You may have noticed that I never finished Domino’s story (see part 1 and part 2 here). Part of me wasn’t ready to write about the end, because I didn’t want it to be over. Like if I still have something to write, then she’s still here with me. It’s not over. But also, I wondered, what is there even to say? If you have ever lost a dog, you know how devastating it is. But I feel like I have one more good cry in me. If you don’t, then skip to the happy videos below.
“She was everything,” Craig said when we got home. Without our dog. Only tears.
We had held it together as best as we could all morning. We took her on a long walk, further down the streets of Harlem than we had ever been. We went because walks in new places were her favorite. And what else are you supposed to do while you wait? We had her pose for a picture, but I won’t post it here because it only shows how very, very sick and sad she was. As we neared the vet’s office, we had to stop several times to try to pull ourselves together. A man on the street commented on our dog’s sad face, but I couldn’t explain to him that this was her last day. Her last hour.
I hadn’t expected to have to sit in the waiting room; I thought they would sense our grief and usher us directly into a room where we could be alone with our heavy thoughts. But we sat and waited as the minutes stood still. Domino immediately laid down, exhausted. Until a puppy came over to lick her face and gave her an infusion of that puppy energy that Domino embodied not 6 months prior. It only lasted a couple of seconds but she seemed slightly renewed and stood up for a couple of seconds to greet the puppy. Maybe she told him the secrets of a good doggy life. Maybe she wasn’t jealous of that little dog, but I sure was. It seemed scripted and tragic for us to all be sitting there together at that moment. How could I be expected to hold my shit together?
As Craig was taking a moment, presumably to get his shit together, in the restroom, the vet tech called me up. Like every other visit, they asked Domino to get on the scale in the waiting room. I hadn’t expected that either.
41 pounds. We had just been here less than a week ago to get new medications, and she had weighed 47 pounds then. But she hadn’t eaten since then. The nasty tumor in her stomach had taken away her joy of food. Now food made her throw up. She threw up every afternoon. She threw up in the middle of the night. And then again in the morning. But at some point she realized that she didn’t have to throw up if she didn’t eat any food.
And now my little girl (the one who people on the street had poked fun of for being “well-fed” before we put her on a diet several years back) had shrunk to 41 pounds.
The scale broke me. When the vet tech realized I wasn’t going to be able to pull my shit together anymore, she allowed me to continue crying as she led me to the room around the corner. Away from the waiting area. We weren’t waiting anymore.
Craig rejoined me, and I dried my eyes as the vet explained every step of what was going to happen. First, they took her into the back room to put an IV line in her leg. They suggested we might want to pay our bill at the front desk while they did that so that we wouldn’t have to do it afterwards. We appreciated the suggestion. And I appreciated that Craig did it.
When they brought her back, we sat on either side of Domino on the floor. She was lying comfortably on a soft blanket they put down for her. We hadn’t thought to bring anything. (Though we had always joked – back before it was a real thing – that if this moment ever came, we would bring dirty laundry. How many times had we woken up to find her curled up in our dirty laundry basket?)
Then they left us alone to say goodbye. We sat with her for a couple of minutes, mostly just to give ourselves time to brace ourselves. To cry some tears before trying to be strong so that she wouldn’t be scared. We had said goodbye many times before this. Every minute at this point was just torturous, especially for our little girl. Our dog who LOVES going to the vet and normally runs around and basks in all the attention from strangers. Now just lying on the floor. Hardly lifting her head when the vets talks to her.
It was beyond time.
We called the vet back in. She again explained what was going to happen. We nodded, hoping she would hurry so that we could cry again. There are 2 injections that go into the IV line that was already in place. I don’t remember what they do, except that the second one is the one. And as the vet slowly pushed the injection through the tube that went into my baby girl’s leg, I held my breath so that I wouldn’t cry. And halfway through, my baby girl looked up at me, and I told her it was okay. She rested her eyes. And it was over in seconds.
The walk home was only slightly easier than the walk there. You don’t think about how you’re going to be carrying a leash and a collar.
Everyone deals with grief differently. Craig and I dealt with it the same. We threw out everything. The orthopedic bed. The blanket that kept her warm that last week.The bottles upon bottles of pills we had tried. The sweater and the rain jacket we bought her in those last months when we started realizing if we were ever going to dress her up like a city dog, this was our last chance. We hid every evidence of ever having had a dog. We scrubbed every surface in our house, though we knew we would find clumps of dog hair in the months to come. Under the bed. Behind the couch. Blowing across the room like a tumbleweed.
And when there was nothing left to clean, we got out of the house.
We took the train to Brooklyn. For no other reason than to not be in our empty home. We walked the streets. We got a drink. We retreated home and cried.
We cried – A LOT – the first week. The first month. And it made me think of how we all try to hold our shit together at funerals – and not cry. Which is just silly. You’re at a funeral. With the people you love. And the people who loved the person who died. Funerals are the perfect time to cry! And it makes you feel better! I’m so glad that Craig and I allowed ourselves that time to grieve. Not to say it’s over (because I definitely cried all the way through writing this, and I’m sure Craig will cry reading it), but it helped us be close to each other and to know when one or the other of us needed a little extra support.
We all want our dogs (and our people) to go quickly at the end. We don’t want them to have to suffer. And I’m grateful that Domino was very healthy right up until her 10th birthday. She had puppy energy even as her face turned white with age.
I sooo wish that she could have had just one more year of energy so that she could have fully enjoyed our road trip across the country and our new home in NYC. She would have loved this city, with all the people she had yet to meet. She might have even liked seeing snow again after 8 years in the desert.
But, I’m grateful that in the last 6 months where she started to lose her energy, we kept her busy and let her see the whole country (she went swimming for the first time in San Diego, cuddled with us during an exceptionally loud thunderstorm while camping in Grand Teton NP, saw bison in in Roosevelt NP), before eventually settling in NYC where she saw a street rat and was just as excited as if it were a squirrel.
I’m also grateful that in the end, she trusted us enough to take care of her. She looked to us for comfort. And I got more cuddles in the last month than she had given me in her entire life. Here are a few of my faves from the last 6 months. The first one is while we were cat-sitting in Tucson before the trip. The second one is Domino putting up with our drunk-kid antics in a hotel which Craig’s parents graciously put us up in during the trip. And the last video is of her sleeping, the night before she rejoined the stars.