The appointment

I did it.

After a year of thinking the time was around the corner, it has arrived promptly on our door step.

I called the vet and made the appointment.

We enter Phase II of family life the afternoon of May 13th; life with only a fish for a pet, assuming the fish lives that long too. Confused? See the previous post.

Tasha's health has been rapidly deteroriating for some time. She does not hear well any more - a result of the her ongoing struggle with ear infections that never totally go away. Her bad thyroid seems to be no longer staying under control with medication. We could mess a bit with her dosage yet that still only fixes a fraction of her health problems. Although we've not been able to do the formal testing, the vet is 99% sure she has Cushing Disease also - a problem with her pituitary gland. She also has some sort of blockage (most likely a tumor) in her nose that causes her to struggle with breathing at night (We've nicknamed her Darth Dog for a reason) and to have this really gross discharge out of her nose when she gets excited or has been exerting any energy beyond stalking children for food. She also has a degree of arthritis that makes it difficult for her to get up and move after she's been down. . . and yet with the breathing that's all she does all. Night. Long. Up and down the hallway trying to find a place to be comfortable, which just seems near impossible for her now.

She's getting snappy. Not at the kids and not yet where she's bitten someone, but it could happen - which has motivated the spouse to finally agree with me. It is time.

I called the vet this morning. I held it together fairly well while working out the arrangements. Then I hung up the phone and cried - hiding in my hallway hoping to be done with the water works before the kids came searching. When Tasha is gone we'll grieve openly but at almost-4 years old and 19 months, we're not prepared to explain to the kids now that the dog has an appointment with death.

This has been harder than I expected. I expected hard. I did not expect this hard. She was our first major purchase together - we brought her home within weeks of getting engaged. When we didn't think we'd have children she was there to fill a void as best she could. We spoiled her. We took her everywhere we could.

Things changed some when the kids did arrive. Tasha's place in the pecking order slipped with each child entering mobile ranks. Someone else to scold her for stealing food. Someone else to shush her when she howled for another treat. Someone else to let her out and to chase her down for some good grooming. Someone else to hug her and pet her.

I know this will be harder on us than on them. Bruce and I remember the days of puppyhood and energy. We remember when she'd play for hours - now she sleeps for hours. We remember when she'd walk for miles. Now she's lucky to go out and when she does, she's laying on a lawn and panting after a block.

The kids will miss her. They'll notice the hole left by her passing. They will grieve and then they will go on. Logan has handled the death of my uncle well. We shared our beliefs with him and he's used that as a source of comfort. He talks about Uncle M being in Heaven. He will include Uncle M as he talks about the people he loves and who loves him. "He's in Heaven but he still loves me," the wise little man says. "He's happy there because he doesn't hurt now and he doesn't need his wheelchair," he adds as an almost after thought. I don't recall us actually ever telling him that. I think we said when my uncle died, he'd not hurt any longer. Logan has understood the concept and developed it further.

He'll be ok with his pet's death also. I know this. I know he'll image his dog feeling frisky and lively. He'll tell us about how Uncle M and Tasha play catch. He'll be fine.

I might not be. He will.

We could have done this sooner. Yet sooner just didn't seem right. This weekend is Bruce's first one home after the long trip. I didn't want to mar what the kids have been looking forward to - two full days of DADDY! The next weekend may have been fine and yet the one after that just seemed better. Logan has his sleepover that weekend. He won't even be home until dinner time on Saturday. We can leave the house for the vet without him seeing the dog leave. He won't have to try to figure that one out - how she leaves ok and never comes back.

He won't be home. He'll come home and he'll learn she's gone. We'll remind him she was sick. We'll tell him she died. We won't have to say how.

He was forking over the dog treats this afternoon much to the dog's delight. I told him she appreciated it.

"You know," I began, thinking we ought to start laying some groundwork. "Tasha may not be with us much longer." I choked back a tear or two.

"I know," he said as he reached to pet her head. "She's very old and she's very sick. I'll miss her but it'll be ok."

And unknowingly he made me feel a little better about it all. We'll miss her but at least she'll be ok. It'll be ok. We'll be ok.


Cyndy said...

Michele sent me
My beloved bichon, Tara, died on 2/13/06. I'll keep you in my thoughts.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I know how very very hard this is...Our pets are so loving in this unconditional way and to have to see them suffer is terribly terribly painful. I'm sure you know you are doing the right thing, but that doesn't make the decision or the eventual loss any easier. Tasha sounds like a great great dog...this gives her dignity. I know she will be grateful for that...My heart is with you, my dear.

KaraMia said...

We had my dog Lady till I was 18yrs old. I don't have a childhood memory without her. When she came to me that day and almost collapsed, I about threw down my baby nephew to get to her. She had water in her lungs and it wasn't something we could afford as a family to treat. She was at least 18yrs old in human years and I never really understood that she was aging. The thought of her still brings tears to my eyes almost fifteen years later. Here via michele today

Shane said...

geesh, a sad post. I feel for you

colleen said...

