If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.
= Will Rogers =
I knew my little pet was getting seriously old -- dog years and all that -- but until a few weeks ago, I didn't know he was dying. Only last year, the doctor told us that Javier's heart was strong.
Even when I realized the worst, I was slow to pick up on the fact that it was time to "do the right thing." Until last Friday, when the penny dropped.
You get a sense that even though the thing you're contemplating is awful, you're not wrong to do it. It's odd. Nothing adds up and yet you're forced to accept the sum of the equation.
On Saturday morning, I called the vet and made the appointment for Monday. The eleventh of April. Three-thirty in the afternoon. I was crying. I may have been a bit short with the girl on the line because I felt she was dithering and not answering my simple questions. It was probably my fault; the act of making the call had upset me.
On Sunday we held Javier endlessly. He was lethargic and unresponsive. He could no longer eat or stand on his legs. His will to live had faded away so quickly. He had no interest in his surroundings or in any of us.
On Monday morning I awakened, after fitful sleep, plagued by second thoughts. Whose idea was this whole pet euthanasia thing? I asked Andrew. He let me talk it out. He said he supported me whatever my decision and he'd be with me throughout the day, no matter what it brought.
I called the vet. I said I'd show up that afternoon with Javier, but just to talk. If I didn't get good answers, I was prepared to bring him back home. The same girl I had talked with on Saturday was kind and patient. Jessica. She said whatever we wanted to do was fine; they were only there to help.
I hung up, satisfied. I'd allow my little dog to die at home! Wouldn't he rather? It was my choice. I'd hold him, giving him water with my fingertip if need be. I had nothing better to do. He'd probably pass away peacefully in his sleep anyway.
Why subject him to a trip to the vet where he'd be dispatched by lethal injection? Wasn't that cruel? What had my baby done to deserve such an end?
Then Javier moaned. Twice. It was the first time I'd heard his little voice in many days. Erica had told me on Sunday, as she cradled and comforted him, that she was sure he was in pain. I'd had my doubts.
Maybe I was wrong. I did a mental about-face and began a process of dull acceptance: We'd put Javier in his teal crate, drive to the veterinary hospital, and talk to Dr. Chambers. We'd learn that we were doing the right thing, the humane thing. Javier would be put to sleep. No more suffering and no more questions.
I looked outside. Andrew, who had been weed whacking in the back, beyond the pool and by the fence, had dug a small grave. There was a mound of red dirt and a shovel standing by. The white lights twinkled in the ivy and the pines sighed in the wind. It was a beautiful day.
At the vet, it was confirmed that Javier was in renal failure. He was never going to recover, in fact was all but gone already, except for pain from toxins flooding his tiny body.
Javier had had a long life, a good life, the doctor reassured us. He was suffering. More pain would follow before he finally expired, and no one could say how long that would be.
Later, after giving us all the time we needed (at least that's what was said) to hold Javier and say goodbye, Dr. Chambers calmly gave our bright-eyed boy a shot. Within ten seconds, Javier's little head sagged. His wide eyes stayed open and seeing that, I guess is when my heart actually broke.
The doctor faded out of the room. Erica said she couldn't bear to hold Javier anymore. She was sobbing. I took him and I'm pretty sure I made a spectacle of myself, wailing and telling him I was so sorry. He didn't hear me. His little eyes just stared and he was our Javier still, only he wasn't. He had left us.*
Since then, in between crying jags, I have thought: What kind of person takes a hit out on their own sick dog? I'd written a check to pay them to kill him, and then I'd watched them do it.
The power of guilt is strong. The feelings it produces can be irrational. This article by Moira Anderson Allen helped me. A little. She calls euthanasia the "grand master of guilt." I concur.
And now there's an angel statue back by the fence, marking where our Javier is buried. Loving torture, I look out there a lot.
If you'd like to see pictures of Javier's burial, click here.
And that is all for now.
*In all of these photos, Javier was still alive. Except the one of the sky, and the last one.