Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dear Manni

You left us yesterday.  Technically it was yesterday, but really it was Valentine's Day evening.  We had a prior photography engagement yesterday and I was able to bury my head in the sand regarding your death, but I can't do it anymore.

It's my fault you died.  I'm so sorry. I can't go back and change what happened, and so I'm trying to forgive myself and move forward, but it really hurts my heart to know that if I'd done something differently, you'd still be here today.

I forgot to give you breakfast on Valentine's Day.  The day was a busy one, and you didn't even give me a reproachful look to tell me that you were hungry.  We went to meet a friend at the park for a playdate, then headed to Costco to finish getting our membership, and by the time we got back home that evening, we were already behind on dinner.  I put it on the stove while T was creating a flyer for the barrel race we were to take photos of Saturday.  By the time we'd all eaten, I was clearing the dishes and I saw your empty bowl.  I then realized that you hadn't eaten all day and felt my insides cringe with guilt.  I gave you two cups of food and poured some warm water over it for you, since you're getting old and like it that way now.

I admit, I wasn't paying attention to you while you ate.  I was putting E in pajamas and getting ready for bed.  I asked T to let you outside once more before bed.  We'd been laying in bed maybe ten minutes after you came back inside when we heard you knock something over.  I asked T to go see what you were doing, as my contacts weren't in.  She came back in and said that you'd been gagging and trying to vomit.  So back outside you went.  A few minutes later, she went to get you.  T came back into the bedroom and said that there was something obviously wrong with you, and could I come check.  I put in my contacts and found you right outside our door, sitting on your bed.

Your breathing was labored, your eyes looked like you were in a faraway place.  You were so uncomfortable, you kept trying to move, but you couldn't walk more than a few steps without laying back down.  Fairly quickly, I saw that your belly was full and hard and swollen.  I knew right off the bat that this was likely the end for you.  I called the emergency vet and loaded you in the back of the CR-V and off we went.  The vet told me that you had bloat, or gastric dilation volvulus.  As I'd feared, the treatment for this would likely be much, much more than we could afford.  I told the vet right then that we needed to euthanize you and stop your suffering.  He agreed.

I got to see you once more.  You were lying on the table, catheter placed in your leg.  You looked up when I entered the room, and your tail thumped on the table just once.  I reached for you; you put your head into the crook of my elbow, pushed against my belly.  I stroked your big head and kissed you right between your eyes.  I told you that it was going to be okay; that your pain was over and I was going to fix it.  I scratched behind your ears and tugged them gently one last time before the vet pushed the euthanasia drug into your veins.  You were gone before he even checked for your heartrate; I just knew.  I pulled your collar off before touching your sweet face in goodbye.

You've been a part of my life, a part of me, for nine years.  I'm really going to miss you.  And I'm really sorry that this is how our relationship has ended.

When I was eighteen, I wanted a Rottweiler puppy.  I went to an adoption at a Petsmart where I was told there was a rottie mix pup for adoption.  You were inside the little cat room with the Plexiglas front window, and I couldn't see anything but a tuft of black fur.  I went inside and you bounded up into my arms, a ten week old black hairball and a pink tongue spotted with purple. I petted you and hugged you and laughed at you for a few minutes before going to the table to fill out your adoption paperwork.  You sat in the window and watched me, tail wagging all along.

You certainly didn't grow up to be a Rottweiler, but you did grow up to be such a great dog.

There are so many things that I want to remember about you - so many things I'm afraid of forgetting.

