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December 4, 2000
a year ago
three years ago

Letting Go

It was pretty obvious, by the time that I got up, that I wasn't going to work. Period. The cold really has a hold on me. Deep. I woke up during the night just fighting to breath. But when morning came, John and I got up and we found Fezzik lying, clean, on the lawn. That was very encouraging, so we brought him inside to let him drool over our breakfasts and get a few corners of scone slipped to him. I wasn't hungry, but I knew that I had to eat. So I ate grapefruit, yogurt and scone. I had a big glass of orange juice with my Tums, and Fezzik got slipped bits of my scone, which he ate very happily. John really liked the dried apple spice scones, and that was good.

He was so alert that the two of us decided to just wait and see. That if we decided anything that it was irreversible and we might as well be sure.

Fezzik got fed and he ate about half his breakfast before just stopping and turning his head away from it and half getting up to get away from it. He really didn't want it. He did drink a lot of water, though, and coughed his really wet lung-deep cough. There's stuff deep in his lungs since he can't move around or breath all that deeply while lying down. I petted him for a while and he was alert for a while, but he eventually slumped tiredly on his bed in the livingroom while John worked. So I went back to bed. I slept like the dead until about 1, when I got up and knew that I had to eat and drink something more for the baby. John said that Fezzik's breathing was getting worse, and that he could hear the rattling in Fezzik lungs every time he drew a breath. John made grilled cheese and tomato soup on getting the call and he was glad for the break to eat. While the sandwiches were toasting and the soup was simmer, he went out to check on Fezzik because Fezzik had gotten very antsy and had asked to be taken out, so John had put him outside on his bed. Getting him outside and down the stairs was something John could do by himself.

John was really sad when he came back in. Fezzik had managed to just get his butt clear of his bed and had spilled diarrhea everywhere, in a circle around his bed. John had moved him clear of the spill, cleaned up the worst of it with a newspaper bag, and then after lunch the two of us went out with a couple buckets of warm water and it turned out Fezzik was still spilling some of the stuff out. Poor pup. We washed him off, and I sat with him a while, but it stank out there, so I got John to help me move Fezzik to a dry spot on the lawn and then we hosed off the dirty concrete so that he wouldn't have to smell it while lying there. Small comforts.

It was, however, really obvious that Fezzik was definitely getting worse, not better. It made the decision, not easier, but definitely clearer.

We called All-Pets and asked when someone could come out. They said not until Wednesday and we looked at each other and knew that that would be too long. Making him live just to live that long would be putting him through way too much for our convenience. They said that the last slot tonight at 7:20 was open if we wanted to bring him in, they had two morning slots tomorrow at 9:30 and 10:30. Our original plan had been to have them come here, as much 'cause it would be less traumatic on Fezzik as it would likely be easier on us. So John called Boulder, but while we waited on that, we started thinking that tonight would be good. We could stop at the Dairy Queen on the way over, and have one last cone for Fezzik. He really wasn't going to be doing any better and he was already suffering badly enough and it really is, now, just a matter of him waiting to die.

So John took the 7:30 slot tonight. The important thing is for us to be there with him when he dies. I think that the location, for Fezzik, isn't as important as it really was easier on us. The timing really is now, as he's just so worn out and tired and sad. It's been almost a month since his last chemo. Tough old dog. He got a lot of fun in even just the last few weeks, and it's been worth the doing. I'm really, really glad, too, that we stayed home the weekend of Orycon as it was looking like it was his last really mobile weekend and he had his little party and got good company and good eats and enjoyed himself. And it was really, really obvious in the last few days that Fezzik was failing badly.

I made sure Fezzik was mostly comfortable, though he turned away from me on the most part, he did take some water. He wouldn't even take biscuits from my hand anymore. So I went upstairs and wrote the last few days down as I really needed to do that. So odd to watch the time tick away. I watched the sunset, and I couldn't move Fezzik to see it by myself and John was on a conference call. I knew that it would be more for myself than for Fezzik, but so it is. I'll likely burn incense and hell money tonight.

While I waited for John to finish, I watched Fezzik through the window after petting him for a little while, as I knew that if I stayed outside in the cooling dark that my cold was only going to get much, much worse. He decided, while I was watching, to try and move from his bed and rather than trying to get up at all, he used his forearms to drag his back end over to where he wanted it. He'd completely given up on walking and it was really sad to see.

