When Angels Sing

17 Oct

Before I post J’s final tribute, there’s one more thing I need to do. I need to write about his last day with us.

Sunday Oct. 3, 2010 was a perfect fall day in Minneapolis. Sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. Leaves burning bright red, yellow and orange.

For three days we’d been agonizing over J’s situation. We even scheduled, and then canceled, the at-home euthanasia the afternoon before. On this day, we knew there was no turning back. The time had come to make a decision.

Jasper was having trouble getting up and walking out to the backyard. In contrast to other lapses, this time there would be no more miracle recoveries. The cancer on his side had burst through the skin and there were several more visible spots that were likely to open up in the near future, including the most recent growth on his head. We had reached a point in J’s disease where things could only get worse.

Around 9AM I picked up the phone and made the call to re-schedule the at-home procedure for that evening at 6:30PM. It was by far the toughest decision we have ever had to make.

That’s not to say we didn’t have our doubts once everything was set in place. Around 11AM, Jasper decided to get up under his own power (something he hadn’t done in days) and walk over to his water bowl for a drink. Veronika even managed to hand-feed him some kibble and a few of his favorite peanut butter treats. “How long can a dog survive on peanut butter treats alone? Are we doing the right thing? Is it the right time?” Sitting around the house and asking ourselves these questions was driving us crazy.

When I returned home after running out to pick up a few art supplies for a memento we wanted to create, Jasper greeted me at the door – something he hadn’t done for days. He certainly wasn’t making our decision any easier.

After lunch, Veronika, my dad and I decided to take J out for one last walk… “one last walk”… it still hurts to type that now.

As always, Jasper enjoyed the car ride. Veronika sat in back and held her cheek to his beautiful gray face while we traveled along. After a short drive we found a nice path leading down to his favorite place in the world – the Mississippi River.

As we approached the water, a strange thing happened. The dog that could hardly stand an hour ago started to pull Veronika toward the river.

We always said that we’d know it was time when Jasper no longer showed an interest in water. I guess sometimes in life there’s no such thing as “clear signs.”

As we moved closer and Jasper got stronger, I turned to my dad and said, “See, he’s alright. Can’t you see that?” He responded by saying something I’ll never forget.

“I hope I spend my last day in this world doing what I love, surrounded by people I love on such a beautiful day.”

Jasper enjoyed a few playful moments in the water and walked along the wooded trails. For a little while he seemed “normal”, but on the way back to the car it was clear he was in pain.


Photo: Jasper near the end of his last walk

So, back home we waited and agonized some more. I swear it felt like getting ready for an execution given the mood in the house.

Veronika and I took turns lying on the floor with J. It was clear that the trip to the river had taken the last bit of his strength because he was completely knocked out, sleeping on his side barely acknowledging his surroundings.

At 6:30PM, the doorbell rang. The doctor was here.

Veronika greeted her at the door and started crying.

I have to say given the situation and our general condition; Dr. McComas from Minnesota Pets was great.

She sat down on the end of our bed with Jasper, Veronika and I and calmly discussed J’s condition and the euthanasia process.

She asked us if either of us had gone through this before. Veronika said “no”. I flashed back to all the dogs I’ve known throughout my life. The ones who disappeared, were hit by cars, went to live with other families, etc. This time was different. This was our first dog.

We told her we’d been struggling with the decision for days. She said this was normal.

We asked for her assessment of his condition. She said her objective analysis of J’s situation told her it was time. For a moment, this brought us comfort.

A little before 7PM, she started the euthanasia process by giving J a heavy sedative.

Veronika and I held him close and told him he was a good boy and that we loved him as sleep set in.

The doctor asked us if we were ready before giving him the final injection. Everything in my body was saying “no”, but I nodded “yes”. Veronika said “yes”, too, and so she gave him an injection that would stop his heart.

At 7:14PM, he stopped breathing.

A few moments later, the doctor turned to us and said, “His heart has stopped.”

I still can’t believe that after nine years together, he’s gone.

Once the doctor left and Veronika and I pulled ourselves together, we carried Jasper out to the car for the drive to pet crematory. The city was mercifully quiet and the roads were dark and desolate as we traveled in silence.

My dad, who had been with us all day, drove, while I sat in the back holding Jasper in my lap one last time. He looked like he was sleeping peacefully. It was a final tender moment together that I’ll hold in my memory forever.

Veronika and I opted for a private cremation, so Jasper’s ashes are back with us now and sitting on the mantle with sympathy cards, mementos and pictures from his life. Even though his physical presence has left this world, we take comfort knowing he will always be with us in our thoughts and memories.

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12 Responses to “When Angels Sing”

  1. Huguette October 17, 2010 at 11:27 PM #

    Bless you and Jasper.I wish all animals were as loved, respected and honored as Jasper was and is still. Thank you so much for sharing your story, and Jaspers story, with all of us.I know that you will help so many people going through the agony of waiting for that definitive sign. I love that Jasper was able to revel in his beloved water with his family by his side one more time.Thank you and I hope your hearts heal soon and that your left with only the good memories.

