Tuesday , 16 January 2018

Last night, my best friend died

We received this to the Montreal Dog Blog mailbag and wanted to share it with our readers. This happened this week – here in Montreal.   We often hear stories of the dogs that never find their forever homes.  But there also are so many who do.  Like Huck – whose family had to say goodbye this week.  Anyone who has shared their life with animals knows this kind of hurt – and it is never easy.  But there is solace in knowing an animal was loved and cared for all of their days. Our thanks and condolences to Ken Hubscher. RIP Huck. 

Last night my best friend died.

His name was Huck, formally Huckleberry. As far as I know he was a pure bred Golden Retriever. We think he was about 16 years old or thereabouts. He was old. So old. His back legs had pretty much given out. I had to pick him up by the hind quarters most of the time when he wanted to stand up or get up a short flight of stairs to get back into the front or back of the house. But once I got him up you almost wouldn’t have known he was his age. He still had a sprite side to him, a little puppy in the old man. Until last night when at 2:00am we heard very bad sounds – the sounds of intense pain and panic.

I rushed downstairs and he was in the kitchen, writhing around on the floor, foaming at the mouth, his tongue sticking straight out of his mouth. Seizure? Stroke? I had no idea. I calmed him down and eventually he seemed like he had snapped out of whatever was paralyzing his body. He was trying to get up but his back legs were totally immobile. They were like 2 marshmallows – no muscles contraction at all. He started crying again – my heart was breaking. Was his tummy in pain – did he need to go to the bathroom?

His whole life, 15 years with us, I can remember less than 5 times he ever had an accident in the house, and most were in a one week span when he had some kind of stomach bug. He was unconditionally respectful of the house so I could see how he maybe was trying to hold something in. My poor Huck. I carried him outside onto the lawn so maybe he would let it out. But it wasn’t that. He lay there on the grass, in my arms, writhing in pain, struggling to get up at all costs. Why? The sounds of his crying were like shards of glass ripping through my heart. I carried him back into the house where I could see better and I saw his tongue out again – another seizure! Again I worked to try to calm him down, but it was not very successful. I carried him back out to the grass, again, just in case. At this point I called the emergency hospital and they said I could bring him in right away.

I prepared the car and went out back to get him. Corinne was over him patting him, reassuring him as best she could – but now he was calm – eerily calm. I picked him up and his body felt limp. As I carried him to the car his legs were bouncing around in all directions but not cognitively – more as a result of the kinetics of the situation and gravity. I laid him down in the back of the car on a blanket. At this point Corinne and I were sobbing violently. I felt like I was hyperventilating. We both knew he would never be coming back to the house. Should we wake the kids? We just didn’t know. How would they react to never seeing him again? Emotions were running so wild. I decided not. Will I regret it? I didn’t know. And I drove away. I thought he would be dead when I arrived. The drive was surreal. Images of his beautiful face danced on my brain. The most perfectly happy moments of my life – memories of my times with my Huck – that was all I could think of.

At around 3am I carried Huck, still in a comatose-like state, into the emergency ward. The nurse had me bring him to the examination room where I lay him down on the cold metal table. He was not moving. He was not fighting. Did I want the vet to come check him? In one of the most intense moments of my life I made the decision to not have him checked out. I hope I do not live with that self-created guilt for the rest of my life. Right now it is standing on my soul taunting me like the demon that it is. I didn’t want him to be in any more pain. Even if the doctor said he could give him a pill or something the thought of Huckie on the floor, tongue rigid with jaw clamped on, screaming in pain, was too much to bear. I have been told by so many people that Golden’s have a very high threshold for pain. People told me Huck may have been in pain from his legs. I knew he wasn’t. We just had that tight a bond. I would never let him suffer.

But last night he was in dire pain. He was in such a state of pain that I felt as if it were the accumulated weight of a million suffering souls all congregating at once on my very existence. So I chose no examination. I would let this be Huck’s time to go. To make sure he would never be in pain like that again. I know I am not the first to have to go through this. It was the worst feeling I have ever experienced. I am sure everyone feels like I did. A huge piece of me died last night. I had to sit with the nurse and fill out papers – his death papers. The technicians had him in the other room and were inserting a catheter or something for the injection. I was signing papers and giving them my Visa card to pay for his death and imminent cremation. It felt like a horrible retail experience but under the most extreme duress. “Do you want him cremated alone so you can have his ashes – that is more $$ but you get his own personalized urn” Questions I have never thought of before. I started dreaming of spreading his ashes – returning the physical remains of his beautiful energy to the forests he loved to run in so much. Yes.