I'm so sorry about your dog. She will be missed. I'm here via michele.

Melessa said...

I'm sorry about Tasha. My childhood puppy died as I stroked his head when I was 15. We got him when I was 4. I've never been as close to a dog since then. I do think you are doing the right thing, but you're right. It will be hard for you and Bruce.

Paige said...

We are sorry to hear this. Peace be with you & your family.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

This is my first time here and I read your previous post about the fish and I don't think that fish were meant to keep in captivity...they just need the freedom to roam, and that's why they die.

Your lovely faithful Tasha...it's very sad when our pets get old and sick. They've been like a very close family member. Our dog died after 15 years, she had cataracts and could hardly see, thyroid problems, a large breast tumor and she had surgeries for vaginal tumors, plus being arthritic. She was a lively girl until about her last year of life and we couldn't put her to sleep, because she was like a child to us and was happy to be around us until the last day when she finally layed down and died. It was as if we had lost a child. That was in 2004 and we still miss her.

It's a very difficult decision that you have made and the right choice for you, because of the children...but nevertheless a hard choice. I'm very sorry.

Cath said...

Ok, even i have a tear in my eye reading this!
It's quite amazing how pets become part of the family and you treat them with the same love and respect as you do for a family member. I can remember when my doggy dies when i was 17, i was distraught. My mom and dad told me she died in her sleep(as i wasn't at home). It wasn't until i was in my 20's that they actually told me that she had been run over.
God bless you all!

Carmi said...

I'm so sorry to hear you're going through this. Please know you're not alone. We put our cat down just over a year ago. He was the only pet our kids ever knew. I wrote about it here:



Here's the text of the column I published in our city's daily paper last April. I hope our words can bring you some comfort and strength:

By Carmi Levy
Published April 6, 2005
The London Free Press

It’s been just over a week since we had our cat euthanized. And although this event pales in comparison with some of the truly awful things that happen in our world, I can’t help but think that our kids have learned their first lesson in loss, and things will be just a little different for them from this point forward.

I know what you’re thinking: he was just a cat, an animal whose fate doesn’t amount to a huge impact on the celestial plane. But he had been a part of our own little world since just after my wife and I got married, and he was the only real pet – beyond the fish I efficiently killed last year – our kids had ever known.

So it was with great fear that my wife and I discussed how to break the news to them. We ultimately decided to be brutally honest: no sugar-coated, euphemistic stories of sleep and heaven. He was very sick and getting much worse. He was in pain. He wasn’t happy like he had always been. He was going to die.

Anything else wouldn’t be fair to their need to learn the truth about life, and how it eventually ends for all of us.

We broke the news to them Saturday morning, two days before the final vet visit. We tried to balance our wish to keep them in the blissful ignorance of childhood with the eventual and necessary intrusion of the real world of loss.

Zach, our eldest, had the roughest time. Just over ten years ago, Shadow sniffed our newborn’s car seat after we came home from the hospital. He seemed unimpressed, but soon became a furry friend to the first-ever child in his life. Zach grew, and grew to love his aloof animal with the extra thumbs on his front paws. He was at once a feline walker, pillow, throw toy and playmate.

Despite his ability to strike terror in the hearts of visiting pets and humans, Shadow became a veritable marshmallow around kids, always willing to let them have their way with him.

Our now-10-year-old son cried a lot that weekend. I thought I had accepted the impending loss of our pet, but nothing prepared me for our son’s first experience with grief. It hurt to watch him cry. I wish I knew what to do to make his pain go away (beyond bringing home a dog, of course) but was instead reduced to simply holding him and quietly promising him he wouldn’t always feel this sad.

Last Monday morning, before heading off to school, Zach quietly stroked his cat’s fur as he said goodbye for the last time. Dahlia, 7, and Noah, 4, followed suit, hugging and kissing their beloved pet.

After school that afternoon, Noah walked into the house, looked around, and said, matter-of-factly, "The house is so quiet because Shadow isn't here."

He hung up his coat, then walked through to the living room, as if he was looking for the cat. He found Shadow's toy mouse and picked it up with a big smile on his face. He asked me, "Can we put it up in a special place?" Of course, I told him.

He wandered some more until he found a visible spot on the wall unit. "So I can always see it," he said.

Time will heal this, as it always does. Soon, they’ll be able to look back at their life with Shadow and smile at all the kooky things he did. They will, unfortunately, experience losses far more profound than a mere pet. And as they do, I’d like to think that just having had Shadow in their lives will have given them an additional perspective, a few more tools to handle whatever challenges life throws their way.

All from a black cat who, despite never having uttered a word, had more of an impact on three young lives than he ever could have imagined.


Carmi Levy (carmilevy@msn.com) is a London freelance writer. His column appears every other Wednesday.