Janey came through her oral surgery yesterday afternoon very well. Last evening she was not her normal, happy and chipper self; but she was also better than some might expect after having her teeth pulled and her abscess cleaned. She even greeted me at the front door like she did every day for the past eight years.
Last night, while I was making hard-boiled eggs (her favorite) to feed her with her pain medication, she stood behind me the entire time. Again, like normal. Like she’s done for eight years. I squatted down to her, and she slowly put her head down and under my arm. I gently caressed her fur and cried, apologizing to her for her pain and her fear and whatever else she may have been going through. Oh hell–I was also apologizing to her for all the times I yelled at her when she got under my feet, as she followed me everywhere, every step I made in the house, she was right behind, beside, or underneath me. I would get so angry at her sometimes for almost tripping me or because I stepped on her foot or because, during her shedding season she had brushed up against my clothes and given me an instant hair blanket. And I apologized to her for not spending enough time with her. In that instant, I felt bad for every yell, every cuss word, and every time I took a walk without her for the past eight years. She seemed to be acknowledging my pain and anguish and pushed her head further into my armpit, as I noticed the blood droplets on the floor.
She had been up and walking around several times during the evening, and I watched her drinking water, too, feeling encouraged that her fluid intake was a good sign. And let her outside three times, where she urinated and, although sometimes moving a bit slowly or gingerly, seemed like she was doing well. I was relieved.
At bedtime, she was a little restless. Her bed was my bedroom closet as it was for the past eight years in every house in which we’ve lived–by her own choice. She paced a few times between my closet and the floor at the foot of my bed before finally settling down to sleep. At some point she got up and went to sleep on the kitchen floor.
My daughter woke up before me this morning and went into the kitchen. She called to me, saying Janey didn’t want to get up. I jumped up and ran to the kitchen, where Janey saw me and then stood up and ambled to me and I petted her. Then she waddled past me–in what looked like a drunken stupor–into the living room and lay down on the floor with a heavy sigh. Her breathing was very labored, as if she had just exerted herself to her limitations. Stephanie and I sat on the floor, petting her and observing her. Then she got up and began waddling toward my bedroom. I jumped up and grabbed the folder they had sent home with her yesterday after her surgery. I read the warning signs–none of which she had–then decided I would call the doctor’s office as soon as they opened at 7:30 a.m. It was only 6:30.
I walked into my room and saw that she had returned to the floor of my closet, her bed of the past eight years. I eased into the closet and squatted beside her and stroked her fur gently, observing her again labored breathing. Her breathing began slowing, and she was having trouble taking each breath. I called Stephanie in and decided to call the doctor’s cell phone. He answered on the second ring, and I told him she was having troubles. As I was on the phone with him, sitting in the closet on the floor with Janey and Stephanie, Janey took her final few breaths and then stopped breathing. I told the doctor I think she just died and began gasping. Stephanie took the phone from me and began speaking with the doctor. I noticed the tips of Janey’s ears twittering, as if her spirit were leaving and exiting her body through her ears. I always stroked her ears. We called to her and petted her, but I knew she was gone. I felt her chest for a heartbeat, but she felt so empty. She was gone.
After my promise to her that I would be all right, Stephanie left for work. I wept and wept until I felt like I had let out enough to call the doctor back. I called and talked to him at more length about what had happened. He presumed that since all her pre-operation tests showed that she was healthy and could withstand the surgery, and from what I described to him about her labored breathing, she must have had a pulmonary embolism or blood clot in her lungs, something that just happens sometimes when animals or people have surgery. He then offered to cremate her if I would take her to his office. I hung up and sobbed some more, just staring at her beautiful fur and her peaceful countenance, lying there in my closet as she had done for the past eight years.
So I dressed and brushed my teeth and then set about the task of trying to lift my 65-pound dead-dog carcass and carry it out to my car. Had she been a 65-pound ball or box or something, I could have managed. But since she was a long dog, and since she was dead and there is only so much room in my closet, each time I would try to lift the front half of her, I could not manage the back half of her. And even though I knew this was just her empty vessel, I still feared dropping her on my way out to the car. So I called my son to come over and help. He arrived at the house, somber and quiet, before following me into my room. I sat on the bed and wept again, as he stood looking at her then at me in sympathy. Janey belonged to all of us and loved us all very much, but she was my dog. She knew it, I knew it, and the kids knew it. Bernie bravely entered the closet and, between the two of us, we lifted her body into his arms; he carried her out to my car where he laid her gently in the trunk on the blanket I had placed there. We said our goodbyes, and then I drove to the doctor’s office in Scottsdale.
I drove home blinking between the tears that flowed from my eyes. I arrived home to no greeting at the door. No hairy blanket on my legs. Complete still and quiet in the house. I sat and sobbed until I could not breathe.
I made myself busy with busy, ordinary things–making coffee, washing dishes, cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming the hairy floors. Emptying the sweeper bags and cleaning the dog hair from the carpet brush. Doing laundry and feeling the absence of her standing behind or against me as I pulled the warm clothes from the dryer. Carrying the big piles of folded and hanging clothes to my room and noticing I was still wanting to watch out for her feet. And each time I walked through the kitchen, I glanced at Janey’s lonely water dish out of habit–checking the water level as I did all day long every day for the past eight years.
The electrician came to the door to fix the circuit on the water heater. But when he arrived, no barking dog announced to him that our house and family are being protected by a loyal German Shepherd. And all the while he worked, I did not have the worry about my dog sniffing around him or pacing or needing to go outside and back inside. And after he left, and I was alone again, I went to the bathroom. Gone was the pest who came to ask for a pet or some attention every time I was on the toilet. And gone was the hairy beast that lay on the bath rug outside my shower as I showered. I heard every little noise and wondered what it was–noises I normally would not have even heard in my conscious mind, because I knew Janey heard them and that she would know if a noise were from some malevolent intent. Gone was my hairy security blanket.
And as I sit now, typing at my computer, I have no worry of interruption by a loving wet nose who would demand attention at the most inopportune times. I can sit for hours, completely nonplussed, and this makes my heart hurt so very badly.
She is gone. My beloved, sweet, hairy Janey. I love you, good girl.