Fred passed peacefully this afternoon. He was ready. I still wasn’t.
Dr.Jason from Lap of Love came to the house. He took his time explaining what would happen and patiently answering my questions. He provides a wonderful service with great caring and compassion.
As we were talking, Fred laid on his bed, looking up at me with his big brown eyes. He seemed to know – to be grateful – that we were going to ease his suffering. Dr.Jason gave him the sedative and Fred went right to sleep. He was so at peace, his legs twitching slightly. I sat with him stroking his head and neck, such soft fur, such warmth, a soft blanket covering his body embroidered with “Love and Dignity”. After a while, I nodded to Dr. Jason and he administered the medication.
Fred didn’t linger. After several short breaths, his heart slowed and he was gone. Now he is running free across the meadow by the rainbow bridge.
Ethel and I took a walk after they were gone. We saw the most beautiful sunset. How fitting an end for such an extraordinary friend.
Fred has stopped eating, except for a treat now and then. I think he knows that was the sign I needed to let go. He has no control of eliminations but it is mostly liquid now. Thank goodness for pee pads.
As I contemplated what to do, a friend suggested I talk with Fred about it. It is so simple. Talk to Fred. So, we talked. Ethel and I talked, too. After all, we’re in this together. That’s when Fred stopped eating. He still sleeps peacefully most of the time but he is wasting away, so skinny.
I called Doctor Jason from Lap of Love. He is amazingly understanding and compassionate as I deliberate over when to help Fred pass. What else would one expect from hospice, a hospice for pets. How cool is that?
Music has kept me company the past couple weeks. As we move into this coming week, I want to share words from a song by Sara Bareilles that will be comforting me and giving me the courage to let go:
So, here we go, Bluebird. Gather your strength and rise up. Oh, let him go, Bluebird. Ready to fly, you and I. Here we go…
We had such a good night last night. Fred slept peacefully on his bed. He doesn’t seem to be in pain and he is still enjoying his food so much. I made eggs this morning and we enjoyed them together.
Would it be so terrible to postpone the inevitable? Would you, my readers and friends, feel led on, duped, to have made your sympathies in vain? This is such a struggle. But, you know that.
I’ve felt you, an army of friends, wrap your arms around us and send your love. You share your experiences of saying goodbye to beloved companions and empathize with my pain. You tell me “You’re doing the right thing” or “It’s time” or “You don’t want to wait too long.” Words of encouragement and support.
I know that either way, I’m making a good choice. A friend told me that today as I shared my anguish about moving forward.
The thing is that he still eats! And, drinks! He still wants to go out for walks and sometimes he even makes it past the driveway. And, he sleeps. He sleeps so soundly. He doesn’t seem to be in pain. Am I just rushing this for my own comfort? So I don’t have to get up in the night? So I don’t have to clean up his messes? So I no longer smell his incontinence in my skin and clothing?
Nature will take it’s course. And, while I wish for a natural death, I know I may have to intervene. But, not today.
In the wild, Fred would have been taken by some predator by now. But he isn’t wild. He’s a pet; a domesticated, mixed breed dog. It falls to us to help them find their way to peace in a painless, humane act of selflessness.
I sit watching him, lovingly rubbing his beautiful fur and thick soft ears. He sleeps so deeply, oblivious to the tears rolling down my cheeks. His legs start to twitch, he grunts and his eyes move back and forth. He’s off in dreamland, chasing rabbits, enjoying the fresh air of an open meadow. He’s free. Free of the limitations of his body. Free of pain. Free of the awareness that things aren’t the same anymore.
There is a checklist one can take to determine quality of life that measures mobility, nutrition, hydration, interaction, elimination and his interest level in his favorite things. Fred scores pretty well, just above euthanasia. He still eats his food – it takes more than one sitting – and drinks lots of water. I wish he would stop eating, stop trying to please me. That would be a true sign that I’m doing the right thing. All I have to do is watch him struggle out of his urine soaked bed, attempt to leap the step that isn’t there and I know what has to be done.
The clock showed 5:00 a.m. Fred had been struggling in the other room. I’d heard him sliding around on the floor but my sleep was too hard and my dreams had kept me from waking. Pulling myself out from under the warm covers, I find him stuck in the hall, the carpet runners pushed up against the wall. He is wet and when I pick him up, his legs won’t hold him. Mopping up the mess, I am sad; not angry, not frustrated, not afraid. Just sad.
We go back to bed for just a little more sleep, a little more respite from the struggle of consciousness.
Fred won’t wake up for our morning walk so Ethel and I head out. I realize that this is how it’s going to be from now on, just the two of us. Our friends on the trail ask “where’s your other one?” I just reply, “He’s home today.” Soon, I’ll say something else.
Breakfast is only appealing to Ethel today. She must know what’s going on. It’s the natural cycle of life and death. You can’t have one without the other.
It is a beautiful day and the sun is shining brightly. It will be nice for Fred to spend some time outside in the sun. I’ll give him a sponge bath and get him clean for his “dad’s” visit. We’ll try to eat again. And, we’ll sleep again, escaping the sadness and pain. Another day closer to heaven.
From the day we arrive on the planet And blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round
It’s the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life
I can’t help but think “just 5 days more…” but I don’t want to do that. I want to live in the now and cherish every moment that I have with Fred and with Ethel. We don’t know what the future holds and there is no sense worrying about it. I feel the same about regretting past mistakes. It’s a waste of energy. All we have, the best we have, is to live each day as it comes; awake, alive and ever present to where it takes us.
Fred had a good night last night. He slept until 4am. The night before, we were up 3 times to go outside. Sometimes he can get up on his own and other times he needs a little help. I have to be careful how I lift him or I will squeeze the pee out of him. I know, it sounds gross. I’m no stranger anymore to cleaning up messes. It makes me think about what caregivers go through with aging loved ones. It is easy to get resentful when our lives are consumed by taking care of someone else. Chaplain Michael Byrd says, “Our greatest frustrations come from unmet expectations.” So, we just need to change our expectations. And, remember to take care of ourselves. And, cherish every moment we have with those we love.