  2. Lindsey October 18, 2010 at 6:03 AM #

    I can only imagine how heartbreaking and difficult all of this must be for you. I’m so sorry for your loss, and I hope you can find some little comfort in knowing what a great life you gave Jasper.

  3. Phil October 18, 2010 at 3:21 PM #

    thank you for sharing the story of Jaspers last day with us :(

  4. Khyra's Mom October 19, 2010 at 9:18 PM #

    I’ve kept this parked in my Google Reader until I was ready to read it –

    What a great way to spend a last day –

    Your father’s words were quite wise –

    I applaud you for being ‘there’ for it – I encourage everyone to do that – even if they don’t think they can handle – it helps in so many ways –

    You were very lucky to have such a caring professional to allow you to do it in the comfort of your home –

    I think once our special furiends know we are ready, it gives them some extra energy to enjoy the one last day/night/etc – the last Siberian I let cross did the same – her last morning had us second guessing a bit but I actually knew the previous day she was gone – she spent the last night checking out The Rainbow Bridge to make sure she was ready to go – it met with her approval and she came back Monday morning for her furry little body –

    Again, thanks for sharing!

    • treubold October 20, 2010 at 9:42 PM #

      Thanks, Khyra (and everyone else who has commented recently).

      I was nervous about being there at the end (of course), but there’s no way I wouldn’t have. And yes, we feel lucky to have found such a caring professional to come to our house.

      I really appreciate what you said about your Siberian. That gives me comfort in knowing the time was right for us, too. Thank you.

  5. Amanda January 1, 2011 at 11:04 PM #

    thank you so much for writing your blog and for this entry especially. my husband and i just went through a very similar good-bye this past week with our beloved lennon “lenny” lab-boxer-doberman. he was 12.5 years and just had his half birthday on dec. 26th. lennon went to “sleep” at 7:15pm this past monday. he also had a resurgence of energy that day, just a few hours before the vet was to come over, which made it so much more difficult.

    i had been wracked with guilt all week that i called the compassionate vet too soon, and that i should have waited longer before making the decision. last night was particularly difficult as everyone was celebrating the new year and i felt nothing but emptiness and darkness. i googled something to try to find relief in the cyber universe and was directed to your posting. i found peace in my heart after reading your story.

    thank you so much for sharing… a light in the dark. it made today much brighter for us.

    • treubold January 10, 2011 at 10:01 PM #

      Amanda – Thanks for posting such a beautiful comment. It brings tears to my eyes reading what you wrote – partly because I’m glad the blog helped you in some small way and partly because it brings me right back to the emotions we struggled with during J’s last days. All I can say is that I hope with time that you, too, will come to find peace with your decision. There will be difficult days ahead, but given time the happy memories will start to overshadow the sad ones.

  6. Amy May 15, 2011 at 9:27 PM #

    It took me almost 45 minutes to get through reading your post. Every couple of sentences, something you wrote would strike me right in the heart and a vision of my last days with Grace would flash in my mind.
    I took my Gracie into the vet for a regular check-up on a Thursday. The vet took some normal blood work and off we went. Saturday night the phone rang. The doctor told me that she had received Grace’s results. She had a sudden onset of acute Lymphoma. The vet told me it was only the second time she had ever seen this in a dog. She went on to give me the information for an Oncologist and then gently told me I could do some radiation, but it wouldn’t change anything. She suggested that I not put her through that and instead make her last days quality, happy ones. The last thing I remember her saying was that I had about 120 more days with Grace. She dies 2 weeks later.
    It’s been almost a month and every day my heart still breaks like it was yesterday. I never want to forget a thing about her, but at the same time pray that eventually this pain will lessen.
    Thank you for having the strength and generosity to share your story with us. It helps to know you’re not alone.

    • treubold May 28, 2011 at 10:56 PM #

      Amy – I’m so sorry to hear about your loss and what happened to Gracie. I know it’s hard to imagine now, but it does get a little easier with time. You’ll always remember, though… trips to the dog park, favorite toys, funny habits… those memories will stay with you forever. If in some small way Jasper’s story has helped then I’m really thankful. My thoughts are with you during this difficult time, though.

  7. The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife December 29, 2011 at 12:39 PM #

    i clicked through from you FP post, and now here i sit with tears streaming down my face. my husband and i still have our first dog as a married couple, and I cannot imagine having to make this decision. at least not so young as nine. it’s my wish that every dog had parents like Jasper did. God Bless…

    • treubold December 31, 2011 at 1:10 PM #

      Thank you for the beautiful comment and for reading Jasper’s story. Wishing you and your dog all the best!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Suck It Up, Crybaby! « The Turtle’s Chair - October 12, 2011

    […] how my day was, or a sad, sad story. Thus, I probably should not have read about the last days of a very sick, well-beloved […]

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