It'll pass. Everything does. A friend of mine said that change and loss are what often makes a story great. That they're themes of import. That Tolkien's works had those moving through it, and the changes changed everyone and everything whereas the cheap imitations only take the trappings but not the real sense of loss that makes the Tolkien works great. It makes a lot of sense to me. Sometimes, though, I would rather my story not have even a smidge of greatness. Sometimes all I want is my dog. It seems so petty, in some ways. So simple in others.

What is, is. It'll be okay. It's simply how things are. I'll cry a lot, for good reason and it'll be good to cry. An integral piece of my life for the last twelve years is going away.

It wasn't what I expected or feared, at all.

Hard, yes.

But not as I had feared.

We brought Fezzik into the house after John's meeting was over, and just generally petted him a lot and cried over him a little. I wonder if he was thinking that now, when we bring him into the house, we have to cry over him or something. He enjoyed the petting, slobbered on both of us profusely, licked John's leg hairs straight for a while. It was pretty obvious that every breath was a bit of a struggle and when he even put his head up he was wobbling a bit from the effort it took to look up. He didn't sit up at all, just looked around occasionally, let me pet him and he lay his head on either John's or my leg. He then started getting antsy again, around 6. His breathing was so bad at this time that when he tried to bark at me, it was more a huge cough. So John and I took him out to the lawn and he seemed content enough to just lie there.

John and I went out to the truck around 6:30, and John put Fezzik's bed in the back of the truck and Fezzik struggled to sit up to see what was going on. John and I lifted him and it was a little bit of a struggle to get him into the truck bed and as we were getting him in, Fezzik lost control of his bowels and there was spill of diarrhea in the truck. John went and got paper towels, we cleaned up everything we could. Fezzik looked really miserable as it stuck up the whole truck pretty badly.

Poor dog. I had the window up a bit while John started up the heater, as it was 18 degrees outside. I breathed some fresh air and then just breathed through my mouth as we went to Dairy Queen. One last time. We went in and John was able to order this medium cone. I started crying on the way in, and I don't know what they thought and I didn't really care. It was just emotion. Nothing specific. But I was dry eyed while Fezzik struggled a little to turn enough to eat the cone. He enjoyed it as he hadn't enjoyed any food today, though he took smaller bites than normal, he still eagerly got each bite down and took another. It was good to see him really enjoy that. He settled, half asleep, as we went on.

John went into All Pets first, and Dr. Clements came out with him. Dr. Clements has been, this whole time, a really soft spoken and really great guy for Fezzik. Gentle and really compassionate about things. He helped John carry Fezzik in and Fezzik looked kinda cool on the way in, with his chin on his paws at the front and he was watching everything as he went in. There were a few folks in the lobby, but we mostly ignored them and they kinda ignored us politely as we all went into the same treatment room that Fezzik had always gone into to get his local chemo. There was a blanket on the floor, and we just put the bed on the blanket. The Dr. asked us if we wanted the bed cremated with Fezzik and we said no, just throw it out.

I asked for Kleenex, and he had a box of it there. And, to my surprise, I was crying pretty hard, but not minding it. It was pretty obvious that the doctor didn't mind my crying and wasn't distressed by it and was respectful of it.

Fezzik was looking around, a little curious and, to the end, not afraid of anything. Just wanted to see who was whom and where. The assistant lady came in with Dr. Clements and she's the one that always loved Fezzik. Fezzik looked at her as she came in and seemed to relax on hearing her voice and feeling her hands on his back. This time she said that he'd always been an angel when he'd been there, and that we'd done a lot for him. Dr. Clements described the procedure, that only a few seconds into it we'd feel Fezzik relax and then they'd check his heart for the next few minutes as it would go on beating even after he was asleep. He then asked if we were ready...

Fezzik had lain his head down between John and I and we both petted him and found him pretty much still and we looked at each other and I figured it wouldn't help anything to draw it out longer. So I nodded, yes. John said it, and the doctor shaved a small part of Fezzik's back leg to expose a vein and then put the needle in. John and I petted Fezzik and gently reassured him as he relaxed even more and more and there was a terrible tension in him that finally, slowly, gently eased away.

