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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Epitaph for a Best Friend - Joshua

It happened on the 28th of June 2017. While I knew the time was getting closer, the day it happened was unexpected. Events moved rapidly that day – a visit to a friend’s home, a stop at PetSmart, some thought time at the dog park and what was supposed to be a routine visit to the veterinarian for nail trimming turned into the final trip for Joshua. I have euthanized best friends of the past, even a brother and sister at the same time, but nothing could have prepared me for this.

The procedure has changed since I last dealt with this. The old way was to give the animal an immediate shot without regard for their fear and apprehension of circumstance. For the caretaker (I do not like the word owner) it was easier. It was over in minutes. The animal had no control and was helpless, but it was over.

I do not have enough knowledge to suggest that it is a common practice, but what I will call the new way is much easier for the animal – and much more difficult on the caretaker. The animal is given a shot that relaxes their muscles and calms them. After about 20 minutes, the final shot – an overdose – is administered. And it is over.

I wanted to run. I wanted to get out of that room as fast as possible and not look back. But I knew that Josh was devoted to me for his 10 ½ years and I could not abandon him in his final moments. I had to stay there, not cry and maintain composure while my entire insides were self-destructing. I had to hold the tears and make it seem very routine so Josh, trusting me as always, would remain calm. I lied to him. I justify that by saying it was for his own good – and I know it was. Who am I kidding, he probably still read me – he knew.

For the first time in all my years of remaining during euthanasia, I kept my hand cupped at his muzzle and felt his breath the entire time. He relaxed from that first shot. The heaving breathing subsided. Then it happened - the second shot into his veins and I could feel his breath slowing more, getting weaker – and then stopping. Suddenly there was no more breath. A part of me had just died. His eyes were wide open but he could not see. Those eyes that looked at me every night in bed could no longer see. I could no longer see – my eyes were filled with tears.

When the vet confirmed that he was gone a numbness came over me and then my insides started twisting and I knew I had to get out of there. I had to escape. Knowingly – I paid the bill before and I just walked out of the office never looking back. The staff was kind – I was in a fog but I remember hearing “I am sorry for your loss”. I am really not sure how I drove home. Hopefully none could see through the dark windows.

Tissues and tears are getting me through writing this some eight days later. The loss is still there. I analyze it daily. I am missing this one more than others. It had been over 10 years since we flew home from his native Maine. In his own way, he was advocate, caretaker and protector of my mom until she passed away. Then he was glued to me. I was his world. Working from home, he was with me constantly.

In his later years Josh suffered from doggie Alzheimer’s - Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS) – but he and I compensated for that. I miss the extra care he required, I miss his water bowl being in the way, his hair all over the place, throw rugs on the floor because he developed a fear of the tile, I miss his restless nights in bed when neither of us got any sleep. I miss the laughs and I miss the challenges of dealing with a senior canine. I miss Joshua. He was my best friend and loyal to the end.