And then the house and the sky fell quiet

3 Jan

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“Good morning, Zooey.”

For the past twelve years Zooey has slept in her crate next to our bed. Yesterday, like so many mornings before, I woke up, rolled over and said those three little words. In that moment, I didn’t know it would be the last time.

When I opened her crate door, I noticed right away something was wrong. Zooey was having trouble walking and the fluid had built up significantly outside her abdomen. As the cardiology vets had told us, they could drain the fluid from her abdomen a couple more times, but there was no way to remove the fluid that was building up in her skin outside her abdomen.

For weeks I’d been reading end-of-life articles and trying to find an answer to the question: When is the right time to let go? (Here’s one of the best articles I came across)

Now I knew we’d reached that time. Veronika and I talked it over, and made the incredibly painful decision to schedule Zooey’s euthanasia later in the afternoon. We made the call at 11AM and set up an appointment for 4PM.

Once the decision was made, the waiting became excruciating. Emotions and thoughts started rushing through my mind and I was constantly questioning whether or not we were doing the right thing.

We were also questioning where we should do this. With Jasper we settled on an at-home procedure, but for Zooey that just didn’t feel right. We decided returning to the University of Minnesota’s Small Animal Hospital made the most sense for us given that Zooey had become comfortable with the doctors and technicians there.

With everything in place, there was one last thing we wanted to do … take Zooey for a final walk in one of her favorite parks.

Around 3PM we drove to Battle Creek Regional Park. Dogs can run off-leash on wooded trails and across open fields in this park, so we’ve visited and hiked these paths countless times over the years.

When we arrived, the sun was shining, the sky was a brilliant blue and the park — covered in snow — was as beautiful as we’d ever seen it.

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But Zooey struggled to walk along trails she had once raced down. If we needed a final sign, this was it. Her time had come and there was nothing more we could do. After a short while we returned to the car and started to drive to the small animal hospital.

We arrived shortly thereafter and were taken to a private room with wood floors, comfortable chairs and soft blanket for Zooey to lay down on. We should pause here and say how thankful we were for all the people at the University of Minnesota’s Small Animal Hospital. Everyone from the front desk staff to the lead veterinarian treated us with the utmost care and respect — that day and throughout the entire past few months.

Once in the room, we were given time alone with Zooey to say final goodbyes. I can hardly describe how difficult this was. The one good thing is that Zooey was still being Zooey — sniffing around the room and sticking her nose in the garbage pail.

Once we gave the go ahead, one of the vet techs took her away for a few minutes to insert a small catheter into her leg. This helps assist with the process.

Zooey then returned and we were given more alone time. After awhile, we pushed the small buzzer on the wall and the lead veterinarian arrived.

When we were ready, she inserted the first solution into the catheter. This caused Zooey to fall asleep quickly. Then she inserted the second solution and Zooey’s heart stopped almost instantly. The whole thing seemed to happen in less than 30 seconds.

I was shocked by the suddenness of it. The doctor quickly stepped out of the room to give us privacy and Veronika and I were left with Zooey and tears streaming down our faces. I remember both us of saying how much we loved her and then I leaned over, and through the tears, whispered, “I’m so sorry Zooey. I did everything I could to save you.” Together we pet her soft fur and held her one last time.

After a few more moments, we asked for the vet technician to return. Together we lifted Zooey’s body up and then she took her away to be placed in a small casket for us to transport her to Pets Remembered Cremation.

Like so many times before, Veronika and I drove though the darkness with Zooey in the back of the car. Although this time she wasn’t bouncing around and staring out the window looking for another dog or passing squirrel to bark at. All I remember is silence.

—–

One of the hardest parts of losing a pet is coming home.

As soon as we stepped in the door, I was hit with a wave of emotion. Everywhere I look there’s something to remind me of Zooey — her water dish by the door, her blanket on the couch, her running gear and winter booties in the front closet.

And everything you’ve known for all those years changes, too. It’s habit to not leave food or tissues on the counter because Zooey will snap them up. Or to close doors so she doesn’t rummage around in a garbage can or chew on a sock. To lay out her “dog blanket” on our bed in the morning. She’s no longer there to let outside or take for a walk. And she doesn’t come running when I open the cereal box late at night. In an instance, everything changes and life is thrown upside down.

All day the lyrics from the song “Landslide” have been running through my head:

And can I sail through the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Oh oh I don’t know, oh I don’t know
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you

I don’t know where we go from here. I don’t know what comes next. For the first time in fifteen years, we’re waking up without a dog in the house.

I keep thinking Zooey is still sleeping in her crate and will come running into the kitchen at any moment.

But for now, there’s only silence where there was up until recently so much activity.

Zooey came into our lives as a rescue dog with a blue blanket and not much more. She was our much beloved “trouble dog” with an abundance of positive energy and personality. Yesterday, on a gorgeous sunny day, after all these years, she was cremated with her same raggedy blue blanket wrapped around her. As we ponder how to deal with the days ahead, we take comfort in thinking somehow we came full circle.

