This was a play on a Wilco song, actually the song we consider to be our song and had our first wedding dance to, that I used to sing to Beaker every day. I had a few of them, but primarily this one, and another one to The Ting Tings' "That's Not My Name:" "They call her Beaker! She is a dog! She loves her mommy! Cause he mommy makes her breakfast!"
Right after I wrote my last post, I went about my day. Jeff and I both had plans, and were nervous to leave Beaker at home considering she had been acting up a lot lately, mainly peeing on our bed. Not uncommon for her to pee on all the things we hold dear, we chalked it up to the thunderstorms we have been having and her age. Her anxiety had gotten a bit worse this spring and was harder to calm. She had taken to spending the night in one of our bathtubs, especially when it was raining. The weather looked unpredictable and we both didn't want to crate her, so off to daycare she went. She refused to eat, so I tried every trick in the book to get her to at least eat something since she had refused dinner the night before, as well. Normally a very picky eater, and unable to eat when anxious, this also didn't really strike me as odd. She had some runny poops, but this, too, was normal and I attributed that to her minimal food intake over the past day or so.
Jeff took her to daycare, and I went and chaired my home group meeting. I sauntered around some stores afterwards, and I walked home. I went to Target to pick an online order up. Jeff went about his day, attending his meeting, going our for lunch, and getting a haircut. I met him after his haircut was done with Iggy and we drove to get her. He asked me if I wanted to run in and get her, and I was happy to oblige. She was so excited to see me, she bounded out and broke free of the grip of one of the employees. I was happy to see that smile I fell in love with on her face as she greeted me with that unconditional love and adoration I was used to from her. Afterall, greetings like that were often times reserved for me and Jeff. I was relieved she seemed to be back to her normal self.
We came home, and Jeff took a nap. She curled up next to him while I sat on the couch and did some really boring things like play Candy Crush and check Facebook. I packed up some of my clothes that no longer fit me, did some light cleaning, and then we got ready to go to a dinner we had planned a few months back. I had Jeff get her some wet food earlier in hopes she would eat a bit, and it seemed to work. Overall, it was a very boring afternoon, and I had no idea it would be the last normal Saturday afternoon I would have. I regret not doing it differently knowing what I know now. I've been really torn up about that.
We had been leaving Beaker out of her crate lately because she had been good in small periods of time on her own, as long as we left quietly and she didn't notice we had gone. We usually tried to lure her in the bedroom with the promise of licking the cat's plate when she was done eating, and banked on her falling asleep in our bed, none the wiser we had ever been gone. We started doing this because her crate caused her great anxiety, and as I noticed her heart continuing to beat harder and harder over the last few weeks, I didn't want to add any undue stress to her already taxed system. But she had started having a hard time getting comfortable and settled, and often times we can home to find our poor bed, peed on again. It was a real dilemma. Save our furniture, or save the dog. The dog always won.
We had a nice dinner, overall gone for about two hours, and when we came home, we noticed something was wrong when Beaker didn't greet us at the door. We found her in our bedroom, disoriented and covered in her own excrement. Pee was one thing, but on the rare occasion she went #2 in the house, she always tried to hide the evidence the only way she knew how, by eating it. It breaks my heart to think that at some point in her life, this must have been her reality: being forced to soil herself and being yelled at to the point where she had to go to such extreme measures to try to cover it up. Who knows if that is a story I just made up in my head, but it really just physically pains me to think about it.
Jeff quickly whisked her to the bath while my nephew who lives with me cleaned up her mess. They assured me she was just scared and must have had some anxiety, but when he brought her out of the tub to me in a towel, she let me cradle her like a baby for over 30 minutes. That was never her style, she was not one to be contained. As I rocked her and dried her off and stroked her fur, her breathing was more labored. I could hear her struggling. The boys were still convinced she would come down from the panic, but as she nuzzled into my armpit and fought against sleep, I knew that this was the end.
