There’s no way to say goodbye to a pet, not really. Everything feels emotionally overwhelming, and you try your best in the moment, wishing that they understand on some level, hoping that your very presence and the physical affection you’re offering is, on some level, reassuring and enough to bring them some level of happiness at the end.
Ernie’s death came quickly, thanks to the vet’s skill, but it was the last part of a week that had been more difficult and, I suspect, more stressful and upsetting for him than he could have imagined.
He’d had oral surgery on the Tuesday, to have 25 teeth removed; they’d rotted in his skull over the years, under the gums, and were causing him pain, so it was decided that they had to come out; he went in nervous in the morning, and came out doped up and drooling that evening. The surgery, they said, had been longer and more extensive than anticipated, but they expected a full recovery.
I did, too; after all, his brother Gus had something similar happen last year, and he was back to normal in a day or so. That wasn’t the case for Ernie, however.
He spent hours on the Wednesday whining and crying and vomiting; there was so much vomit. He sounded so unhappy, on a primal level. I called the vet, and was told this was normal the day after a major surgery, as bad as it seemed, and that I should call the next day if he hasn’t improved. By Thursday morning, he couldn’t stand up and was still refusing food and now refusing water. The vet agreed to take a look.
Everything after that is a blur, really; multiple discoveries of bad news — his kidneys seemed to be failing, his blood sugar was far too low, his stomach distended, the nodules on his liver — and no real understanding about why or what was the reason for the sudden, shocking downward turn. I felt helpless and heartbroken with each new call. As he was checked into a hospital for constant care, I knew on some level it was the end even as others told me that he could still get better.
Friday morning, 6am, I got the call that nothing had improved and that they still had no idea what was happening. I asked if he could survive without this level of constant medical intervention, with IVs and anti-nausea medications and everything, and was told that he still hadn’t tried to eat or drink anything at that point. “If this was your dog, what would you do?” I asked the vet.
Two hours later, I was in a small room with him. His tail wagged when he saw me, the first time his tail had wagged since Monday. I held him on my lap as the vet offered the three injections, and told him that I loved him, that I’d miss him, and that he was a good boy. I hope he knew, somehow, that all three were true.