Sully’s Last Summer

Why is it that we never assume those we love will go before us. If we did would we still continue to love, or would the harsh reality of loss deter us? I have love and lost many times over; abandonment as well as death…yet I keep loving. Why when I know it’s futile?

I walked the length of the drive till I reached the mailbox that sits by the side of the gravel road in front of our property. I felt numb, as if simply going through the motions today. It occurred to me on my way back up the drive that this was the last summer. His last summer. Our last summer together. I had to stop and gather myself together as the harsh reality hit. This home, the only one he’s ever known; these five acres of grass he’s crossed, numerous trees he’s marked, area he’s protected, this is all he knows. This is where we brought him as a pup, this has been the totality of his world, and this is where he will find everlasting sleep. Our last summer together. Does he know he’s sick? Does he know that time is short and what we have right now is all we’ve got left? I wonder.

I’m angry. So angry I could pull my hair out and scream to the top of my lungs. I told the vet as much. I asked, why is it that people who don’t deserve animals are given them, yet we, me and my husband, have been wonderful parents to our boy, and he’s being taken from us? I don’t understand. Someone make me understand. He has been such a joy to us, and is so loved, and in return has loved us back, and yet we’re going to lose him. Where is the justice in that? Even the vet commented on what a good boy he is. There are so many owners out there who don’t deserve being parents…punish them. There are so many animals out there who don’t fit well into society…destroy them. Don’t take my boy. What did he do…we do…to deserve this? What did he ever do but love and protect us? What did we ever do but give him a good home?

Yesterday was a bad day. Yesterday my husband who has been in denial took our boy for his x-rays and finally had to face the truth as the vet confirmed what I knew all along; our baby is dying. He has a large mass under his lungs that is preventing him from breathing well that the vet suspects is Lymphoma. His Creatinine level is 4.5 which is dangerously high, and his kidneys are slowly shutting down. I let my husband attend this appointment by himself, because I knew he would need time to deal with his feelings on the way home, and it would be easier if I weren’t present. As he and Sully walked slowly towards the door I peered through the glass at him, he looked up at me, and just shook his head.

I’d asked to be put on speaker phone when the vet was giving him the results of the x-rays, but my husband asked him instead to phone me a bit later when he had time. He told the vet I was going to bombard him with questions, so it would be better if it were he and I, one-on-one, on the phone. He was right, and when he phoned an hour later I assaulted him with them: How? Why? When? What to do next? The vet was forthright and honest. He said there’s no reason why this happens, but seems to strike perfectly healthy dogs in early, or middle age. He cleared my conscience when he told me there was nothing that my husband and me did to contribute to this. I’ve been beating myself up with guilt over whether it could be something in the well water, something in the dog food we feed him, etc. Also, he eased my mind when he told me that even if we opted for chemo it wouldn’t heal him, but simply prolong it at this stage.

I told him it was all about making him more comfortable. If we did nothing he said he would have about 30 days before he would either seize up and have a massive heart attack, or would suffocate. Neither are acceptable to us. We discussed the use of Prednisone, a steroid, which could shrink the tumor temporarily and make it easier for him to breath, although the cancer would still be advancing. He warned me though if we started him on that to be aware that it can make him feel so good for the next couple of months it could appear he’s in remission, but not to be fooled by that. All it will do is improve the quality of his life temporarily, then will stop working when his illness has reached the final stage, at which point he said the humane thing is for us to put him down before he suffers any further. This is the path we’re choosing to take. I hope and pray that God is gracious enough to give us another four months so he can enjoy one more Christmas holiday lying in front of the fireplace.

My husband finally broke down. I’ve done nothing but break down. I have cried daily, every hour on the hour for the past couple of weeks. When I first began to realize something was terribly wrong the tears began, and they haven’t stopped since. Yes, he’s a dog, but he’s also a dog that we’ve  treated like a baby from the moment my husband brought him home. He rocked with mama in her rocking chair well after he was too big to sit in it with me. Slept in our bed with us, drank and ate the ice out of my glass, shared my ice cream cones with me, the food on our plates. We always left the tv or radio on for him when we’d go into town so he and Hound Dog wouldn’t be lonely, and argued over whether the rock n roll my husband wanted was better for him then the classical music I thought would make him smarter. He’s been a huge pain in my ass more often than not, and also the best companion I could ask for. He is such a big part of my everyday life I just can’t imagine life without him now.

I’ve finally broke through the block and the writing is helping to free me from some of the pain. I’m trying to will gratitude for the opportunity that we’ve had to have him in our lives for these past four years, but I’m so damn mad that it’s making it difficult for me to enjoy the memories and time we have left.  My husband summed it up perfectly as he sat and let the tears finally fall, “Everyone I let myself love leaves me.” Yes, they do, and frankly I’m exhausted by it.