Saying goodbye to Sam

We had to say goodbye to our family dog, Sampson, yesterday. He was 10 years old, and his death caught us all off guard. Just a few weeks before he passed, he was tearing around the backyard with the kids. But at the start of this week, I could tell something was up with him.
Sam--lounging around last week on the arm of the couch
He laid around more than usual; he was slow to get up; and his food dish sat full and untouched. On Wednesday, I came home after my morning run expecting Sam to greet me at the door, tail wagging like he normally does. I opened my back door, and there was no dog to greet me. I hollered his name and listened for the jingle of the tags on his collar, but still...nothing. One of his favorite spots to go when we're gone is in the basement to lay snuggled on the bed, burrowed in my grandma's quilt. That's where he was, but when I called for him again from the doorway of the spare room in the basement, he only looked at me and then rested his head on his paws. I sat next to him, softly stroking his head. "What's wrong, bud?" I whispered. "Do you want a treat?"

I expected his head to pop up and his ears to perk, but they didn't. He just laid there, staring at the wall across the room.

I thought hearing the sound of the treat jar rattling might help, so I retreated upstairs to snag the silver canister of Snausages--a recent Christmas present. I sat the treat at the top of the stairs. He slowly climbed upstairs, put the treat in his mouth, and then spat it out. Day three of not eating.

The vet managed to squeeze him in that day and diagnosed him with a stomach bug citing many dogs with similar symptoms. We had medicine for him and were to be sure he ate a little each day and drank water often. He was expected to bounce back in 2-4 days.

But it didn't work out like that, and the next night we were back at the vet because he wasn't eating or drinking or keeping his medicine down. His tail slowly wagged when he heard the receptionist greet him. When she took his leash from me to take him to the back, though, he looked back at the kids and me with big, sad eyes and pulled against her towards us. I fought the urge to bend down, rub his ears, and give him a quick peck on the head because I feared looking like too much of a softy. I wish I would have because the next time I'd be rubbing his ears and kissing his head would be the next day to say goodbye.

There were tumors. Lots of them. Too many to safely remove.

"You can choose to operate if you want, but I fear I'd be wasting your money. There's just so many," the vet said gently.

And so, yesterday, we all gathered on our little rug in our living room, where we had all laid so many times before, to say our goodbyes. It was the hardest goodbye I've ever said. He sat patiently as we all took turns kissing his head, petting him, telling him we loved him, and crying--our tears falling on his fur. Normally, he'd make eye contact with me, locking his wide, black eyes on mine. Instead, he just looked the other way, turning his head each time I cried as if he just couldn't bear to see me upset. His mouth never quite closed; it was like he wanted to pant, but he just couldn't muster up the energy.

The kids, saying goodbye to their best pal 

The whole ordeal only took about 30 minutes before my husband, eyes red and bleary, scooped him up and wrapped him in a towel. He sat him on the floor of our Subaru, the same spot he had ridden so many times. The kids and I watched from the front door and sobbed as my husband drove away with our dog. Our dog of ten years--the one who drove us mad chewing up everything as a puppy. The dog who laid in bed with me for days after I found out I would never have biological children. The dog who slept under each of our kids' beds for at least a month after they moved in. The dog who always wanted to be with us wherever we were.

Sam was more than just a dog. He was a constant in my and my husband's life. We brought him home a few months before our one-year wedding  anniversary. We grew up with him. He was our source of laughter, our comfort when we were sad, our companion. In a way, he taught us some of the skills we would later need as parents. He was the only constant in our life. Through moves, deaths, infertility, a failed adoption, job changes--he was by our side.

And now: he's gone. We're left with nothing but his stuff sprinkled throughout the house and memories. What I would give for one more good, healthy day with him. One more time to hug him close to me, to throw his raquetball for him, to hear my son laughing as Sam chases him--one more time to hears his collar jingle and see his tail poking out from under our bed.

Our pets are only in our lives for a short time, but they manage to burrow into our existence and become part of our daily rhythms. When they're gone, life just feels...empty.

1 comment:

Brenda Larabee said...

Danielle, I am so sorry for your loss. You have captured the experience with our pets perfectly. The relationship with them seems so much more pure and unpresuming than many relationships with people. Thank you for sharing.