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A little more

Thank you all.

He went calmly, without obvious pain or unpleasantness, on his dog bed in his living room, surrounded by the people he loved most, only a day after he stopped enjoying his long, love-filled life. His last meal: an In-N-Out hamburger, hand-fed to him last night as he lay on his side. We slept with him in the living room. He tried at four this morning to get up, which there was no chance of his doing: last night he could not even stand when I held him up. I put my hand where he could sniff it and he relaxed: I think he just wanted to know where I was.

We bathed him last night, me standing with him in the tub holding him up, Becky washing away the accumulated urine that days of sponge baths had not removed. He was more comfortable after that.

The last thing he saw: my face close up. The last thing he smelled: my neck. The last thing he felt: my forehead against his, Becky stroking his flank. His face next to mine, my eyes closed as I lay next to him, I paid mind to his breathing. A deep breath, a shallower one, one shallower still, and then no more. A feeling of immense calm came over me as he breathed, stayed with me for ten or fifteen minutes after he died. Relief, I think. All the things we worried about these last few months, myelopathy, seizures, cancer, kidney failure, bones broken in falls, stranding on the hardwood floor; all the old favorite fears of car accidents and pancreatitis and dognappers and mean dogs… none of them came to pass. If I had written a happy piece of fiction about an ideal dog’s life, it would have ended the way Zeke’s story ended, except that in the story his humans would have been independently wealthy as a result of inheriting a jerky conglomerate, and he would not have had to stay at home alone during business hours.

And of course it sucks. The calm passed and we both have fallen into fits of howling, ragged grief. Matthew came over, did most of the digging, three feet into the rock we have instead of subsoil. I carried Zeke out, stepped into the grave with him, laid him down gently, did the requisite flinging of myself onto his corpse weeping in grief. We shrouded him in the canvas cover of the dog bed he loved the past ten years, put two jerky treats and one of my dirty socks there with him in payment for the ride across the river Sticks to sniff butts with Cerberus. He is in the lawn in front of the evil teak bench, in a spot where he once spent whole sunny days drowsing, and the hole in our lives is impossibly larger than the one we refilled with topsoil and diatomite.

28 thoughts on “A little more

  1. Rigel Morgan

    No matter how long our lives are blessed with the pleasure of thier company it is never enough time.
    Perhaps some day every dog will be as cherished as he clearly was. Although a day will come when sweet memories bring more smiles than tears, the day will never come that you do not miss him.

  2. CaseyL

    [We] put two jerky treats and one of my dirty socks there with him in payment for the ride across the river Sticks to sniff butts with Cerberus.

    I love this. 

    I picture Charon taking the two jerky treats, looking them over, looking at Zeke (who wags his tail and perks forward those glorious huge ears), then shrugging as he tosses the jerky into the box with the other fares. 

    There are pennies in there, of course; but also chew toys, catnip mice, hot rocks, small mirrors (some with bells), halters -oh, all sorts of things.

    And Charon’s ferry -humans, horses, dogs, cats, reptiles, birds, a few beloved insects -oh, all sorts of people! 

    And some of them, like Zeke, have items not for the ferryman.  Dirty socks, a favorite stable blanket, a pillowcase that smells like My Human… items to take with them to the Elysian Fields, so they remember the people who loved them.  So they will recognize us, when we go to join them.

    Bless you, Chris, Becky -and Zeke.

  3. julia

    We buried Pyewacket, the pet I couldn’t bear to give up but had to, in a cairn at the top of a ridge at my mom’s overlooking a bird sanctuary with the teddy bear whose belly she’d kneaded bald, wrapped in one of my daughter’s blankets.

    Thank you for letting him go.

  4. Lesley

    I thought before my mother died that I was ready,  because her time of dying was long and I thought I was prepared. But nothing prepares you.  One minute they are breathing beside us and the next they are not.  They’ve gone and we don’t know where, and the finality is like a cold gust of air and a door slamming shut.  But after it’s over and you’ve had some time to reflect, you’ll find you have no regrets and only gratitude that you were the person who loved and stayed right to the end. (Some people don’t have the courage for that.) 

