The time has come to say goodbye to my constant companion of 11.5 years. My lovely Zebedee has had health problems for the last two years, and a few days ago he suddenly got quite a lot worse.
Zebedee is the first dog I have had since a 8-week-old puppy, and it has been a full life of shared, (mostly) happy moments. The only moments that haven’t been that great are when he has had health problems. Also, I wouldn’t call the times he has rolled in fox poo or a rotten fish brilliantly happy, either, but at least they make for funny stories after the eye-wateringly nauseating stink has been eradicated from his coat (much to his dissatisfaction, I should add). Oh, and I guess there were a few shoes sacrificed when he was young, but we have forgotten all about that long time ago.
This is going to be hard.
As I walk around doing my daily chores, I find myself having sad thoughts in surprising places. In the supermarket I picked a packet of carrots out of habit, then realised that I won’t go through as many carrots soon, as I will have one fewer dog who eats them. I put the packet down, remembering that I still have some carrots in the fridge at home so I shouldn’t buy any more.
When I got home, I saw two identical brand new leads that I bought only the other day, hanging by the door, and felt sad realising that one of them won’t be needed. I’m fearing how sad I will feel when I receive a delivery of the 24 kg of senior dog food that I ordered for Zebedee last Friday. Apparently it will be delivered today.
I have confusing thoughts about my decision to make Friday Zebedee’s last day. The vet said today that it’d probably be good if I made the decision in the next couple of weeks. So I felt weirdly bad when I went back to the vet’s later in the day and booked it for Friday, which is only three days from today. Maybe I should spend more time with him before letting him go? Am I selfish for arranging it to be only a few days from now, rather than weeks? Should I look after him day and night – and especially through the night, so that I won’t find him lying in a puddle of wee again when he has “wet his bed” in his sleep… as long as he seems fine most of the time?
But then again, if his life is going to be mostly uncomfortable – even if he still seems to be a fairly happy dog most of the time – how long should he be suffering from his arthritic joints, torn ligaments in both hind legs, shortness of breath due to his seriously enlarged heart, coughing fits, and now an abdomen that is so swollen with fluid that it looks like it could pop any second; and diminished bladder control due to the diuretics he is now on in an effort to get some of the excess fluids out of his system?
Another confusing thought: I just told someone who was checking up on how we are doing, that Zebedee’s last day will be Friday. Which was then immediately followed by a thought “she might wonder why I’m letting him suffer till Friday if he’s so unwell”.
So am I letting him go too soon, or too late? I don’t think there is a correct answer to that question. People have said to me that when the time comes, I will know. I’m not sure I do.
But if I ignore all thoughts of what other people might think or assume, I know in my heart that this is the right time. A few last lovely days with him, and then it’s time to let go.
Oh my goodness, I wasn’t expecting this: as soon as I wrote the above sentence, I’m doubting again whether it’s too soon! Maybe I could have one more week with him? So now I’m bargaining with myself. Isn’t bargaining one the the seven stages of grief? I’ve had 11 beautiful years with him, full of happy days and happy moments. I know that his life is difficult now, regardless of him still wagging his tail and looking OK most of the time. But there is a sadness in his eyes nowadays. A sadness that has never been there before in his clever, cheeky, wise and alert, sparkly eyes.
Just now I was interrupted by a Fedex delivery of Zebedee’s food. I didn’t turn on the lights in the corridor like I usually do when I get a delivery, so that the guy wouldn’t see my blood-shot eyes and the tears rolling down my face as I signed for the package. As soon as I got in, an avalanche of emotion overwhelmed me and I cried like a baby. A waggy-tailed Rocket ran over to me to cheer me up by licking my tears away.
Looking at Zebedee lying on the floor now, sleeping, I can see that his breathing is very laboured and his heart is going to give up soon. I’d rather he didn’t suffer from that moment; I’d rather let him doze off in peace, with me by his side stroking him and making him feel loved and comforted as he falls asleep. I feel so surreal that it’s going to happen on Friday.
Until then, I’m going to make sure that he gets as many sunny walks in the woods as possible, lots of love and care, and lots of treats that he loves.