Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. ~Roger Caras, American wildlife photographer and writer
From my last post, you know that my beloved Sheltie Dallas was escorted to the Rainbow Bridge on Monday afternoon.
What you can’t know is how much I miss him.
Back in April 2019, Dallas was diagnosed with early-stage kidney disease.
We tried him on the kidney diet food, designed to nudge his kidneys back into service and prolong life, but he refused to eat it.
We transitioned him back to the food he’d done so well on, and things looked good.
Until they didn’t.
Sometime after Domer returned to the Windy City following Christmas holidays, Dallas took a turn for the worse.
He distanced himself from the family, staying outside in all kinds of weather for long stretches. He grew disinterested in playing ball or riding in the car. He suffered more bouts of diarrhea and developed an aversion to dog food.
I blamed it on his being hard of hearing. On being a senior pup. On being bored with me spending so much time writing. On his becoming a finicky eater.
But my beautiful boy, who’d always been a chow-hound, kept losing weight. He’d lost one-fourth of his body mass, and his entire back end felt bony to the touch.
I tried walking him on the treadmill to build up muscle mass, but it didn’t work. We started feeding him “people food” to stimulate his appetite.
I reluctantly let him stay outside, hoping the fresh air, sunshine, and long naps would bring health back. And I re-doubled our cuddle time, morning and evening, certain that things were changing for the worse.
When you’re as close to a dog as I’ve been to Dallas for 13 years, you know when things aren’t right.
On Saturday, he was refusing food altogether. I took him to the vet, and they gave him an appetite encourager, which seemed to work. He ate lunch and dinner both Saturday and Sunday.
But Sunday night was rough. He splatted on the floor and couldn’t get his back legs working. I picked him up, told him it was okay, and took him to bed.
He was restless all night, flopping around and unable to get comfy. Eventually, he woke me early to go outside. Twenty minutes later, I got him back in.
Then he stopped drinking water.
I reconsidered my decision not to test his kidney function and had the vet run it on Monday.
By noon they called back to let me know his levels were way worse.
They could infuse him with liquids (a two-day stay in the hospital that might, or might not, accomplish anything).
Or we could put him down.
He wasn’t going to miraculously heal on his own. This we knew.
Now, I’d discussed euthanasia with the vet before. How I value quality of life over quantity. How I didn’t want to keep Dallas here just for me. How I’d rather put him down a day too soon than a week too late.
It’s time, we agreed.
With heavy hearts, Dallas and I returned for the procedure.
We were escorted to the “Comfort Room” — quiet, windowless, with an immense puffy sofa.
I sat down and pulled my perfect angel onto the sofa with me, laying his head in my lap. Crying all the while, I talked to him and stroked his beautiful fur.
The vet explained the two-step procedure: one injection to relax his muscles and make him sleepy, and the next injection to stop the heart.
After discussing the after-arrangements (cremation), the vet gave Dallas the first injection and left us alone for a while.
We cuddled. I cried. I reminded Dallas of happier times — so many wonderful memories! I told him he’d been the best dog in all the world and I loved him with all my heart.
I assured him the end wouldn’t hurt. And I urged him to run free. To find all the pups and people he’d known and loved during his lifetime.
And to wait for me.
When the vet returned with the second injection, I asked her if it was too late to change my mind. She assured me I’d made the best decision for Dallas, that he was dehydrated and ready to go.
Within seconds after receiving the second injection, Dallas quit breathing.
“He’s gone,” the vet whispered, tears in her eyes, too.
The end came too soon, as endings often do.
We were allowed to sit together for as long as I wanted (more tears, more Kleenex, more comforting and encouraging words), and eventually, I let them know they could take him away.
Life goes on, and my tears continue to fall. I feel like someone ripped my heart right out of my chest. This pain will last a long time. Thank you for reading this and being friends to me and Dallas.
As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death. ~Leonardo da Vinci