I think John and I had been living with Fezzik for the last few days with that tension always in him. He'd been struggling for everything the last few days, for breath, for water, and even when he'd been still on his bed he'd been trembling with it. For the first time in a very, very long time, John and I actually saw him without that trembling tension, that effort in everything he was. The doctor used his stethoscope to listen to Fezzik great heart slow and finally fall silent and he told us when Fezzik was gone. Both the doctor and the assistant said that they were there for us, if there was anything we needed but that they'd leave us with Fezzik for a while now. They quietly went out the door and closed it and both John and I just cried, great raking sobs on John's part. I just kept the steady crying I'd been doing all evening.

When he could finally talk again, I found out that it was the same for him, the release and the relief now that Fezzik was finally at rest was tremendous. I had been worried that Fezzik would fight it somehow, at the end, that he wouldn't want to go or something would go wrong with the drug; but he had, if anything, simply relaxed into it and slipped away. It surprised me, terribly, how peaceful his dying finally was. It also brought home, really, really sharply, that this was utterly the right thing to do. After all our doubt and all our debate, seeing that terrible tension drain away finally eased any and all doubts I might have had.

John went through another few bouts of racking crying, but it was easy for me to see that he just needed to cry and cry and get it out, not from distress or being upset so much as just needing expression. We talked a little, and it was good to know that Fezzik was finally free of the body that was frustrating him so much and on that particular note, I went into my own racking sobs of near rage. I hadn't known I felt so strongly about how much Fezzik's body had failed him in just these last months. All the hard falls, all the bruised elbows, the scraped skin, and the jaw shaking hard drops when his balance went out from under him all just accumulated somewhere in my heart and I just let it all out. I had to laugh a little, when I was done. I'd been crying so much the last few days that I actually have red, chapped patches of skin under my eyes from rubbing them so often with tissues of various types.

One thing we found ourselves agreeing on was that it had all been worth it. We talked through a lot of Fezzik's stories and even as hard as the last year has been, it's all been worth it. Worth taking him in and loving him and all the loving he gave back and even as hard as this one last thing we could give him was, it, too was worth the doing all the way through.

Fezzik's body, in the meantime, just lay peacefully on the bed. His rumpled fur still soft and winter thick. He really did look like he'd just gone to sleep. Empty now of the will and personality that drove him, it was obviously empty.

It felt odd, though, to leave him there as we finally were ready to go. We'd paid them for a private cremation, they'll take care of the body, and we'll get the ashes in a few weeks and then figure out what we want to do with them. There's some chance that we'll go back to Redmond sometime and pour at least some of them at Marymoore, where he'd played so many times with so many other dogs. Some of his spirit will likely rest with us. But it was odd to leave his body there, we'd supported him so much in the last few months, that it was just odd. In the parking lot, John had one last racking sob attack and then we went to Santiago's, got food, and went home to eat it. John enjoyed his and I enjoyed mine and it was comforting, hot food. I couldn't eat all of mine as the baby started kicking me and it was spicy enough to make my poor, abused upper lip burn a bit.

Most of the evening was vacuuming the debris of everything of the last few days from the livingroom, washing all the clothing John and I had stained while taking care of Fezzik, talking with our parents, writing the last of this, and talking with Kathy. Life and time moves on. Kathy was, again, for me, a great help. One of the things was talking through with her the fact that we were very sure that it had been the right time and a good thing to do for him, as she pointed out, it was basically do this or do a days long wait on him starving himself to death. Saving him all that was the right thing to do. I also wrote it all by hand as my voice, between the cold and crying, was completely shot.

One thing we told everyone... if anyone wants to remember Fezzik, hold your own private little memorial for him, go out and have an ice cream cone in his memory. He'd like that.

John was even more of a help. Just having shared all that with him was a good thing for us, I think. Talking through all the things with him, the old sense of my own beliefs touching me again. Odd to think that I might believe again in God and Heaven simply because I believe, so much, in my dog. I guess everyone comes to it by their own path. This one would be a very odd one.

I deliberately didn't sleep this afternoon so that I could sleep tonight. I guess we'll see how well that actually works...

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