We had to put Daisy-dog to sleep yesterday. It was the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I really thought I had more time, but when her decline came, it was fast. She had two seizures and fell down a couple of times. She refused to try to go down the stairs to the back yard, and she was working hard to breathe. I woke up in the middle of the night to watch her, and it pained me to see her chest muscles working so hard to push out and draw in air.
We thought we would have a few more days. We only had a few more hours.
So I watched her.
I watched her sleep.
I watched her stand up and lie down.
I watched her eye the cat suspiciously as he came near.
I watched her patiently accept the hugging arms of my weeping children as they buried their faces in her fur and said their final good-byes. She had been skittish recently, moving away when we approached her, but she withstood them calmly, accepting their loving touches and even nuzzling them back.
I watched her look at us with great resignation in her eyes as my husband carried her to the van for the last time.
I watched her lay calmly and passively on the veterinarian’s table, resting on her pillow, which we had brought with us.
I watched her look around only once, to see where my husband had gone when he walked away from her for a moment. When her eyes found him, she put her head down for what would be the last time.
I watched the vet tech shave a rectangle of hair of Daisy’s back leg, and I watched Daisy not react to having her leg touched for the first time in her life.
I heard the vet ask if I was ready, and I watched Daisy’s eyes as I spoke my last words to her. “Thank you,” I said.
I watched the vet insert the needle and then inject the medicine. It looked like watered down pepto bismol and the doctor pushed the plunger quickly, administering all of the dose nearly all at once.
I watched nothing after that. I simply put my head to hers, forehead to forehead, as I had done so many times before. There’s a space right between her ears where my head fit perfectly. I wrapped my arms around her neck, closed my eyes, and stroked her neck.
I watched her chest after I heard the vet say , “She’s gone.” I was waiting for it to move again, for the last five minutes to have been a dream.
I watched for signs of life, irrationally hoping that what the vet had given her was some magic cure and not a death cocktail.
I watched my hand stroke her lifeless body and felt the sudden disconnection of reality that shock and grief can bring.
I watched my husband weep, as man does, noiselessly and with frequent nose-blowing, and I watched myself pick up Daisy’s chain, my coat, my gloves…
I watched her body on the table and wished that they had given us something to cover her with. I almost asked them to come remove her so I could leave the room. Leaving her there on the table was heartrending.
I watched my husband repeatedly pound the steering wheel on the drive home, and watched the reality of the day sink into my children’s eyes when we came home.
And then I watched myself transform into a mother, a woman responsible for comforting her children and being strong for them.
I watched my daughter look to me to see if I was composed, if I could handle her impending breakdown. I watched her break down, and I watched how my soothing words and touch comforted her.
And now, at home, I watch my cat’s tail in the hallway and think it’s Daisy.
I watch the video tribute I made for her and remember the wonderful life we shared.
I watch gratefully as my Facebook friends recognize our grief and offer comforting words.
And now I am watching myself confess.
Daisy was much more than the family dog to me. As someone who often stayed at home cowering from the world because of depression, Daisy was a lifeline. She never left my side, and she didn’t ask questions for which I had no answers. She didn’t care if I got up and showered or sat in bed all day eating Oreos, as long as I shared. She was the keeper of all my secrets and the fur on her neck has absorbed countless tears. She was unsurprised in the vet’s office when I placed my forehead on hers — we had communed that way many times in the past. It was our thing.
Her place at night was right next to me on the floor. When I got up in the middle of the night last night, I stepped over where she should be…
Daisy’s spot may yet again be taken up by another canine, but her place in my heart is hers alone.