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.