Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Final Ride

The passing of my best friend in the whole world leaves me here with no words, only emotions that cut so deep they leave me feeling empty inside. . .And I wonder if words alone can possibly display the depth of it all.

When I took my sweet ol' pup, Shadow, in for his blood work I didn't dream I'd be saying, "Good-bye" to him four mornings ago.   Shadow's health had been a daily ebb and flow; with some good days and some bad. On the good days, which came miraculously after my last blog post, he enjoyed an occasional car ride and a walk or two once again. He LOVED his walks, I even spotted him trotting (with an occasional stumble).  It did my heart good to see him so happy once again. A time or two I caught him rough housing with our other dogs. (He did so knowing his legs would eventually give out). He seemed happy. And I was happy. That time together was a miracle given to us. And I honestly give credit to the many prayers sent up by my friends and family. I too had laid hands on Shadow and prayed. With a gentle and quiet amazement, I witnessed the shrinking of some of the tumors on his body and knew he would be "fine".  And fine he was, for a season. . .

Then came the slow tide that turned the good days into "not so good days," and eventually into bad days. How I wish I had not been so distracted with my own life, and some how could have known just how limited our days truly were. Deep down I knew we were living one day at a time and each day was a gift, but life and responsibilities still called to me. And now I wonder if perhaps I did enough to express my great love for him; to show him my appreciation for his faithfulness to me.

Did he know that my "pill-ing" him was done out of love? Did he know that helping him up the stairs, on the days he needed it, was done out of love? Did he know that the little non skid socks I put on his feet was done out of love? Did he know that the special food I gave him (and fed him from my hand) was done out of love?  Did he know that even giving him fluids under the skin was also done out of love? Did he know that even my frustration came out of my love for him? He never complained, but did he know?

Change has never been easy for me. And this change, this life without my Shadow has turned my world upside down. The questions of whether I did enough or perhaps did too much haunt me, the sadness drips over me. And with each stream, my heart is torn a bit more. Will my heart ever mend?

I had many pictures of Shadow printed, some older and some recent.

I look them over and over again  and one picture stands out at me. It breaks my heart.


 I took it, not realizing the significance of it until it was in my hand.

Shadow was always with me, followed me from room to room and spot to spot. Some days I would give him a pat or a hug and go about my business, grateful he was there. Other days I barely noticed, but was still comforted by his presence. Even towards the end of his life as mobility became more limited, he was always there. And I have to wonder if I was there enough for him. My family tells me I did more than enough, but my heart wonders.


The last couple of months when I let Shadow out to go to the bathroom he would sneak around to the front and stand by my car. I would find him there, his head tilted as if saying, "Can we go for a ride." And each time I would beacon him back inside. He would slowly saunter up the sidewalk his head down, his pace slower. Once in a while we'd go for a ride, but was it enough?

One day I found Shadow resting by the car. The breeze blowing across his face and his nose to the wind. He loved smelling the air and I loved watching him. I gathered my camera and hoped to somehow capture the moment on film. To some how stop time and forever hold that moment in my heart.



I wish I had seen it for what it was, to see the aging in his face and eyes, perhaps I was in denial. I knew his time was short and that we were only given one day at a time, but I didn't dream that it would end so abruptly. We had a special bond, and I was certain he would give me an indication of his suffering; some acknowledgment that it was time to go. Perhaps a whimper or a time when he could no longer stand. . .  And in my perfect world, he would signal to me with his sweet eyes that he was ready to say."Good-bye".  But life is not perfect and things don't always go the way we plan.

But I have to wonder now if the signs were there and I just couldn't see them. My heart breaks.

I made an appointment with the veterinarian to have him re-tested so we could see just how bad his levels had become regarding his kidney disease. I knew they would be worse, and deep down I feared we would be getting very close to "the time,"  but I didn't dream that it WAS the time.

