Wednesday, April 11, 2007

One year without Ashes

Ashes died a year ago today.

The weather was much warmer this time last year, more Spring-like. I had been back from Ireland for a few weeks. I was glad that Ashes had held in until I got back, but he began a downward spiral soon after I returned.

By April 11 he was in very bad shape. He was very listless, barely moving throughout the day. He would sometimes rouse himself to eat the nuggets of Tender Vittles we spread out before him, but hydration was mainly coming by way of a syringe. He had not been to the bathroom in several days. We knew the end was near.

My mom and I were taking turns with him. I came home from work that day and she passed him off to me - there was garden work that needed to be done, and she wanted to take advantage of the nice weather to do it. I had her take one of our phones outside, one with an intercom feature - just in case.

I lay with him for a while, scratching his ears and under his collar, massaging him, stroking his fur, holding his paw, singing to him. He lay there with me, responding occasionally, his eyes opening from time to time. This went on for quite a while.

Then he stood up.

He stood up and started moving, moving like he wanted to jump off the bed. I called my mom.

"You'd better come in. He's moving. This may be it."

He walked in circles on the bed, looking for something. He didn't find it. He moved to the edge of the bed as my mom came in. "I think he wants to go to the bathroom," I said.

I picked him up and carried him to a place where we had puppy training pads laid out for him. I placed him upright on the pads. He planted his feet and began to strain. He let out a howl.

"Oh, God." I said.

He strained and strained. He opened his mouth to an unnatural size and howled and panted.

"He can't go on like this," my mom said. "If he's still like this in the morning, we have to put him to sleep." It was after 7:45 at night.

"I don't know if we should wait that long," I said.

She dialed the emergency vet. It took a bit, but she finally got through and began to ask about taking Ashes in to be euthanized.

Ashes collapsed.

He continued to strain and let out weak howls. His jaw kept hinging open as he panted desperately. A trickle of urine came out, but nothing else. Then the howls became fainter and fainter, the straining became less and less, the panting weaker and weaker. His jaw kept snapping open and drooping closed. His eyes bulged.

Maybe this went on for fifteen seconds, or a minute, or several minutes. I don't know.

And then, slowly, he wound down. His panting stopped. His jaw opened and did not close. His eyes remained fixed. He died as I held him at 7:52 that night.

"Never mind," said my mom as she hung up the phone.

I ran out and bought ice. I would not be able to take Ashes to be cremated until the next morning. He spent the night wrapped in blankets atop two bags of ice.

The next day I took him in to the vet's for cremation. As I handed him over I removed his collar. At that moment he was, in my mind, officially dead.

Now his ashes reside in a small, beautifully carved box, alongside the ashes of Haley and Minnie.

It's been one year. I still miss him. I guess I always will.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about Ashes. In a few more weeks Muldie will have also been gone for a year. What you described with the going around in circles and subsequent stuff is what the vet told me might happen with Muldie. When they are going in circles they are somehow trying to catch their breath, which seems odd, but, that's what my vet told me. Their blood isn't holding the oxygen and they are trying everything to keep breathing - hence the panting. The vet said Muldie had maybe two days to live, so we took him home for the day and returned to the vet just before they closed that day and let Muldie go to heaven a day early. We figured they had a spot waiting for him and we didn't want to put him through any more struggling. But, the vet also said that at that point the dying pet isn't in any pain and has no real concept of what's going on. It's just their body reacting to shutting down. So, while it seemed violent and disturbing to us humans watching, the pet was at that point not aware of anything. So Ashes didn't experience any trauma.

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

I'm so sorry.

anne said...

It's very hard to be there with a pet when they die. Still, even if they aren't aware of much, I think they sense the presence of "their person" and are comforted by it. You obviously loved Ashes very much.

Betz said...

I went thru the passing over with you guys of both Ashes, and Mulder.
It was so sad at the time, and still sad this long after.
Harold, Ashes would be so happy you keep the memory alive.
It is your tribute to one of your dear departed freinds.