On Wednesday evening, I had an appointment for a traveling vet to come to my home and put down my 19 year old Rat Terrier, Nina. What more could I ask for, she was 19, right? Well, I still wasn't emotionally ready. I don't even know where to start.
There were two of them, and they were my sidekicks. My son was 2 and we didn't have more children, but I wanted my son to have all the advantages of siblings so I did tons of research and decided that a couple of Rat Terriers would make an excellent sister and brother. And my god they sure did. They made our world so entertaining and fun- they amazed us. They were so integrated and a part of us. They were a team and they acted as a team. They were regal yet goofy, smart and protective yet silly and nutty. They are in the background or foreground! of nearly every photo I have ever taken in my home.
I lost Cortez at 14. At 12 he had suddenly become diabetic and was already going deaf on his own, but from diabetes, went blind as well within a year after diagnosis. I managed his disease until it was about to kill him. His liver & kidneys were shutting down and he could not go to the bathroom and also was not eating for a weekend. The last day he managed to crap and eat a little. He was getting weak and fading fast, and I had to let him go because the vet warned me he had to be in pain and the shutdown of those organs would cause him an agonizing death. So I did it. But I did something weird. I stuffed my true grief inside and concentrated on my other 14 year old Rat Terrier I still had. I cried for him, but I did not truly let it out. I know that now.
Nina lingered 5 more years. She was incontinent by the time she was about 13-14 and was on medication but she began having seizures and they increased. I researched the medicine and learned it could cause seizures. I took her off and they stopped. So now I was living with my perfectly normal but incontinent dog. Shortly after Cortez passed, she developed congestive heart failure and high blood pressure. The meds controlled it and she was on the medicines for 5 years- 3 kinds of pills every morning and evening. She lost weight with the heart issue and old age- she became very gray and boney as the years passed. All her fat disappeared.
It was so much work with the incontinence. I found what worked for me was putting a wee-wee pad under her bed, the pee would go through the bed down to the pad and not hold the moisture up near her body- so she stayed reasonably dry as she peed all day and I gave her a fresh bed every morning and every evening. I never had to deal with diaper rash or anything, and I would double wash her dog beds. I always had a pile I was working through down in my laundry room. Sometimes she would be up walking and drip pee along, or, she would lose her bladder in one shot and I'd be scrambling to wipe up the pee because my house is old with the wood floor finish very worn off. I bought a steam mop.
The pee affected things because she could no longer come up on my bed or the couch. I had to have a blanket under her to sit on my lap. Even with all that I often had to change my jeans because a wet puddle would somehow still manage to be there. I got used to her not being on me or the couch- but I looked through my albums the other day and saw a shot of her cuddling with me and my little son on my bed, and thought about how hard it must have been for her to once be that dog that could be up there with us and now she could not be. It is so heartbreaking.
Her 18th Birthday came in 2016 and this past year has been the most tough. She began not being able to hold her poop, either. It would just slide right out as she was sleeping, then she would wake up, realize it, step in it, and pace the kitchen till I woke up and I'd come down and find a kitchen floor filled every inch of glued on poop prints. This is where the stress began to wear in and I became angry at the universe for doing this to my dog and me. The work was so tremendous I would sob and cry scrubbing it up, glued on. You could not crate her because then she would be covered in crap. Plus she needed access to water at all times. My husband and son had patience and never pressured me about her- they would sometimes be the one to come home or wake up to a poop kitchen but they cleaned up and left me alone as best they could. I know people would be saying, "Its time to put your dog down!" but I couldn't. She was in her right mind and so aware and she never lost one bit of her mind as she aged. How could I be so selfish to end her because I didn't have it in me to keep cleaning my kitchen. So I cried and cleaned many, many times.
Her 19th birthday came this past December. She began having trouble walking and her bones were getting contorted and it was suddenly harder for her to stand up or walk. I had begun helping my dog get up. When we brought in the Christmas tree, she saw it, smelled it, and suddenly had a second wind! She was getting up all on her own, looking for Christmas, smelling presents, waiting for us to tell her "when". After Christmas, she had trouble again. She peed blood and began drinking tons of water in one shot. I didn't need the vet to tell me something was wrong and I doubted very much there was anything a vet could do for a 19 year old dog with advanced congestive heart failure. I called and made an appointment for home euthanasia. I called this past Monday and they set it up for this past Wednesday evening.
I woke up Wednesday and baked brownies. She loved brownies and almost killed herself once stealing chocolate. I let her rest and sleep the morning away and when she woke and became alert, around 2pm, I offered her a brownie. She was like, "wow, this is awesome." I then picked her up in the supersoft blanket I got her for Christmas so I could hold her without being dribbled on with pee. I held her on my lap a long time, then got the idea to give her one last walk- since we had shared many wonderful walks but she had not been able to go for much of a walk for the last couple of years. I carried her outside in the blanket and she enjoyed going through the neighborhood with me- she knew I was walking with her and she sniffed the air and enjoyed it.
Pizza was her absolute favorite. I didn't normally give her pizza for dinner- maybe a bite or two because she cried so hard to have some but this day, she sat on my lap in her blanket and I cut off tiny pieces of pizza and she kept eating bite after bite until she ate two whole slices minus the crust. Incredible. After that, she seemed truly, truly content and I sat back down with her in the blanket as she rested on me. Shortly later, my doorbell rang and the vet came in. They did the whole procedure with her still content and resting right on me after her pizza. I tried to make it the best day possible giving her all the things she loved. I still was not really ready. It was so much work- I can't throw her pills away, I can't look in any direction without being flooded by memories of my two amazing Rat Terriers. What more could I possibly want? How can it not be enough, how can I be so grief stricken when I've been so incredibly lucky to have had them for so long, and how can I not feel relief from the messes I had to clean? How could I prefer to still be scrubbing dried, glued on poop? I feel that Wednesday was one of, or possibly the most, difficult day of my life.
Thank you if you made it this far.