You were always a sensitive spirit.  You sat on my feet, head in my lap when I'd cry.  When a baby cried, you'd rush to whomever was nearby but not holding a baby and look at us with those soulful brown eyes as if to say, "The baby is crying - why aren't you fixing it?"  If T and I were arguing, you'd tuck your tail between your legs and slink back and forth between us, trying to stop the raised voices and hurt feelings.  You loved sitting in front of the security door and watching the world outside the house.  When you tired of sitting, you'd lay down with your nose out the crack at the bottom of the door.  You would back up obligingly when E decided she'd rather have the front door shut, and she was going to do it whether or not you were in the way. You were so incredibly tolerant of babies.  All kinds of babies.  We fostered puppies and kittens and you loved each one, letting them chew on you or hump you or make nests out of the hair on your tail. You let our foster son and daughter pull your ears or fling themselves on you or open your mouth to examine your teeth and tongue.  And when E was born, you showed an attachment to her that melted my heart.  Your favorite place to nap was in front of her crib or under the kitchen table.  You were always so gentle with E, carefully taking the dog food she pilfered out of your bowl and insisted you eat out of her hand. You were always ALWAYS excited to see us when we came home - often to a point of annoyance because you wouldn't move out of the way so we could come inside. When we had visitors, you could barely contain yourself for want of running up to them and wiggling or sitting on their feet or sticking your nose in their crotch.  You were never the most graceful of creatures, but you were funny.  UPS, mailworkers, delivery personnel, Jehovah's witnesses, kids going door to door raising money for their team or club - people from all walks of life were TERRIFIED of the huge barking dog that lived in our house and frequently ran into the door because he didn't stop running in time. I never could convince anyone that all you'd do is love them to death.  You were so strange about food - sometimes it was like pulling teeth to get you to eat.  And you were so good about not begging.  You knew you weren't permitted near the table during mealtime and you politely waited at the edge of the dining room.  You were so scared of thunderstorms and fireworks.  We had a ThunderShirt we'd wrap around your ribs to help you feel safer, but ultimately you'd rather curl up under a bed or table or in a corner somewhere until the loud noises stopped.  You were amazing about only having accidents on hard floors rather than carpet.  I don't know how you taught yourself that, because I surely didn't, but you never had an accident on carpet.  And we really appreciated that.  You loved going for walks and car rides, even though you weren't terribly good at riding in the car. You had such a kind and accepting heart.  You thought all animals wanted to be your friend, even if they distinctly thought you were too excited, too big, too much to handle.  A dog trying to bite you obviously seemed like a dog who needed your love.  You weren't the brightest crayon in the box, but you tried so hard to please everyone.  And when I got frustrated at you, you'd lower your head and lay your ears flat and have the grace to look embarrassed. You loved to dig into the cool dirt in the shade and stretch out for a nap.  You loved escaping the yard and taking yourself on adventures through the neighborhood.

It's so strange to walk out of our bedroom and not have to step carefully over your sleeping form, or trip on your bed, or accidentally squeak your favorite Lambchop toy underfoot.  I keep seeing your empty waterbowl and thinking, "oh shoot, I need to fill that up!".  I drive up into the driveway and hope that E wasn't sleeping, because your barking at my arrival will surely wake her.  I no longer have to be vigilant about the gate latching all the way.  There's no black Houdini dog to push it open anymore. I vacuumed today - and I knew that it meant I was vacuuming up the last of your hair clumps.  It almost felt disrespectful to be getting rid of every last piece of you so soon after your passing - and having that thought feels foolish.  Leaving your shed hair in my carpet won't bring you back home.

You have been with me for my entire adult life.  To face the day without you now... well, it feels like stepping into a new chapter.  I hate the fact that E will probably never remember how much you loved her.  I hate the fact that you'll never meet any other child we may have.

We knew that you were getting on in years, and your hips and legs have only been getting worse in recent years.  We knew your time was close.  I just didn't realize how close.

Sleep sweetly and well, wonderful Manni dog, knowing that you were loved and that you did an amazing job of being our dog and our friend.  I'll miss you and your happy dog grin.

 Manni McGill
March 2005 - February 15 2014

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I know this is rather late, but I just tonite found your blog . . . And read your beautiful, loving eulogy. I'm deeply sorry for your loss. I had to put my golden down in 1995, the only dog I've ever had,and he's still in my thoughts every day, literally. Love and peace to you both.