My alarm went off, but I was already awake. The past couple of weeks have been busy, with applying to jobs and Andrew starting work that I haven’t been walking Tabor, my dog, every day like I had been.
Today we were going to make a morning of going to two new parks: Fenton City Park and Laumeier Sculpture Park, both of which are dog-friendly. They are both about a twenty minute drive from my house, so I was a little nervous as to how Tabor would do on the highway. He loves car rides, but is pretty adamant about having the windows down.
I said the magic words, “Want to go for a ride?” and he started hopping and barking and running in circles. He has always loved car rides, even when he was a little puppy. My parents gave Tabor to me as a Christmas present when I was thirteen years old, and he has been spoiled by numerous car rides since then.
I clipped his leash on to him and he jumped into the driver’s seat. I gave him a look and he reluctantly scooted over to the passenger seat so I could get in.
He was perfect on the drive over. I made sure to bring a bowl so he could drink from some of the park’s water fountains and I brought a water bottle for me.
It was pretty warm, even at 8:00, so we walked as much in the shade as possible and we walked almost the entire two-mile trail around Fenton City Park. As we looped back, I took out the bowl so he could have some water, but the water fountain didn’t work, which I thought was dumb. So I poured him water from my water bottle and made sure he drank it all.
One man asked if he could pet Tabor, and I nodded, but warned that he could be a little shy even though he’s such a big dog. The man was wearing a hat, and for some reason hoods and hats scare Tabor, so he kind of hid behind me. Eventually he warmed up to the man and let him pet him. Silly dog.
We drove over to Laumeire Sculpture park, which has a lot of neat modern art sculptures. I noticed a lot of other people there that were playing Pokemon Go, and Tabor just plodded on next to me. One lady that was jogging complimented him on how good he was behaving with all the people around.
I gave Tabor some more water and figured it was time to head home. It was a good morning, but we were both tired and it was getting very hot.
We got home and I got myself some water and sat down to cool off. After a few minutes, I noticed that Tabor had been pacing, and hadn’t laid down yet. He also hadn’t touched his water. That’s odd, I thought, but just figured he was too hot.
About ten minutes later, he started coughing and dry heaving. I rushed him outside, but he never actually threw anything up. My concern was increasing.
He was fine for a few more minutes, but was still pacing, and then started dry heaving again. Unsure what to do, I texted Andrew at work and asked if he was on his break yet.
No response. Tabor starts dry heaving again. I look up his symptoms, but there are many different things it could be, but all articles advised taking him in to be seen. I’m in a bit of denial though; he was fine this morning. Nothing can be seriously wrong with him, right?
Andrew finally calls and I explained what was going on. “Call the vet,” he said. “They are pretty good about advising when there is something wrong, or if he’s just too hot. Try to make him lay down.”
I tried to make him lay down, and like the obedient dog he is, he tried. He hunched his back and spread his hind legs as he did so, and then promptly stood back up. He couldn’t lay down.
Any reservations I had before about calling the vet were now gone. I looked up their number, and they advise me to bring him in immediately. By then, I am freaking out. The possibility of something bad happening had my eyes filling up with tears.
I call my mom, and I’m already crying and blubbering when she answers the phone. “I’m really worried about Tabor,” I manage to say. “Can you come with me to the vet?”
It seemed like it took her hours to arrive. I walk Tabor out slowly to the car, and he clambers in. I give my mom directions, and Tabor tries several times to lay down, but each time stands back up. I know he must be exhausted from the day at the park and he can’t even lay down.
My heart is already breaking.
When we arrive at the vet, the tech takes his vitals and weighs him. She goes to get the doctor.
The doctor listens to his heart and then starts to feel his sides and his chest. “His stomach is a little distended. We need to take some x-rays.”
They take his x-rays. He shows us the pictures, and begins to explain. “He has bloat and torsion.” He shows us his enlarged stomach. “His stomach is filled with gas, and as it expanded, it shifted and twisted. Nothing can pass through the stomach, and unfortunately this is life-threatening.”
My mind is racing, and I just nod dumbly.
He continues to explain the option of surgery. Any surgery is high risk, but this will be a little more because he is an older dog. It had only been a couple hours since it started though, so there should be less complications because of that. My mom asks how much surgery would costs, and he says several thousand.
I’m still stuck on “life-threatening” and “surgery.”
“I know this is a lot to throw on you in just five minutes,” he says, “but we have to quickly make a decision if you decide to go with surgery.”
He hasn’t discussed the other option yet, but I’m afraid to ask. But I don’t have to; my mom asks for me. “Besides surgery, what other option do we have?”
He pauses, and then says, “If you decide against surgery, he will have to be put to sleep.” He spreads his hands placatingly. “I will give you two a couple of minutes to talk.”
He shuts the door and I start crying. My mom asks what I’m thinking and I shake my head. “I don’t think I want surgery.”
“Call Andrew,” she says.
So I do. He doesn’t answer the first time, but he answers the second time I call. “What’s going on?” He asks gently, but then another sob comes up and I can’t speak so my mom takes the phone for me. She talks to him and then has the vet talk to him.
Once I’m a little more calm, she hands the phone to me. “What do you think?” He asks. “I will support whichever decision you make.”
“I’m leaning away from surgery.” I say. “We can’t really afford it, and he’s an older dog…” I trail off.
“Surgery and recovery will be painful for him, too.” He says quietly.
We’ve arrived at a decision, but neither of us can say it aloud.
I start to cry again, still not quite believing that this all is happening.
It’s not time for him to go. It can’t be. He’s not quite nine years old, and he has been happy and healthy, even this morning. There’s no time to call my brother or my sister or my father; there’s no time for anyone to say good bye.
And even if there was, none of us would be ready.
The doctor returns and he asks if we have come to a decision. I try to clear my throat, choke down another sob so that I can answer him. But my mom speaks for me, again. “We’re going to put him to sleep.”
A tech brings forms in for me to sign to authorize the euthanasia, and my mom signs for me.
They bring Tabor into the room, and he’s wobbly from the sedative they gave him. How helpless and adorable he looks at the same time have me crying even harder. He lays down on the floor – the first time he’s been able to all afternoon – and rests his head on his paws. I stroke his head and run my hand over his ears. I pet his scruff as the doctor inserts the euthanasia.
In fifteen quick seconds, it’s over. The doctor checks his heart beat and leaves the room to give us some privacy.
I can’t bring myself to touch him, and for a moment, I feel like I have betrayed him. Maybe two parks in one morning was too much. I just can’t process that two hours ago I had a healthy, normal dog.
And now I don’t have my dog at all.
As I come home, I expect him to greet me at the door. As I go to the bathroom, I expect him to burst in and expect to be petted. As I shower in the morning, I expect him to stand there and keep watch. As I cook dinner, I expect him to wait patiently for something to be dropped. As I eat dinner, I expect him to be at my side, begging for just a piece. As I get up in the middle of the night, I expect to have to tip-toe around so I don’t step on him. As I put my tennis shoes on, I expect him to get excited thinking he will get to come, too. As I open my car door, I expect him to jump in before me, because he loved car rides more than anything.
I knew that this day would come eventually, I just never expected it to come so soon. And it doesn’t ease the pain knowing that I’ve lost my best friend.
You’re never ready when it’s time to go.