Sunday, February 10, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Cocoa

Everything in the universe has a life cycle. And I mean that literally, not in a metaphysical sense. It doesn't matter if it's the trees, birds, stars, planets, or people; they come into existence, exist, and then go out of existence. This is even true for dogs.

This afternoon I said goodbye to Cocoa, my beagle buddy for nearly 12 years. It's the first time that I ever experienced this, so I wondered how I'd know when it would be time. This past week he'd been having trouble keeping food down so he was prescribed some meds several days ago. Unfortunately, that didn't help. Another trip to the vet, yesterday, and some x-rays revealed large masses in his abdomen that were squeezing out his healthy organs. The vet pointed them out on the x-rays and her words were very grim and unexpected when she said that he'd have only days left since he wasn't eating. Last night, I made it a point to take some self-portraits and videos of him and me.

After a long night, last night, of seeing him trying to sleep while being uncomfortable we took him in this morning for some fluids and pain meds while making arrangements for his final vet visit tomorrow. The vet made it clear that he'd seem more like himself after the fluids and pain meds, but not to misinterpret that as a sign of things getting better.

After returning home, this morning, he and I curled up on the bed for a couple hours. That entire time he only moved once. His breathing was labored and more and more frequently he'd stop breathing for 10 – 12 seconds. I'd watch his chest wondering if that was his last breath. He'd become more and more finicky about what he'd eat over the past week but, yesterday, he gobbled down some rotisserie chicken without vomiting. Unfortunately, that didn't work today. He just looked at the chicken without any interest. The prospect of him not eating or drinking all day foreshadowed what would be a long, painful night.

After making a phone call to the vet his final appointment for tomorrow was moved to 4:00 PM today. I posted and tweeted the pending visit and then went offline, shutting down my iPhone and leaving it at home. It would be almost six hours until I was ready to go back online.

Having never gone through this I was pleased to see that the vet's office had a "comfort room." This small room was made up like a living room with a comfy couch, large ottoman, and a music player. There was a CD in the music player and when I hit play I heard the most gentle, soothing, appropriate piano music for the moment. There was a large curtain covering the window and, as I had correctly suspected, behind the curtain was a door to the parking lot which I parked next to. A private entrance out of the comfort room made a world of difference when leaving.

The vet came in and took Cocoa into the back to give him a sedative to put him, literally, to sleep. She brought him back into the comfort room and we just pet him for about ten minutes. When the vet saw that the sedative hadn't taken effect – he was clearly fighting it – she took him into the back for another dose. That did the trick. About six or seven minutes later Cocoa was sedated. Actually, it seemed more like he was paralyzed as the tip of his tongue hung out of his mouth while his eyes remained opened and blinked occasionally.

The vet tech used hair clippers to shear off a small patch of fur on his rear leg and then the vet stuck in a catheter needle and administered two drugs. As the vet had foretold, Cocoa's eyes didn't close as life left his body. After the vet confirmed that his heart had stopped she apologized as if she had been personally attached to this dog and this was an exceptionally rare event for her. The unexpected caring was extremely comforting.

Was it the right decision? Was it the right time? Certainly. But that doesn't make it any easier and I still can't imagine how empty this house will be without him. The heartbreaking part is that this little guy looked up to me for his daily needs and there was no way that I could make him understand what was going on. And, the sad coincidence of all this is that six years ago, today, my father passed away. But, ironically, I think it'll be easier to have a single day to remember dad and dog.

Some last licks on Saturday night.

2 comments:

GYNot said...

I'm so sad to hear about Cocoa, he was a good dog, a sweet little beast. I remember him when he was just a pup and the part they don't tell you about when you get a dog, is how hard it is to let go of them. Most of us hold on probably longer than we should. There's not a lot you can say about this moment except that I've been there, I know how it feels and it's the price we pay for years of loving companionship. I send my best to you and Laura.

Joe Moreno (@JoeMoreno) said...

Thanks Tony. I really appreciate that.