life will be taken. She will be killed. I made the call to her longtime vet on the weekend, because she’s the only person I trust to tell me if it’s the wrong decision, and the person I’d want to be there for Sophie’s last moments even though she no longer works at the clinic in town. We discussed it, batted around some dates, and when I saw April 24th on the calendar, I knew that was the date.
Although it’s taken me a long time to realize, I do believe in miracles. And maybe there will be one. But that feels like the date, so it’s the one we’re planning for. My vet will come here for a home euthanasia, and Sophie can go with me and her kitties around her.
April 24th. Two weeks.
I know that I am lucky–I’ve had her for over half my life, since she was seven weeks old and I was seventeen. She’s had an amazingly long life and she’s not been in pain. She can go peacefully and loved. I’m incredibly grateful in many ways.
But I’m not ready. I’m not okay. I cry so hard it’s like my body forgets how to breathe then I have a panic attack because I can’t get any oxygen in. I can already see the Sophie-shaped hole in the apartment and my life and it’s like I’ve lost my heart.
She’s always been my heart and I don’t want to be in a world without her.
If you consider all of the horrible things that can happen to a person in eighteen years, realize the only constant has been her. Every loss, every trauma, every time I went through something I normally wouldn’t survive, she was there. She got me out of bed in the morning. She kept me breathing. She was there for me, the only place I could be truly vulnerable and raw, without having to be guarded against someone saying the wrong thing or hurting me. My entire world revolves around her–she is the more integral to my life than anyone. And now I’m losing the one I love most in this world, the one who has gotten me through every other terrible thing I’ve experienced in nearly two decades. I’m losing my heart and I will be alone.
To quote a friend’s tweets the other day, if you care about someone with mental illness, you have to love their pet. That animal is often the reason why they’re still alive–and I can tell you with all certainty that I wouldn’t be here today without Sophie as my companion.
I’ve already been self-isolating since last week and I’m retreating further because I just don’t have the energy to talk or reassure or breathe around others. It requires too much energy to hold it together and I’m tired. All I want to do is be with my dog, and finish some work so I can pay for the end of her life. I’ve thrown the news out on Twitter (and now my blog) which is impersonal but the best I can do right now, to let people know without having to have the same conversations over and over.
If you feel compelled to reach out, the kind words are appreciated, but understand I’m struggling to cope and can’t respond much right now. Here is a quick summary:
- How am I? Not okay. Devastated. Broken. Probably dehydrated because I can’t go more than five minutes without crying.
- You want to share your thoughts/opinions on my decision? Please don’t, unless it’s to say “You know what’s best and you’re doing the right thing.” Unless I’ve invited discussion, or you’re my veterinarian, my choices are not up for discussion.
- Sympathy/condolences: much appreciated, considering so few understand how devastating this is or even recognize this loss on the same level of human friends/family (if you imply, in any way, that she is “just a dog”, or my grief is somehow misplaced, you are dead to me and we will never speak again).
- Rainbow Bridge–no, just fuck off. I find the poem dismissive and saccharine and I truly hate it. If it brings you comfort, great, but it does not help me and I’m at the center of this ring so my comfort is more important than yours.
- I don’t want to talk about getting another dog. I’ve made the decision that I will reevaluate my life when (if?) I turn forty and decide then if I’m ready.
- Is there anything I need? First, I need my dog to not die until I do. Barring that, I need Ativan, but I’m out and it would take me three weeks to see my doctor who is a dick and would tell me to eat kale for my anxiety. I will accept booze (LCBO delivers–address is PO Box 1833/Campbellford ON/K0L 1L0, I like hard liquor and red wine). I will take money so toss a ten in the tip jar because I’m getting a $100+ urn, individual cremation, euthanasia, and hopefully soon a tattoo of her paw print, and I’m taking off the last couple of weeks of this month to be with her and grieve afterward, so Kenny is poor.
(Oh, I’m sorry, I’m supposed to say “No, I’m fine” or smile reassuringly because people just want to feel better and like they’ve at least tried–well, nope, I don’t do that. Those are the things I need: more time with my dog, Ativan or liquor, and cash since I have to pay someone to take my dog away from me forever and that’s surprisingly expensive for something so awful.)
Yes, my sharp edges are out in full-force; grief flicks a switch in me in which I lose empathy for others, and I am not safe to be around when that happens. To better understand, realize that when I lost my beloved cat I was incredibly bonded with in 2005, Peri from Lineage was born from that grief. So. It’s not pretty. It’s best to back away.
While I question over and over if this is right, I know there is no real answer to that. No way of knowing. I’ll never be certain if it’s right. But I look at her and the words from the last verse in a song play in my mind, and I think it’s maybe as close to right as we’re going to get.
You and me, we’ve seen everything to see
From Bangkok to Calgary…and the soles of your shoes
Are all worn down
The time for sleep is now
But it’s nothing to cry about
‘Cause we’ll hold each other soon in the blackest of rooms
It probably won’t be soon, but I’ve asked Aunt Judy to come for her so she’s not alone.
Sophie has always gotten upset when I’m upset–thankfully she’s deaf now so doesn’t hear me crying, but she watches my expression. I’m trying to smile for her, praise her, love on her, celebrate her. Daily on Twitter I’ll post a picture–either from that day or a past one–to continue celebrating her life, under the hashtag #dailySophie if you’d like to follow along.
Two weeks. Eighteen years wasn’t enough, and two more weeks is nowhere near enough either.