Okay. So I thought I would be fine.
I thought that I could read through this archived account of Snowy’s last day with just a fond smile and a small tear or two. After all, I have Summer lying here beside me in the chair and she has brought me such great joy and comfort over this past year.
But it was no good. Halfway through this piece (that I posted the day after Snowy’s death on August 15, 2012) I was a huddled heap of tears.
One year. Still loved. Still missed.
The Center of the Circle
Snowy and I got up very early on his last day. As soon as I had given him all his meds I carried him out to the porch swing and held him close to my chest for about thirty minutes as together we shared a lovely, peaceful rising of the dawn.
Because of the heavier medications, for one of the first days in a long time his body wasn’t besieged by tremors from his usual early morning pain. He was alert and happy and sniffing the air with studied intensity.
It was thirty minutes that I will not forget–watching Snowy’s last day arrive as he lay serenely in my arms. It felt as though the whole world was comprised of just him and me and the dawn existed for our enjoyment alone. It was a beautiful, heartbreaking start to his final day.
As the morning wore on, Sarah and I decided it would be special to drive to the school one more time with him. She came downstairs wearing her (empty) back pack and we both put on our excited voices saying, “Want to take Sister to school?” the way we have every school day since time immemorial.
And like every school day since time immemorial, Snowy flung himself into a frenzied dance of joy at the sound of our voices, running circles around Sarah until she finally picked him up and carried him out to the van.
He settled himself contentedly into his usual spot . . .
. . . and we drove the two miles to Manteo High School.
When we arrived, Snowy gazed studiously out the window, ready as ever to shoot Doggy Laser Warning Beams at any boys in the vicinity who might happen to cast a stray glance in Sarah’s direction.
But then he finally turned around and said, “Hey, Mom. There are hardly any people here! And Sarah isn’t getting out. What’s going on?”
To further add to his befuddled discomfiture, we also took a quick trip past Sarah’s old middle school where he had faithfully ferried her during eighth grade. Once again, no students. No teachers.
Just Snowy and Sarah, listening to old, growing up memories.
On the way home, I told Sarah to put her window down so that Snowy could stick his head out the window. Turns out that this particular Official Doggy Act had been on his Bucket List for quite a while and he had a very large time letting the wind’s fingers ruffle his fur. I could see the doggy smile all the way across the van where I was sitting.
Snowy continued to spend the morning feasting on sumptuous chunks of watermelon and bits of grilled chicken. He was a happy, spoiled little guy, getting all the treats he wanted.
Sarah took him upstairs for their last stint at the computer together. Since we got Snowy when she was just four years old, the two of them have logged a lot of time together.
He then rode the very accommodating elevator back down to the first floor. . .
. . . where mama waited.
He had been pretty energetic and frisky all morning, but when I picked him up to hold him close, he quieted down immediately, and his whole body just collapsed into one large “Ahhhhhhh . . . “
After about twenty minutes, he started stirring a little and we moved into the living room to wait on the vet. Some of his old sassiness came back as he looked happily around the living room at some of his favorite people all gathered in one place.
He smiled and Sarah cried.
She picked him up for another kiss. . .
. . . and another hug.
He finally figured enough kissin’ and cryin’ had been done, and settled his little head into the curve of the chair for a wee snooze.
He rested quietly there until the vet and her nurse arrived and then he jumped up to form his own personal welcoming committee. We were so pleased that the veterinarian took the time to sit down on the floor and play with him for a while. She told us she understood that it is especially hard to put a dog to sleep who seems to be feeling so well at the moment but fully agreed that the respite was temporary and we had definitely reached the end of the treatment road.
She then explained the process to us: first an injection in his hip to sedate him, followed about five minutes later with the medicine that would stop his heart.
Sarah had decided ahead of time that she didn’t want to be there at the end so we handed Snowy to her one final time to say her good byes. She began to cry, and I hugged her and cried with her before being joined by Steve who came over and put his arms around the three of us. Snowy was held safe and secure–in the center of the circle.
Sarah took a final look back at her pet, friend, and cancer nurse and then walked slowly up the stairs to her room, leaving behind a a most precious part of her childhood.
After the vet had gently given Snowy the first injection, it was just a matter of seconds before his breathing changed and he went limp in my arms. She said that she and the nurse would go out to the front porch for a few minutes to give us some privacy before the final injection.
And so I sat and held my faithful friend in his special blanket one last time. I wept as I thanked him for the years of joy his little life had give us–undiluted, unselfish, unstinting, happy doggy joy.
And then I said good-bye.
(This post is dedicated to the memory of all the animals that all of us have loved.)