I just couldn't do it yesterday - it was too sudden, too soon, too much. And after the awful start to the morning, he seemed okay after we got home. Sort of. I felt rushed. The girls needed time to comprehend what was happening. I needed time to love on him just a little bit more.
The dog who had barely eaten in two days wolfed down the T-bone I grilled him, and gnawed on the bone off and on throughout the evening. Mostly he just lay on the pillows and blankets and yoga mats I'd laid out in the living room for him, breathing in a way that didn't quite sound right to me - too shallow, too raspy? - his body trembling the slightest bit with each rise and fall of his chest. We picked the girls up early and explained as best we could what was happening. I think they get it; we're reminding them to talk and ask questions and that it's okay to be happy and sad at the exact same time. When the sun came out, we all went out to the front yard and he meandered and sniffed and then went to lay under a tree. That was his favorite tree back in the day, back before we had a fence and he always went outside to the front yard on a tie-out - he liked to lay there and smell the air and watch the world go by. Friends came by to love on him one last time, to tell him what a good boy he's been - and to love on us, because they know how awful this is.
Eventually he decided he was ready for bed, I guess, and he went and lay in the middle of the floor in the girls' room. He would move from side to side, but was not interested in getting up for any reason for the rest of the night. We talked about how it would maybe be better if he just went to sleep and didn't wake up. Jimi and I stayed up listening to folk music that somehow was all about losing people you love and reminisced about our lives with him - all the crazy antics that drove us crazy and infuriated us back then - things we wish he could do again.
He had terrible separation anxiety in the beginning. He bent the bars of his kennel trying to escape it. He destroyed all of the blinds in our houses - the one we lived in when we got him, and the one we moved into the next year - trying to get to us when we'd leave for work. We took the best walks through the parks together, and he scared the kids because of his one blue eye and one brown eye. "Ghost eye," Jimi called it. He was always sweet and dopey, though. He was always the best boy.
He loved to explore, and I spent the first 4 years in this house chasing him through the neighborhood when he'd escape through a hole in the fence; once, there was a foot of snow on the ground and I was in slippers, until I lost a slipper. Then I was just in one slipper. Fucking dog. When we'd go to camp, I'd irritate the shit out of Karen because I was constantly yelling "FIIINN - AAAA - GAAANNN!", trying to find him after he'd wander off into the cornfield or around the corner to someone else's camp over and over again, coming back covered in something stinky and gross more often than not. Using a tie-out was a pain in the ass out there - he'd get wrapped around stuff or tangled up, and besides, what dog wants to be tied up out in the woods?
He loved to be with us. If we weren't here, he loved to be with our things. At first, when he was little, he'd love our things too much with his mouth - we lost a lot of shoes. Eventually, he just wanted to lay with our things. He'd make a pile, in the middle of our bed, of shoes and shirt that we'd worn most recently, and then he'd lay there. All day. Waiting for us to come home and scold him for making a pile of our things in the middle of our bed again. Nah, we never really scolded him for that - we'd scold him for the shoe he'd destroyed or the harness he'd cut through again with his scissor-like teeth or the bag of bread he'd shredded and eaten while laying on a pile of our things in the middle of our bed.
When G was born, we sent the little cap they first put on her head home with Stacy, who was keeping Finn for us. She gave it to him, and says he carried it around with him everywhere for the next few days, whimpering. When we came home, he watched over her constantly. When I'd sit in my spot on the couch and nurse her, he was there, right there next to us, with his head next to hers. He showed extraordinary patience with both of the girls, and was almost always exceedingly gentle with them. (He nipped at G one time, but she deserved it. We used it as a teaching moment to remind her to be kind to her puppy brother.)
He did an awesome job keeping our floors crumb-free, though he did contribute what I feel is probably more than his fair share of mess in the form of hairs shed.
He was the best boy.
I slept in the girls' room, so I could be close to him, in case he needed anything in the middle of the night. He didn't.
We got up late today, just before 7. G turned the light on and told him good morning and kissed his head - he thumped his tail a few times. I gave him a few minutes to wake up, then asked if he wanted to go outside. He got right up and headed for the door, more steady on his feet than he seemed yesterday. He went straight out the door, down the steps, into the yard. He peed, sniffed around a bit. Stood, sniffed the air. Then he came up the stairs and stopped, stood for a moment, then his back end started to wobble and he fell over on his side. I caught him and helped him down. He was panting, but not too heavily. He lay there for a few minutes before he was able to get up again, but he made it back inside on his own and lay down on his bed. He drank some water, seemed okay. Just okay. It was so obviously time.
We had to wait for the vet's office to open at 9. I cooked him another steak and he ate the parts I'd cut from the bone, but didn't have any interest in the bone itself. He drank some more water, rested his head.
I pulled the girls together and explained again what was going to happen. I told them to go tell him they love him, that he's been a great puppy brother. "Goodbye?" Geneva asked. "Yes, baby, goodbye," I answered.
We'd talked about taking the girls with us, about having someone keep them both, or just Cora, but in the end, I decided I wanted to do this on my own. The vet's office has tiny examining rooms, for one thing. And the chaos - I just wanted my boy to be able to go in peace, and when we come as a group we bring the chaos. Usually it's fine - this wasn't one of those situations, though. So Jimi said his goodbyes, the girls gave their last kisses and hugs and belly rubs, and I asked, "Hey Finn, wanna go for a ride?" He perked up, ears alert, and got up. He trotted across the living room, down the short hall, through the dining room and kitchen. He hesitated at the steps, but only for a moment, then he was down them, through the gate, sniffing in the yard. He didn't try to jump into the car, but he was waiting patiently for me to lift him into it. I opened all of the windows and we drove the short drive. There were lots of people in the small office already - I'd left him in the car to let them know we were here. After checking in, I went back out and let him down onto the ground to sniff - there are great smells for a dog in the parking lot of a vet's office, I imagine, and that's before you factor in the chicken place next door.
When they were ready for us, I carried him into the small room. They lifted him onto the table. I held his face and looked into his eyes and told him how much we loved him, how he's the best boy, how thankful we were that he was part of our family. It felt like he understood. He was not scared, he was not panicked, he was not stressed. As the medicine took effect, he lay down on the table, into my arms, and breathed a few last deep breaths, and then he was still. It was done. And it felt okay. Deeply sad, but okay.
That's how I feel. Deeply sad, but okay.
I'll miss that good boy. He was the sweetest boy.