Things took a major turn for the worse with Annie overnight.
I got a call this morning from Dr. Nesin at the Chester Animal Hospital. Annie wasn’t getting better. In fact, she was declining, and doing so rapidly. Her liver was still in failure, and now her kidneys were, too. Her white blood cell count was way up. She was having trouble breathing. He told me she wasn’t going to make it.
Given our options (which were few), we decided it was best to deal with this today, and as a family. I moved some things around at work. Beth did the same. We pulled the kids from their classes. Liv was taking another needed day home from school because she’s still not feeling too hot. I wonder how much of her sickness is related to her empathy for Annie? She’s always been all heart. I drove home and told her the news in person. She deserved as much.
It wasn’t long before we were all home, and everyone knew the plan. We were going to go say our goodbyes and hold her while she was put to sleep.
Jake was quick to announce that he didn’t want to watch. Liv was just as adamant that she wanted to be there. Her biggest fear all along was that Annie was lonely, or would die alone. When I asked her if she wanted to go say goodbye, I got the same answer as when I asked her if she wanted to be there for the death. “Of course.”
The staff at CAH was wonderful. They gave us privacy for our goodbyes and for our grief. They were soft spoken and respectful, and Dr. Nesin never stopped gently stroking Annie’s back until well after she’d left us.
Everyone shed their share of tears. Jake is still processing, and doing so in typical Jake fashion – out loud and on repeat. He’s trying to work through the euphemisms. Putting Annie to sleep is not the same as helping Annie die. It’s his ongoing verbal thinking that’s bothering the other two the most.
My mother had asked how I was doing. I told her that I’d take time for me after I was done being a Dad. Dad explains things and talks to the doctors and drives to the vet and pays the bill. Kids get held and rocked and soothed. I confess I was proud to see Gabe and Liv fill that same role for Jake. I often think they’re too young to be this old. Does that make sense? Jake has done that for them – or to them.
It’s at times like this that I wish I was a better writer, and could better illustrate the bond between a golden retriever and her family. It’s also at times like this that I remember that the unconditional love of a dog, with the ever-wagging tail and lolling tongue, is something dog people don’t need to be told. If you’ve ever experienced that particular flavor of magic, you don’t need me to explain it to you. You know.
Jake is upstairs in the tub. He finds them comforting. Liv is watching Friends reruns. Again, familiar and a comfort. Gabe has decided to play his basketball game tonight because basketball makes him happy. All good coping skills.
Thank you again to those who have reached out to share their prayers and well-wishes for Annie and our family. We’re a resilient bunch. We will always carry a piece of Annie with us in our hearts.
p.s. Dr. Nesin has scheduled an autopsy, because we still don’t have a diagnosis, and I want to make sure Justice isn’t in any danger of contracting whatever has done Annie in.