Waltzing Matilda - Final Day

Today at approximately 11:40, we euthanized Maddie. My heart is completely torn from it.

We made the decision yesterday, when it was apparent that we were simply prolonging the inevitable. Maddie would only eat three teaspoons of baby food every hour, not nearly enough to sustain her. She looked positively skeletal, yet her spirits were good. She would roll over and sleep on her back, she went to the front door when we opened it and joined us on the porch. She was alert. That being said, she was physically weakened, tottering about in the back yard while straining to poop. She would exhaust her energy reserves easily by doing nothing more than going up a flight of steps. Although her mind and heart were willing, her body was fading.

Maddie’s final days have been filled with peace (and feedings around the clock.) She had been able to do most of her favorite things (minus eating out of Gennaker’s bowl and chasing ducks in a pond.)

She was “porch dog” nearly every single day since her illness began, including braving the massive thunderstorm with her daddy yesterday. I went outside and found them squished together on the old iron patio couch, content to sit there like bumps on a log while lightening flashed all about the neighborhood. I took off my denim shirt and tucked it around her to help her conserve some body heat. She watched the birds most days, content to hear their song.

During my “shift” with her, we would spend time either eating (that is to say, I would warm up the baby food and place it in my palm so that she could lick it off) or cockroaching (that is when a dog rolls onto their back and sticks all four legs in the air.) I pet her, scratched her ears and under her collar and told her all sorts of things that needn’t be repeated here.

We brought her to our vet today. Maddie, as always, went to her favorite corner in the waiting room and blended herself with the wood paneling on the wall. She trotted (sort of) down the hall once we were called, and lay down on the exam room floor.

Better Half and I had a bit of a wait, which suited us fine. We reassured Maddie with kisses and petting, whispering, “I love you” and “Such a good dog” to her. We cried and blew our noses, then cried some more.

When the time came, our Doctor (who I like immensely) came in with the euthanasia drug. I have worked as a tech previously and I have had to endure the pain of watching my own dog put down; I wondered where the pre-euthanasia tranquilizer was. It is customary in Colorado to administer the tranquilizer first as it knocks the dog out. The euthanasia drug itself can be very harsh on the system, meaning the animal feels the burn of the drug and panics as their body reacts. Feeling one's heart stop and slipping into death can be traumatic.

This is why my heart suffers. The doctor, his tech and myself attended to Maddie. Mads was perfectly calm, but they could not get a clear vein on her right foreleg. This left her stressed, but I wonder if there wasn’t a bit of the agent that made its way in, as she began to react strangely. At this point, I told her “exam” and “blood work”, two commands that are a lifesaver for any vet tech. We tried again on the left leg and did find a vein. It was at this point that Maddie began to cry. It wasn’t her “I don’t like this” cry, or her “I’m uncomfortable” cry. It was her terrified, agonal and in distress cry. I began to weep and repeated several times, “Good girl, it’s okay.” The only thing that stopped her struggle to cling to life was the agent stopping her heart.

We lay upon the floor with her, shedding tears and stroking her fur. I placed my hand over her chest, knowing that her heart would not beat again. Her soul was gone, free from her ravaged body. I began to apologize to her for the aweful way by which she passed.

As I write this, I am still horrorstruck by it. I hear her final cries, her pleading with me to make it stop. Better Half grieves and relives looking into her eyes; they were questioning, asking him, “why?” Euthanasia is meant to be a peaceful departure from this world.

Her final moments are seared into my memory and replay on an endless loop. I was prepared to part with her, realizing that I was giving her the gift of liberty. I was not prepared for the agony that she endured during those final few minutes. It is as if her soul followed me home, and hounds me with the same phrase: damn you, I was not ready.

I mourn, I doubt myself, and I am angry. Furiously so. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t even begin to mourn; rather I find myself so bitter that my companion of fourteen years departed this earth knowing only blind terror during her last few moments. It was inhumane.

1 responded with...:

Annie said...

Toni dear, can you feel the hug coming from across the country? I hope so because it's a long one. I'm hanging on with you.