When I grabbed the leash to go, Shadow slowly lifted himself and walked to the door with me. He made a pit stop before I helped him into the car. On the way there he laid upright on the back seat, taking in fresh air from the lowered windows. He gave an occasional cough.  As we walked to office he slowly turned and looked back at the car, which he never did before, and continued walking with me, a faithful gentleman to the end.

Once inside I placed the little non-skid socks over his paws so he wouldn't slide on the linoleum.My once majestic pup, which others always made over, was now wearing socks and his weight was down 5 lbs. . .

We waited and soon were ushered into a room. Dr. Ling entered and I could see the concern in her eyes. "He looks like he doesn't feel good at all, " she said. I explained everything that had transpired since his last appointment (two months prior) and she asked what I wanted to do. We agreed that blood work would be wise to determine where we stood.  While we waited for the results I sat on the cold floor with Shadow, placing his head on my lap. I stroked his beautiful soft fur, which had started to become dull. I lifted his face to mine and he looked away. There were no precious kisses from him and no eye contact. His body trembled and I knew time was short, but still had no idea of just how short.

When Dr. Ling came in with the result she began with the numbers, which meant nothing to me. So I asked, "What exactly does that mean?" My fears were realized. His kidneys were shutting down.

Inside I screamed, "NO!!! Not yet, not now!" But outside I stayed stoic and asked if she could come to my house to euthanize him. I wanted him to be at home and comfortable. She explained she was swamped and could not get away from the office. So I asked,  how long I had.  Quickly and firmly she said, "He needs to be euthanized as soon as possible. He is suffering." How could I have missed it? Was it because he still longed to be with me as much as possible? Was it because he never complained, other than turning away from his food? Was it because he still enjoyed his car rides? How could I have not seen it? Another rip in my heart.

The tears could no longer be contained. This was not how it was suppose to be; he and I alone.  I asked for some time to call my husband and son for support. My husband was out of state and I could hear the devastation in his voice as we talked. Thankfully my son was able to come. The next few moments, how ever long or short are a blur to me. I had to keep myself together for fear of completely becoming undone. I loved on Shadow as much as I could, but you cannot stop time and eventually I knew I had to do what needed to be done, though inside I too was dying.

As I write these words, the emotions run raw and the pain cuts deeper than I have ever felt before. To have to end the life of the one I love was by far the most difficult thing I have every had to do. Shadow was more than a dog to me, he was to me as air is to lungs. He was my confidant, my sweet and loyal friend. Though I rescued him 14 1/2 years ago, he rescued me. He showed me unconditional love, he loved me when I was even the most unlovable. He taught me lessons about faith and about God. He shadowed me where ever I went and he became a part of me. He reminded me that love can overcome so much, but in the end it was my love that had to say, "Well done, my good and faithful friend, you have suffered enough."   It was my love that had to be strong enough to let him go. . .

With tears running down her face, Dr. Ling inserted the needled into the IV catheter. "You know you are loved, " she said.  I placed my hands over his eyes and said, "Good night Shadow. I love you," (as I had done so many nights before). I did not see death fall over him, simply sleep. He breathed one last deep breath and fought no more. He was indeed a gentleman to the end.

I wish I could sum this all up in a nice and neat package with a great lesson to share. But I don't have one. . . other than to say love sacrifices.  And I believe Shadow hung on as long as he could because he was so faithful and loved me so very much. Ultimately, as difficult as it was, it was because of my love for him that I had to let him go- even knowing that a part of me would die with him. They say time heals all wounds but it will never change the love I feel for that sweet ol' friend.

He's just a dog some would say, but to me, he was so much more. To me he was comfort, companionship, joy, peace and consistency in a forever changing world. Perhaps I gave him to much credit, but I don't believe so. I believe he was a gift and I believe in his own way he believed it too.

To love deeply means to also hurt deeply. But to have it any other way would be far worse.

Good night my sweet friend, Shadow,  I will love you forever.