We thought it might storm, which was also causing me anxiety because I couldn't imagine her poor little heart taking any more that night. I could hear her tummy rumbling, so we decided to take her outside before the weather potentially worsened. As I set her down, she collapsed, unable to use her back legs. Jeff picked her up and she urinated all over him, losing control of her bladder. Her gums had turned pale blue, and we realized she had entered into a late stage of her congestive heart failure. At this point, we realized it was probably grave. I called an emergency vet and we got into the car to take her for what would become her last ride.
She was excited to put her head out the window and struggled to try to position herself as far out the window as she could. I helped her, and I could see the pleasure in her eyes as she closed them and took in the scents as they passed. She loved smelling everything. As I watched her and myself in the side mirror, I sang "Beaker Don't Cry" to her. I wanted to take a picture, but I decided that some moments are better for just me and her. The ride was a bit long and she started to squirm, clearly still with it and frustrated with her disability. The seconds in the car were painstaking.
When we got the vet, they rushed her into an oxygen tent. The doctor saw us and told us the heart failure was obviously severe, and that her heart had developed a serious arrhythmia and was beating over 200 bpm. She said if she had not had the heart murmur for most of her life, there was a possibility of stabilizing her, but because the heart issue had been getting progressively worse over the years, the prognosis was bleak. She started with treatment options. We could get her an X-Ray and fill her with sedatives and medications in hopes of stabilizing her, which could take hours or days. We could then put her on heart medication, which could have some serious side effects and end up killing her, but the reality was that this could be a reoccurring issue over the next few weeks and months. The doctor didn't see her being able to live for much more than that.
'We don't want her to suffer," Jeff interrupted. The doctor's tone changed. As a pet owner herself, she said while she logically knew that, she couldn't blame us if we wanted to try to extend her life even a few more months, and that she would do anything for her pets. But she also said logically and medically, in the cases like this she has helped with, the risk of putting the dog through a lot of unnecessary suffering was very high. The risks were much greater than the potential rewards. She said it was like Beaker was in a constant state of panic, and that the arrhythmia was much too complicated at this point to suggest recovery. When she said panic, Jeff immediately responded, "We need to put her down." I think he, of anyone, understands what it is to have lived with constant anxiety and panic, and he broke down. We couldn't do that to her. We decided to do what we thought was the most humane thing, to help her end her life with as little suffering as possible, together as a family.
They brought her in and we spent some time saying goodbye. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I felt like I failed her, was guilty I didn't react sooner, was sad I didn't spend more quality time with her that day. She settled into my arms, and when I asked her one last time, "Am I your best friend?" She licked my face just like she always did, confirming that it was okay for me to let her go. She even gave Jeff a lick as he said his goodbyes. Her breathing was shallow and labored, her eyes sullen and afraid. The doctor came in, and we held each other and held her, as she injected an overdose of anesthesia into the catheter they had already placed. I stroked her head, and told her she was my best friend and that I loved her. I sang her my songs. She was gone in seconds. I watched the light go from her eyes, and I watched her diaphragm take a few last ghost breaths as her body finally gave out. I kissed her forehead, and pointed out to the vet that we didn't know anything about her past, besides the "s" tattoo on her belly, indicating at some point she was in a shelter that had spayed her. The doctor said that she would take care of her and treat her well. And that was it. Seven years, sleepless nights, destroyed furniture, countless fights and dollars, and precious moments I could never put a price on, and she was gone in the blink of her little, forlorn, deep, understanding, comforting, all-knowing, doe-like brown eyes.
I regret her last meal was her own excrement. I had no idea that would be it, in a matter of hours. I wanted to believe that she could recover. This dog was the definition of resilience and tenacity, and I just wanted to believe she had one last fight in her. I tried to give her as much dignity as possible, up until the bitter end. When I think about her and our last moments, I want to remember her, with her head out the window and her eyes closed, breathing in the world with every last ounce of energy she had. No thought of the past and no thought of the future, just right there, in my arms, taking it all in.