It was a regular Sunday. I was in the kitchen making lasagna. Greg took the dogs out for a walk around 4pm. Bowie got up, stood to have his haltie put on, and walked out the door, just like he has a thousand times before; nothing out of the ordinary.
At 4:15, Greg was back. “Something’s wrong with Bowie.” He explained that while walking along the hallway on the 1st floor to go to the lobby, Bowie’s bladder had let go, something that had never happened since he was a puppy, except for the one time when we had just brought him home from having knee surgery and he was stoned on painkillers. Greg got the dogs outside and Bowie wouldn’t move, just stood there looking freaked out.
So Greg brought the dogs back upstairs. He went back out with Tula, and Bowie went to lie down in the dining room in one of his usual spots. He refused treats which is really odd, but at that point, we just thought he had a stomach-ache. I looked up his symptoms online and in a couple of books we have, but couldn’t find anything that seemed to match. Greg returned and we brushed it off as him having eaten something weird. Tula once didn’t eat for two and a half days until she barfed up a big chunk of pineapple. It was one of those situations where if it was still bad in the morning, we’d call the vet.
At 5pm, I filled the dogs’ food bowls. Tula came running but Bowie didn’t and when I took the bowl of food to him, he refused it. He was still alert and responsive, though, and would shake a paw and respond to an ear scratch.
At 5:15 or so, he moved to the living room and was splayed out on the floor, one leg sticking out at an odd angle. He was breathing really hard and was obviously uncomfortable. It was at this point that I went online to try to find a vet who did housecalls. Good luck with that on a Sunday night.
He got up and moved again at around 5:30, only his legs gave out on him partway into the kitchen and he collapsed in the doorway. At this point we realized that it was really serious and started trying to figure out what to do. I called the Emergency Vet for advice, because even if we could find someone with a car, or could get a cab, he couldn’t, at this point, walk down the hall. We were frantic, trying to find someone we knew with a car. It’s awesome that so many people we know are car-free, but not at a time like this. The folks across the hall have a car but their daughter had it for the day. The lady down the hall has a boyfriend with a car, but he wasn’t around. She offered us the use of a flatbed dolly to put the dog on to get him down to the building entrance.
I came back in and tried to get Bowie to stand up. He made an effort but couldn’t get more than a few inches off the floor. By now it was around 5:50pm. We ran down to the building superintendent, hoping he’d have a car. No luck, and we came rushing back, resigned to try and convince a cab company to send us a car. We rushed into the kitchen and immediately noticed that Bowie’s laboured breathing had stopped. Greg reached down to feel for a breath, but there was none.
We stood in shock, exchanging “Holy Shit” and “Oh my God” back and forth. I didn’t check the clock but my phone shows another call to the Emergency Vet at 6:12pm.
In less than 2 hours, with no sign of anything being wrong, my dog, my kid, my best buddy… was gone. We don’t know if it was a heart attack, or maybe a brain aneurysm. But it happened so fast that there’s nothing anyone could have done for him.
Neighbours and superintendent came in trying to help and comfort us. The super ran off to find another tenant who is a paramedic, but returned a bit later to say that he wasn’t home.
We discussed the option of calling a cab anyway and taking him in to the Emergency Vet, but ultimately waited until this morning to take him to our regular vet. Mostly because if we had bundled him up and taken him in last night, we wouldn’t have had any time with him. We all, Me, Greg and Tula (who was, and is, totally stressed) needed time to say goodbye. To offer one last belly rub, one last ear scratch, one last reminder of how much he was loved.
Today, well, today sucked. I hardly slept, knowing what we’ve have to do. And the whole thing was akin to a weird version of the movie Weekend at Bernie’s. A 100 pound dog (by now stiff) doesn’t fit onto a 2′x3′ flatbed dolly. And while it was a godsend, it was still bizarre and fucked up and really lacking in dignity. Big props to my girl Erika who actually offered to transport him last night. It’s true what they say about your real friends being the ones who are willing to help you move bodies.
We got in and out of the vet’s as quickly as possible. Cremated, yes, urn, no. Paw print is plaster? Sure, why not. (They called us later asking what colour we wanted it to be. Uh… plaster coloured? Oh, God, no, it’s painted and twee. My dog, who was embarrassed to even wear a neckerchief, will not be remembered with something that looks like it was made in 5th grade pottery class. Just plain, please. No paint.)
And that’s it. He’s gone. The apartment is eerily empty. We keep expecting to walk around a corner and see him there.
We’re taking comfort in the fact that he went fast – he didn’t seem to be in pain that we could tell. Had we gotten a ride, even if it had been from the veterinary ambulance (whose number we didn’t find until it was too late) he’d have died on the way. He passed in his very favourite spot – in the doorway of the kitchen, stretched across the cool tile floor. He was smiling and playful and happy up until those last two hours, bumming a bit of roast beef sandwich at lunch, running around with a ball earlier in the morning. Also, while the shock of it all still has Greg and I freaked out beyond belief, we’re happier that it was like this than a long drawn out situation where his health got worse and worse and his quality of life decreased until we had to make the decision. We’d have been a bit better prepared, emotionally, but it would have been a drain on everyone.
I’ve managed to get this far without crying, so I’m saving the eulogy for later. I haven’t really broken down yet, and I know that’s still to come.
I just wanted to explain the situation to everyone who has offered condolences.