I was led to a room – a “salon” as they called it. 2 seats, 2 boxes of Kleenex, one major overtone of finality. They wheeled him in – 2 orderlies, white coats, steel grey souls (a by-product of their jobs no doubt). Huck was now agitated. This was not good. His head was raised and he was trying to get up on his working front legs. I hugged him so tight and spoke in his ear. The orderlies lowered the table to ground level so he would not fall off. Hearts. I asked them to leave. The nurse told me to take all the time I needed – to call her on the internal phone when I was ready. I would never be ready. I lay on the floor next to Huck for the next 2 hours. He was now calm, coma-like again. He lay on the gurney-top on his side. Then he would move his head off and place one paw on the floor. Tears. I lay my arm under his head and cried as I balanced what was left of his life force on my forearm. I spoke to Corinne. She talked to me for over an hour as I lay and then sat next to Huck. She cried. I cried some more. I wailed. We talked about what we should be doing – what we should have done. Everything is a second-guess in such a time of high emotional intensity. I looked up articles on Google – I was punching into an Iphone at the saddest moment of my life – I was not immune to that tragedy. Found some soothing words, some deep insights into what my responsibility was to Huck.

We instantly fell in love with him. He was brilliant and well dispositioned. Perfect.

I saved Huck from the pound when he was just about 1 year old. That’s a great story actually – Huck chose me. My brother and I had rented a house together and decided we needed a house dog. We wanted a Golden Retriever – why? Our friend in Boulder Colorado had a house dog we loved, a Golden Retriever named…Huck! We wanted a Huck too. We went to the SPCA to investigate. There was a little room – the place you go to “test out” the dog. We chose a golden lab – because we thought it was a short haired Golden Retriever – dog morons – but this dog was wild – bolting back and forth in this little room – beaking my brother in the privates. I would save every dog if I could but that wasn’t the day I could begin that dream. So we returned that dog to its cage (sad) and walked around the room, feeling the energetic pull of all the barking dogs calling out to us. Then we saw Huck. He was in the corner cage at the end of the row. He was lying on the ground, head on paws. He was fairly skinny – more scrawny-like with rib bones clearly visible. I remember us asking each other “was THIS a golden Retriever?” He looked different from the original Huck – maybe he was a cross breed – fools. We talked to Huck in the cage but he didn’t move. I remember him raising an eyebrow but that was it – no tail wagging, no raising his head to engage us. No good. So my brother and I headed to the door – mission not accomplished. I will never forget this next moment. My bother left the room first. I was behind him and was halfway through the door when I hear a huge, deep and non-random WOOF WOOF. I turned and saw Huck, now standing in his cage, giving me the cutest, most eager look ever. I grabbed my brother and said that the dog in the last cage was calling to us. So we went back in and he was totally alive now. We took him into the little room. He was amazing! Sit, Come here, Go there, Paw – all the classic tricks. He was SO beautiful too. We still didn’t know if he was a real Golden (afterwards found out from his first vet he thought he was a true Purebred!) but we instantly fell in love with him. He was brilliant and well dispositioned. Perfect. We adopted him. The FIRST thing he ever did when he left the SPCA was take a HUGE dump on the cement right out front. A statement. We loved it. Bagless, we all quickly ran to my brothers Honda. Huck eagerly jumped in the back seat. We had a new dog and he had a new family. What my life would have been had he not called out to me…..

