It is 5:45 pm, Tuesday, August 2, 2011. My heart is broken.
It’s the end of the line for my Bama. I thought we were at this point in late February but–on the eve of our vet appointment for euthanasia–she made a miraculous turnaround. This time, it’s for certain and it’s for real. And it hurts so bad.
It doesn’t hurt any less knowing it’s the right thing, the necessary thing.
I will miss her with every ounce of my being. She’s been my companion and friend for 6 years and 9 months. Until the past year or so, I took her practically everywhere, from Shakespeare festivals in the park to a trip from Oklahoma to Colorado for an academic conference. I took her to the Community Christmas Sing-a-long in Tuscaloosa and the Beauty Pageant/Talent Show at OSU/Stillwater, where Bama modeled a red beret and her basic black ensemble.
I had wanted this post to be about our wonderful life together, to remember all the good times. But I can’t write about those yet. I will write about those in the days to come as a way to cope with her absence. I already dread tomorrow night when I walk in my door for the first time after she’s gone and I know that she won’t be there to greet me.
The downward spiral started in earnest last Friday evening. Mornings were better, evenings were bad. Yesterday (Monday, August 1) I left her at 1 pm in good spirits and able to walk. I returned home at 3:30 to find she’d crawled off her rug and couldn’t get up. Her rear legs wouldn’t, couldn’t hold her up. She hasn’t been up again. When I realized there would be no reprieve, I made my decision. The little voice inside had whispered to me over the weekend, “It’s time.” I heard it again on Monday and knew what I had to do. But it was too late to do anything last night.
I scheduled her shot for today (Tuesday) at 3:20 pm, to allow me enough time to find someone to help me load her into the crate and drive to the Shoals. Alas, her pain was so intense today that we couldn’t get her in the crate, even with the help of a doggie sedative provided by my neighbors (who have a storm-frightened dog). That dosage just wasn’t enough. House calls weren’t an option. I found a vet that could do a house call but not before Wednesday. Rather than risk anyone getting bitten, and further agitating Bama, I called her Birmingham vet for advice. We settled on a sufficient dose of a sedative that will completely tranquilize her. But it was too late in the afternoon to get her sufficiently sedated in time to make it to an appointment tonight.
So now, as the clock ticks past 6 pm, we’re waiting for the dawn. I’m exhausted from no sleep last night and the emotional drain of the day (as well as for other reasons that I won’t go into in this post). And Bama, poor Bama, she’s lying helplessly. The single dose of sedative I gave her at 3:30 has kicked in. She looks at me, eyes almost vacant. I know she must be hurting. It definitely hurts to move her rear legs or touch the area just below her shoulders. Although there’s no diagnosis of cancer or a tumor, I’m fairly certain there’s a strong possibility of that, based on how she winces and flinches when I touch certain spots, especially where glands or lymph nodes would be. The Auburn vet specialist who did her biopsies and cultures last week for the skin problem said this morning that it’s very possible something internal has triggered the problems that have now led to the autoimmune skin disease. Her blood work, chemistry was perfect in January and again in May. I tried every avenue to get a diagnosis of something that we could treat. But nothing helped overall. She just has too many problems, something systemic or the combination of an immune system that’s crashed and the problems that come with old age.
Bama is embarrassed that she can’t walk. Over the weekend, as she would look at me helplessly when her legs would give out, I knew that it was a matter of two, three, four, five days, not weeks. But when she would recover each afternoon, the life was back in her eyes. Until yesterday.
Today, she wanted to get in her crate so badly. She’s always loved it. I wish that I’d allowed it to stay inside, like I did in Oklahoma. But everywhere I’ve lived since then has been quite small. There’s been no room for a crate in any room that I’d spend measurable time in. And Bama has always wanted to be wherever I am.
If I’m in the kitchen, Bama wants to be at the entrance. If I’m in the bedroom, Bama is on her bed (not mine) in the bedroom. If I’m in the bathroom, Bama sits by the door on a rug. If I’m working in my home office room, she’s there. If I’m at the dining table, she’s at or near my feet, even though I never slipped her table scraps. If I’m reading in the den area (which is the same room as the dining area), she moves over to her bed to be closest to me.
Last night, Bama tried her best to slide over to where I sat reading. I didn’t want to go to bed early and leave in the living room alone. When I finally did go to bed, I gave her another dose of the neighbor’s dog’s sedative. For two hours I listened to Bama struggle with everything she had to get up and come to the bedroom. I was afraid she would have a heart attack. I guess the two small doses finally combined to sedate her enough to calm her down. Shortly after midnight I dozed off and woke again at 3:40. I got up for water but left the lights off and didn’t enter the living room. I heard nothing. I went back to bed but couldn’t sleep, thinking of how to go about getting a 90-pound dog into my car, even with help.
Bumble spent the night in the chair next to Bama. They love each other as much as I love each of them. Bumble knows something’s happening. This morning, while sharing what I thought would be my final, private half hour with Bama, Bumble came over and sat by me. She walked back and forth rubbing against me and then lay quietly, with her back touching my left leg. Bama lay on my right side and would nudge me with her nose or paw if I moved my hand away.
This afternoon I spent a few more quiet interludes petting Bama, talking quietly to her, assuring her, apologizing for the delay. In a few minutes I will return to my station at her side for a while before I begin my final evening preparations. Then I’ll return to her side before bedtime and we will comfort one another for a little while longer.
It will be our final evening together.
And my heart is wrenching into shattered pieces, once again.
6:40 p.m., August 2, 2011