He wouldn’t say it outright. Not with Sprite sitting right there and “examining” her own rest friend, a puppy named Rosebud.
I couldn’t understand it at first. We both talked around the elephant, trying to keep it as light as possible for the “I’m almost six years old”‘s ears, but the more I asked, the more his answers became clear.
That little fatty tumor that had been sitting so quietly on her side for so many years, dismissed as “something beagles get, don’t worry about it”, had become active and spread into her lymph nodes. Sometime over the last two days, it began to feed histamines into other areas until they became noticable in the one bulge I spotted on her belly this morning after picking Blue and Harry up from the boarders.
I had called the vet and got her an appointment for early afternoon and then called the pet hotel to ask if anything had happened this weekend. Surely, another dog must have caused this. Or Blue had fallen. Anything of the outside variety. A bad bug bite? Hernia?
No, nothing, they said. Blue was great. The only time she made any noise was when they took Harry out without her.
I thought back to the first moments when I had brought Blue in to be checked, babbling at random about that stupid fatty tumor, her epilepsy, her heart murmur. Other than being incontinent over the last few months, the only issue I had noticed was that her lower belly had become loose on Friday evening. Maybe her bladder was dropping, maybe that was why she was having accidents ten minutes after going outside. Old age, right? I should expect this with a twelve year old dog.
The vet said one had nothing to do with the other. What I had seen on Friday was the precursor to today’s issue.
By the time he inspected her, the one mass was now two. She yelped in pain when he lifted her to the table for a better look.
They brought her back to run a test and I could hear her howl from the exam room where we sat. Sprite grasped my hand. “That was Blue!”
“Yes, they’re running a test to see what’s wrong. Sometimes, it has to hurt to get better.”
He came back minutes later with an answer. It was quick. So quick. That had to be good news.
The tumor was very aggressive. Her body was filling with histamines. They could give her something to stop the pain, but she would go into shock before long. She was having a reaction like an allergy patient would have to a bee sting or peanut butter. She would continue to swell up until her body couldn’t take it anymore.
This was not going to stop with or without our intervention.
I asked about time. He shook his head and advised they could medicate her to lift the pain, but she only had about 24 hours at the most if we took her home. Sprite having to see her decline, Harry having to see her decline, I wouldn’t be able to handle seeing her decline. Stoic doesn’t live in my heart. I would crumble immediately.
John came to the office to hear it himself and we both tried to explain it to Sprite as Blue sat quietly by us.
We would be honest with her about it. We had to. We talked about Blue going to sleep and not waking up. We talked about there being no more pain. We talked about Blue being so sick, this was the best way to help her stop hurting.
I cried. I couldn’t hold it together. She watched me cry, her only response being, “but I want two dogs.”
She didn’t understand.
She gamely waved goodbye to Blue and gave her a last pat on the head, this dog who had loved her and had been loved so heavily by her since the day she could first grab onto Blue’s soft fur.
I rubbed her under her jowls, felt her impossibly long ears. I couldn’t be there for the last minutes. I couldn’t do it as a sixteen year old when we had to say goodbye to our old dog Daisy. I couldn’t do it now, even though I felt like I was deserting her.
We walked out, two hours to the dot had passed since we walked in with our silently sick dog.
Sprite and I entered the house, releasing Harry from his crate. I lost my composure once more as he raced through the house, looking for Blue, maybe she had wormed her way under the bed without him. We let him out, watching him bark his way around the yard, calling out for her.
He wouldn’t touch his dinner, waiting for Blue to come try to stake her claim first, waiting to growl at her, because that’s what they did twice a day. It was their routine. Only when the hunger got to be too much did he relinquish his post and eat.
It had happened too quickly. The words kept coming back to me, the written words “poor prognosis” and “euthanasia” the vet had scribbled on a sheet of paper to keep those epiphets away from young innocent ears. Had we made the right decision?
Our resolve not to play God, something we had discussed a while ago, were we playing God now by signing that paper to end her life?
My mom’s best friend explained it to me in a phone call later that evening, “you’re not ending her life, you’re ending her pain. You did her a favor.”
We let Sprite into our bed as we settled down for the night. She cuddled close to me. “Blue is at the vet’s.”
Her earlier comment to John, “Blue will be at the vet’s forever” rang in my ears.
“Honey, Blue won’t stay at the vet’s.” The tears came again.
I am so bad at this.
“Where will she go?”
Just get it over with, Jen. “Sprite, Blue passed away today.”
“Because she was sick. She had an owie that hurt too much.”
“They didn’t fix her owie?”
“So will she come back?”
I hugged her tighter. “No. When I say she passed away, what it means is she died.”
We both grew silent for a while before I heard her voice again.
“Does Harry know she passed away?”
“I’m not sure. I do know he misses her though.”
“So do I.”
“She’s a good dog.”
“Yes, she is.”