As he lay dying in my arms I remembered that first WOOF so vividly. Now I would feel his last breath. He was breathing fairly shallow, not well rhythmed. I went to see the nurse. She asked if I was ready and I burst out crying – violently – in the waiting room chair. I remembered what I had just read on my phone in the room about the oath I took when I became Huck’s master. I promised to keep him warm and safe, feed and play with him, groom and reward him with love and kindness. That’s the normal part of why people get dogs. But the hard part of the oath was the section called “The End” where the owner agrees to be responsible and unselfish enough to help bring about the end of pain and suffering should the dog ever come to feel those things. I was at the end. I was feeling selfish. I wanted more Huck. I could just bring him home and let him die at home. How long? 1 week? 2 months? But the thought of him being home alone, having another seizure or whatever, being scared, alone, in pain. I couldn’t babysit him 24/7. Nobody with a young family and busy career could do that! But the selfish thought still hovered. And then I just stood up, looked her in the eye and nodded. No words. Just nodded, burst into exasperated and unrelenting tears, and walked back to the salon to get ready to say goodbye to my precious Huckie.

I paced back and forth for 5 minutes that felt like an hour before the doctor got there. I guess she was nice but her words were all blurred under my intense sobbing and convulsing. I sat on the floor and grabbed Huck’s head in my arms – so he would not see her. I don’t think he could see anyways. He didn’t resist me at all. The doctor spoke, now needle one to sedate….I just held his head close to my heart – a million images of him flowing through my redlined brain all at once. Second needle…this will stop his heart. I held on. He has passed. I am so sorry. Stay as long as you need to. As she walked out of the room I stood back against the wall and watched and listened to the loudest and saddest wailing coming from the guy on the floor holding his dogs head so tightly against his chest. I felt I would never be the same.

I hugged my family tightly this morning. My kids cried when I told them Huck was gone. They are so young and innocent. They will recover soon. Corinne has being crying in solemn synchronicity with me all morning. I will bury Hucks things in the backyard – in a Marley and Me type of ceremony with the kids when they get home from school today. When I get his ashes I will walk alone and spread them along the forest trail I used to stroll on with him – our bliss, our joy. It was our happy place. He will be happy there forever.

Thank you for everything Huck. You touched so many people. You made my life so great. I love you.

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  1. I am so so sorry for your loss ,(

    You did the right thing, tough decision but the right one

    {{{{hugs}}}} to you and your family

  2. R.I.P. HUCK! You are now frolicking with your many friends over Rainbow Ridge.

  3. Omg, my morning cry. Wonderfully written, You gave him everything a dog wants from us, right to the end. Stay strong and save another Huck someday …

    Terry Price Kimmel

  4. RIP Huck, It’s the worst decision a loving pet parent has to make, but one that you have to make. I’ve had to make that decision a few times, twice since last August & it never gets any easier. I’m sitting here with tears rolling down my face, & thinking of my sweet Colby (Aug/10) & dear Maimie (Feb/11) & those who went before them. Huck misses you but he loves you for thinking of what was best for him & for ending the confusing pain of his last hours.

  5. so beautifully said and you and your family gave him a wonderful life. RIP Huck.

  6. All this brought back so many memories of my dog Jadey. I had to put her to sleep at 15 yrs old. I remember the guilt, the what ifs, and the selfishness of wanting to keep her with me. I also remember the emptiness afterwards. It will be 8 years this coming March since she passed and I still think of her but not so much with sadness anymore. I still recount stories of her crazy antics and I laugh. I still have her collar, with some embedded fur, carefully stored in a ziplock in my nightstand. I vowed never to get another dog back then. A year later I realized couldn’t do that and we adopted our Lola. I know her day will come as well but I know now that whatever I will feel will be normal. They give us so much and are there unconditionally. Giving them the gift of eternal sleep because they are suffering is the ultimate show of love and compassion on our part. RIP Huck. Say “hi” to Jadey for me.

  7. My heart broke reading this. I am so sorry for your loss.

  8. So sorry for your loss. I have been there and it is the hardest decision to make…I still cry for my Jesse and he has been gone for 2 1/2 years….See you at the Rainbow Bridge my boy! RIP Huck

  9. My heart goes out to you.
    8 short months ago I had to make the most painful decision of my life too…Maggie was 13 1/2 – she was featured on this blog and it was one of the greatest gifts someone can give me. Keep honouring his memory.

  10. WOW… so beautiful a story. Good thing the Kleenex box is beside the computer.
    My condolences to you and your family. Always remember that you gave Huck a wonderful loving home. He was a very smart dog to WOOF that first time you saw him.
    There are so many Hucks out there and when you are ready, hopefully you will find another sweetie to join your family.
    RIP Huck.