    You’ll be kindred spirits forever.

  5. itwasntme

    A fine spirit released from a troubled body.

    He had close-enough to heaven on earth there in your home, so he will quickly find his way to the true home of us all.

    And, I’m sure when it’s your turn to go home, you’ll find a familiar wagging tail ready to race ahead, choosing the best trail.

  6. ronniecat

    I hope it comforts you to know you gave Zeke the _very best life_ he could possibly have had; and, in addition, walked him through his passing in as fine a manner as I have ever heard.

    My heartfelt sympathy to you and Becky.

  7. in medias res

    Chris -Your willingness to share your love and grief for Zeke is one of the most breathtaking gifts one person can give another. Thank you so much. I am so sorry for the pain and terrible loss you and Becky are experiencing. I hope that knowing there are many of us out here supporting you will be some comfort in the future.

  8. Xopher

    I know you don’t believe in these things, but I believe his last wish was fulfilled: for you to be all right with his going.  The howling grief is human, but that soul-calm, I think, was his spirit embracing yours.

    At any rate, he died as he lived: surrounded by love.  And the grief will pass, but the love never.

  9. eRobin

    I’m very sorry you and Becky lost your Zeke.  Peace at the end is an enormous gift.  My father had it and that’s why (I think) I was able to process his death without a lot of pain. 

    Again, a thousand condolences.

  10. Elissa Feit

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Chris (and Becky).  Zeke was a lovely boy and he’ll be dearly missed.

    After a requisite time of “there are no possible other dogs in the world”, come visit our Senga in Australia.  She would love to lick your face to comfort you.

  11. elena

    I’m crying as I read this. My dog passed last year -she was almost 17. I wasn’t there, but at least I got to visit and see her one last time a few months before she went. My folks had to make the decision to let her go; they buried her ashes in their backyard and planted a lilac on the spot.

    My deepest condolences to you. I hope that, in time, memories of Zeke will bring smiles.

  12. liza

    Oh Chris!

    My heart and a big hug go out to you. I have too wailed for not one, nor two but three very dear pets I had along the years. You were so lucky to have such a long life with Zeke.

    My partner was alarmed when he found me crying. When I told him about you and Zeke and all the months I’ve spent following your story … amazing powerful things this internet, web and blog.

    I found you shortly before I met you at Blogher but your stories of Zeke make me feel like I’ve known you forever.

    I thank you, but I know you’d say to also thank Zeke for the gift of those words you’ve written about him. We’re all so lucky to have had him in flesh and text.

    Be well, 
    liza

  13. Linda Frasier

    I’m so sorry you lost your pal.

    I found myself at loose ends after Ceilidh died, because I had spent so much time carrying her out, feeding her, seeing how she was. I had trouble sleeping for quite a while, because when I turned over and hung my hand over the edge of the bed, the cold nose that had been there for 15 years wasn’t. So much to miss that I didn’t realize I’d miss.

  14. patti digh

    i’m so sorry to hear that zeke has gone to play elsewhere -and so happy the end was what it should be for such a noble animal -i’ve enjoyed reading about and seeing zeke here -peace to you.

  15. Cowtown Pattie

    Chris and Becky,

    Very sorry for you heartache. I love reading this blog, but I have been avoiding it from some days now.  It’s just so hard losing a best friend. 

    I look over at my bed and the big red dog that lies there; he still has many more years of love to give me.  I can’t bear to think of life without him.

  16. BlondebutBright

    My darling dog died a few years ago in my mom’s arms. She was our companion for 13 years. I completely understand your grief. It will never go away, but what a blessing to have known such a wonderful pet!

  17. Jim in STL

    Chris,

    My best little buddy (a beagle) died a few years back.  He was old and had gotten pretty sick but kept on keepin’ on.  He died one day in my arms after I told him it was OK to let go -I was shocked and, after burying him at a friends farm, started grieving.  It’s OK now.

    I’m glad you guys had a good life together and that you have the memories.  Thanks for sharing.