“If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” – Will Rogers
Bella has been gone a little over a week and I miss her terribly. We all do. I know that it takes time, and it’s out of habit but I expect her to be there, and I’ve heard the phantom pitter patter of her paws in the apartment.
I know in the grand scheme of things going on in the world losing a pet is not the worst thing that can happen, but she was part of our family and it feels pretty close to it at the moment.
My wife Nicole got Bella as a puppy before we were together. Bella was her baby and when I got in the picture it didn’t take long before I became enamored with this little Morkie. I think I fell in love with Bella before I fell for my wife. I joked to our friend Ms. Golden, who also adored Bella, that I only got with Nicole to get to Bella.
Bella was smart, loving, and undoubtedly, a great companion. A 14 pound embodiment of man’s best friend. She had a wonderful disposition. Bella was often the happiest one in my family to see me return home from work. Though she aged by the time we had children, and wasn’t necessarily thrilled to have siblings she was protective over them. She did seem to favor Aoife, who took it the hardest out of the three, while Gunnar keeps asking us when we are picking Bella up, not quite understanding the finality of the situation.
This past summer something happened to Bella and signaled the beginning of the end. We believe she had a stroke but it could have been an aneurysm, whatever it was, just when we thought the worst she bounced back after a few days, the only aftershock was one eye had bulged a tad.
No one lives forever, but your pets should. She had cataracts and she was lethargic but she was old so we weren’t concerned. The weight loss was alarming. It might not have been noticeable by looking at her, but it was undeniable to the touch.
Food became difficult for her to keep down. After one horrendous day of excessive vomiting, it seemed like more contents erupted from her little body than it could even contain, and a series of seizures we escorted her to the vet, a place she despised more than any other place on earth, and we had blood work done. After the stroke we were mindful of even entering the vet’s office with her because she would get so anxious we were frightened it would cause a heart attack.
The results of the blood work were jarring. While we didn’t know what the specific cause was, we learned that Bella was experiencing stage four kidney failure. The signs were all there: lethargy, significant weight loss, decrease in appetite, breath that smells metallic or like chemicals, and vomiting. She had high levels of toxins in her blood from her kidneys malfunctioning. Medicine might help make her comfortable but nothing would correct this problem.
Whatever amount of time we had left with Bella, it would never be enough time to satisfy us. The reality of her illness was heartbreaking and Nicole and I were unprepared.
One medication was to ease her nausea and the other was to stave off the seizures. Neither she took willingly. Did I mention she was a stubborn old lady? Bella had good days and bad days and we monitored her, checking the days off on the calendar in order to assess her quality of life. Fortunately, kidney failure for the most part was more uncomfortable than painful. We wanted to make certain when the time arose that it was the right decision, we didn’t want her suffering, we were well aware it would never be easy.
I thought we would have another month. Then we hoped to make it to Saturday. The medicine no longer helped and she vomited up whatever little she ingested. The veterinarian told us consider euthanasia when the pet no longer can eat or if she loses control of their bowels. Bella no longer ate, was incredibly weak and could barely walk. It was hard to see her like that, so we made the decision no one wants to make. No amount of loss prepares you.
We slept beside her all night, and first thing in the morning we would bring Bella in to the vet’s office and put her out of her misery. I would have preferred if she passed quietly in her sleep. We wanted it to be swift but the earliest appointment was at 11:30 which made for a heavy morning, the same time our daughters were getting out of school for a half day due to parent-teacher meetings that evening. It was not how we wanted it go but we were all there to say goodbye to Bella.
I stayed in the waiting room with my kids while they tried to pet every dog in the room. Nicole cradled Bella and took her into the first room on the right. Bella was anxious and showed more life than she had in days, wanting to leap from the examining table. Accompanied by the vet and his assistant, they administered the sedative, and Bella was immediately at ease. Nicole hugged and kissed her, said goodbye and we switched places, tears streaming down her face.
I tried to keep my shit together for my family, but when I had her in my arms and she nuzzled her face into my neck I was unable to hold back the tears. This was it. There are people in this world I literally wish were dead. I cared more about this pretty little dog than most humans. It was difficult to come to terms with this. She was relaxed and couldn’t control her tongue, it dangled out of the front of her mouth. The twins came into the room and said their final goodbyes to Bella, seeing them crying as they pet our girl only made how I felt worse.
The vet asked me if I was ready, I said yes, but I wasn’t. I laid her down on the table. I pet and lightly scratched her body as the vet pushed the plunger on the pentobarbital, I continued to rub her little body as he checked her vitals and told me softly, “She’s gone.”
Just like that Bella was gone. It seemed wrong and impersonal. I stayed with her a few minutes, as someone cut a hundred onions, her eyes open and her tongue twitching. I talked to her. I kissed her physical form one last time and she smelled of rubbing alcohol. Next week we should receive Bella’s ashes, and we’ll pick out an urn for her.
We loved Bella like a child, and hopefully we gave her all the love and affection she needed. Death might be a certainty in life and though we’ve experienced a lot of it, it never seems to make sense when it happens. That’s it? No more? Nicole felt like the whole thing was wrong and I agree but there was no way that it could’ve played out where it would’ve ever felt right, and it never will.
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