  11. My heart goes out to you, I know how difficult it is, I held my baby a year ago April 1st as he received the injection.
    Someone passed this prayer to me, it’s still brings tears to my eyes but it did help, I would like to share it with you.
    A Dog’s Prayer

    Treat me kindly, my beloved master, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.

    Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I should lick your hand between the blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me do.

    Speak to me often, for your voice is the world’s sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footstep falls upon my waiting ear.

    When it is cold and wet, please take me inside… for I am now a domesticated animal, no longer used to bitter elements… and I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth… though had you no home, I would rather follow you through ice and snow than rest upon the softest pillow in the warmest home in all the land… for you are my god… and I am your devoted worshiper.

    Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for although I should not reproach you were it dry, I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst. Feed me clean food, that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side, and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life, should your life be in danger.

    And, beloved master, should the Great Master see fit to deprive me of my health or sight, do not turn me away from you. Rather hold me gently in your arms as skilled hands grant me the merciful boon of eternal rest…and I will leave you knowing with the last breath I drew, my fate was ever safest in your hands.

    –Beth Norman Harris

  12. I went through this 16 yrs ago and after reading this it brought back a lot of memories and tears. RIP Huck. My sympathies to the family.

  13. Such a hard, sad, and familiar read. My golden is 11, has hip dysplasia, and I know this day is only a year, maybe two away for me. We already have to give him the bum lift now and then, and we know it’s only going to happen more. We know he only has so much time left (but we also know there is time).

    Let me tell you, I have been on both sides of this. In my mid-twenties took my 18 year old cat in for the needle, by myself, crying and holding him as he slipped away. A year or so later, my mom informed me that my 15 year old dog (who I’m pretty sure had lung cancer) died “peacefully in the grass” a my mom put it, or, as I put it, “wheezing and foaming at the mouth every time she got excited to the point I couldn’t even give her the hugs that were our ‘thing’ anymore.” Between the two of them, the one I don’t regret is putting the cat down.

    Don’t get me wrong, I loved that cat more than I thought I could love anything (I don’t have kids) and there have been times when I get a twinge of guilt, did I do it too soon? Should I have paid for the treatments that might have prolonged his life for a few months? He trusted me – does he now forgive me?

    What haunts me is imagining my dog – and she was still my dog, even though I had moved away from home – laying in the grass, unable to breathe. I think about how my hugs had to get lighter and lighter until even petting her would cause her to almost pass out from the lack of lung capacity, and I would have to leave her alone until she could breathe again. Mostly I think about her dying alone and in pain. My one great regret is that I didn’t insist that my mother take her to the vet, or that I didn’t take charge and say I was taking her to let her go with us there, holding her paw and ending her pain.

    Thank you so much for your story. . . even if it did make me cry like a baby.

  14. My heart goes out to you and your family.
    This has brought back so many painful memories. I had to put to sleep my precious boy Max in august 2010. It was a sudden thing like for your Huck. One moment he was fine the next he was not responding and he couldn’t stand up. My only regret is that I didn’t end his suffering right away. I decided to have some tests done on him. For four days I watched him slowly fade away until he started to have seizures like Huck That’s when I finally let him leave this world to end his suffering.
    You gave Huck the greatest proof of your love for him by letting him go even if you weren’t ready to.

  15. I’m so sorry for you & you’re families loss, Huck sounds like he was a great dog & family member. I’m a dog owner & know how you feel having lost a few of my own. I know Huck knew how loved he was & still is!!
    Thank you for sharing you’re story, it truly moved me!

  16. Beautiful love story. Thank you for sharing. I hope I will be as strong as you when my companions’ time comes. Please know that you did the right thing. He loved you and you loved him enough to help him.
    Now if I could just stop crying…
    Rest in Peace Huck.

  17. I’m so sorry to hear about Huck…

    I do believe this is the same Huck I was lucky enough to have taken to the dog park on occasion; what a great dog! He got along famously with the other dogs, and was always the first to hit the lake swimming!

    All my best to you and your family

  18. So sorry for your loss. RIP Huck, we will all miss you.

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