So remember how two weeks ago I was talking about what we were going to do with Dakota? And then the week after that how I was writing about the emotional toll this quest was going to exact?
Well it turns out both of those were important precursors to a sad event which happened Thursday night.
We had to put Dakota to sleep.
It was actually kind of perfect. The day before, Dan and I had taken him for a walk to go get pizza from our local watering hole. (Side-note – it was a dive, the pizza was awful and featured at least two hairs belonging to the kindly senior couple who’d prepared our food). The day he died was sunny and bright. That morning he’d been totally fine – running around like a puppy and greeting the kijiji-ers that came to our house.
When I left for work at 2:30 in the afternoon, he was looking a little green. He’d thrown up breakfast, tried to re-eat it (GROSS!!) and thrown it up again.
Shortly after I left, I got a concerned text from Dan – saying Dakota wasn’t looking well. I suggested feeding him his meds with the gastrointestinal-friendly-wet-food – it was his favourite!
When he rejected it completely, Dan knew something was seriously wrong. He called me to come home. By the time I got there, he was laying down, unresponsive and clearly in agony (his body was trembling, his breathing was laboured and every few minutes he’d let out a little whine).
We carried him on a blanket into the house and tried to let him rest. I called our vet who (was about to close at this point) and recommended we give him the night to see how it goes. After about 20 minutes of resting, Dakota tried to get up and follow me into another room. He made it about 3 feet before he couldn’t go any further. He had one leg with a massive lump on it, and that leg was dangling helplessly underneath him. He looked miserable. His back half was all hunched and contracted painfully.
That’s when I knew we couldn’t wait until tomorrow.
I called the vet back, and she said it was too late to go herself, but recommended a mobile vet who would come to our house and assess Dakota. Fortunately, he was in the neighbourhood and said he could be there in about 30 minutes.
So for 30 minutes I laid beside Dakota on the basement floor. He sensed my presence and smelled my smell – though he was very unresponsive. His whining came more regularly and his eyes began to roll back into his head. I petted him and we waited for the doctor. I wondered if he might die before the vet arrived.
When Doctor Deken arrived he was very gentle. He assessed Dakota and confirmed what we already knew – that Dakota was passing a threshold of no recovery. His gums were bright red. His heart was racing. He was trembling.
Doctor Deken explained what he was going to do, and what we could expect from Dakota. Which is exactly how it happened. He gave him a relaxing needle into his back, which calmed Dakota’s breathing, and sedated him. At that point, I don’t think he knew much of what was going on, but at least he wasn’t in pain.
Then he shaved a little patch off his leg, and put the second needle into the vein, which stopped his heart.
I wept quietly and held him in my arms while he took his last breaths.
Then he was gone.
Dan was so great. He was also moved by what was going on, but kept comforting me. He paid the doctor, while I took few minutes to say goodbye. Dakota the dog I’ve known for nearly 15 years wasn’t there anymore. Just his shell remained.
We carried him out to the vet’s car, where he was taken away to be cremated. I’m not sure what we’ll do with the remains. I plan to take most of them down to the Dam near Pincher Creek and spread his ashes at one of his favourite places to walk with me and dad. I might keep a few of his ashes and have him made into a jewel of some kind to carry with me. I don’t know yet.
But you know what?
We’re OK. I’m OK. Because Dakota lived a full, long and healthy life! He was loved every day from when he came to live with us at 8 weeks old, to when he died at nearly 15. He met so many people, and dogs! He travelled many thousands of miles with different members of our family. He’s peed in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan. He’s rescued people, met famous people and charmed strangers his whole life. He’s charged at diesel trucks, scared the daylights out of postal workers and chased more cats than I can count. He’s been skunked, porcipine-d, bullied by horses, stalked by deer, scratched by cats, hunted by coyotes, impaled by tree branches, he’s fallen off a 13 foot wall (and walked away without a scratch), he’s admonished a grizzly bear for making us leave our campsite, he nearly drowned the Campbell’s cat Rusty and he has begged for people food through it all. He’s had a girlfriend (Ilo’s Shasta) and two best buddies (Alaska and Jess’s Oliver). He was my camping buddy, my hiking buddy, my walking buddy, my watching West-Wing buddy. He never complained when I blamed him for my farts and he was always excited to see me – no matter what.
And I have so many fond memories with him!
I love him so much and will always miss him, but hope he is happily running around Heaven – chasing Pumpkin, peeing on everything he can see, barking at squirrels and forgetting everything he ever knew about arthritis.