Yesterday was, by far, the worst day of my life, as I made the heartbreaking decision to let Dutch go.
It had been obvious for a while that he had lost most of his cognitive function, but I told myself that as long as he was eating heartily and enjoying his walks, he was fine. His quality of life was still there. But this past week, he stopped wanting to go on his walks and I had to pull on his leash just to get him to walk a few steps. He stopped eating, even if I tried to hand-feed him. And all he wanted to do was sleep, and when he wasn’t sleeping, he was doing endless circles. I later realized that he had lost his ability to settle himself down. He never used his blankets anymore or any of his beds unless I put him in there myself, and that’s a red flag because homeboy loved blankets and had amassed quite the collection. But he wasn’t even able to find his blankets and lay down on them anymore. Instead, most days, I came home to find him circling or just sitting in my room, staring at the wall.
On Thursday, my mom and I took him to the vet who was so damn kind and thoughtful and compassionate. We both needed that. We needed a professional to tell us that no, what he’s doing isn’t normal or healthy. We needed him to tell us that it was okay to put him down, it was the right choice.
They ran blood work, but nothing concerning came back. The next step was a costly MRI and/or ultrasound, but even if we received results of a tumor or some other issue, there’s nothing we would be able to do. He’s too old for surgery or any sort of treatment plan.
My mom and I knew then what we had to do. We knew what the humane choice was, but I wasn’t ready to make that decision on Thursday. Instead, we brought him home with special dog food that the vet promised us he would eat (and Dutch did, scarfing down that nasty, smelly dog food like it was disappearing right in front of him).
Over the weekend, we monitored him and that’s when I really began to realize how concerning his behavior was, how abnormal it was, how he really didn’t have a quality of life. He could only fall asleep if I was holding him or snuggled next to him, and that’s incredibly unusual for dogs.
It was time.
I would never be ready to say goodbye to him. But I also had that sense of peace that told me, in my gut, what the right call was.
I’ll never forget that appointment at the vet’s office. I’ll never forget how we were treated by the staff, so compassionately and kindly and giving us the privacy we needed during the most painful and difficult time in our lives. I’ll never forget holding him in my arms when he passed away, nor the vet looking up at me as he placed his stethoscope on Dutch’s tiny body and saying to me, “He’s gone.” I’ll never forget rushing out of the exam room, tears streaming down my face and a sob escaping from my body. I’ll never forget the utter devastation and raw pain at knowing I’d never see him again, or snuggle him again, or walk him again, or come home and find him waiting for me again.
Our time together was up.
We had nine years together and it was nowhere near enough time. I wanted more. I wanted him to live forever.
He was the best companion I could have asked for and he taught me so much about love. He helped me to see that I have mothering tendencies and that I can love bigger and bolder than I ever thought possible. He loved me so much and I loved him so much, and this loss is gut-wrenching and nearly impossible to handle. The pain is raw and deep. The grief is real and overwhelming.
I’ll be taking a bit of a break from the blog over the coming weeks as I grieve the loss of Dutch. He was my best friend and the love of my life, and I need time to be and process this immense loss.