Goodbye, dear Zooey. We’ll never forget you.

(Zooey, June 11, 2003 to January 2, 2016)

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12 Responses to “And then the house and the sky fell quiet”

  1. Kathy Patregnani January 11, 2016 at 12:17 PM #

    Great article, thanks for sharing. Never ceases to amaze me as I have helped 5 of my own dogs cross over in the last 30 years and I still feel the pain everytime I have to help them. Just know that in time your heart will open up a tiny amount and it is then that your Zooey will send a new “baby” to you for your loving protection. And then your home will be whole again, and Zooey will be watching over you and your new charge. Bless you.
    Kathy

  2. treubold January 11, 2016 at 12:30 PM #

    Thank you for the kind words, Kathy.

    • Martha Cianchette January 11, 2016 at 1:38 PM #

      Beautiful article. We also had a similar last walk experience. It was such a clear and simple way for Winston to tell us that he was ready for his earth journey to be over. In time, we almost felt closer to him, if that was even possible, because he wasn’t just at our side or at the foot of the bed, his spirit was everywhere. A painful, but profound life lesson and I’m grateful I was open to it. Peace to you…Martha

  3. L. Flynn January 11, 2016 at 6:00 PM #

    We have had the tragic misfortune of losing 3 young dogs. And in each case we have been served with incredible skill and compassion by everyone at the University Veterinary Med Center. I would encourage you to attend a session of the CALLM, the pet loss support group. I was dubious about going but attending several meetings helped me tremendously in dealing with the loss of my beloved companions.

  4. Maria Baer January 11, 2016 at 6:29 PM #

    Oh my goodness. Tears streaming down my face. I am so sorry for your loss. Zooey was beautiful. And while it is hard, you made the best and hardest decision a pet parent can do. Having been through this twice, my heart is breaking for you and your wife. It is one of the most heartbreaking things we are called to do when we become their parents and advocates. My Jack (my senior wheaten terrier) and I are sending hugs.

  5. William Scott January 11, 2016 at 10:55 PM #

    So sorry for your loss. It is never an easy decision. Know what you are going through as we lost Knahla our beloved shih tzu of 20 years a few years back to cancer also. She died in my husband’s arms on the way to the vet to put help her cross over, saving us that dreadful experience in the end. We brought her back to the house, put her in her bed and cried ourselves to sleep. The next day we were back at the vet so he could certify she actually was dead and have her cremated. It does get easier with time…like Kathy Patregnani said you will know when the time is right to welcome another pup into your life. Until then, just keep cherishing all those years you had with Zooey.

  6. Jodi Davis January 12, 2016 at 2:12 PM #

    Thank you for sharing your story. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. I’ve been in your shoes. I have had to say goodbye to three beautiful dogs in just the last 10 years. My last precious pup died at the U of M emergency vet 18 months ago. I tried valiantly to save her. She also had a heart condition and she wasn’t even 10 years old. Every time I drive past the street where the U of M that hospital is located I sadly remember her and secretly say goodbye even to this day. I am snuggled on the couch right now with yet another bundle of joy. The sweetest little Shih Tzu helped heal my broken heart. When reading your blog I cried not only for my past pups but for the day in the future when I will have to say goodbye yet again.

  7. treubold January 12, 2016 at 3:30 PM #

    Thank you so much for the beautiful comments, stories and remembrances everyone. So beautiful and heart-wrenching to read. Thank you.

  8. Jackie January 22, 2016 at 3:34 PM #

    We were introduced to Zooey yesterday in our oncology class at the U of MN Veterinary College. Our lecturer also linked to your blog under the pictures of your dear girl. I’m so sorry for your loss. At the end of Dec., I had to say goodbye to my (almost) 13 year old Weim, Marley…I understand how the reminders are so hard. I still can’t believe he is gone. Your story really touched my heart, thank you for sharing and allowing us to learn from Zooey’s life.

    • treubold February 17, 2016 at 9:09 AM #

      Thank you for the kind comment, Jackie. It warms our hearts knowing Zooey’s spirit lives on. And we’re curious what was mentioned about her?

      • Jackie February 23, 2016 at 3:19 PM #

        I just happened across your reply…I’m sorry I didn’t see it sooner. We were learning about the type of cancer Zooey had. We talked about the treatment she received and our lecturer included info about your blog and some pictures of Zooey. She was a beautiful girl.

        One of my favorite quotes that I think of often, especially since losing my boy in Dec.:
        “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached.
        Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way.
        We cherish memory as the only certain immortality,
        never fully understanding the necessary plan.”

      • treubold February 25, 2016 at 8:21 PM #

        Thank you for the reply and quote. That’s really powerful and so true. Thank you very much for sharing.

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