She’s Gone | The Loss of a Pet (2)

She’s Gone | The Loss of a Pet (2)

I can’t say if anything prepares you to say goodbye. The experience of the loss of a pet can crush your core. Chloe could have cared less for even getting out of bed. High-pitched sing-songs for “breakfaaaaaaast” were ignored. I hadn’t given her any insulin Monday evening so the lethargy and disinterest in food could have been because her blood sugar was higher than normal, which the vet was going to check out. I packed her food, insulin, sweater, and some softie toys for her to have smells of home. 

My first update from the vet came at 9 am. She won’t eat, she won’t drink. They administered sub-cutaneous fluids, an antiobiotic, anti-nausea, antacid… and painkillers – she was “resting comfortably now.” Initial blood work from the previous night checked out okay. The vet recommended testing for pancreatitis to see if there was a flare up and also valley fever, but she wasn’t displaying any symptoms of either. Her liver enzymes were very high and with complete certainty, little Chloe was ill and they needed to try to find out why. They would call me back when the vet got out of an upcoming surgery and let me know of any progress.

A little over an hour later, I hadn’t heard anything, and called. And was placed on hold. For a long time. Just so we are clear, by the end of the day,  I was ready to punch this vet. For THIRTEEN AND A HALF YEARS I have been taking Chloe to this veterinarian office and I had NEVER been blown off or disregarded like this frigging vet was treating me. I finally ceased communication with her and spoke with one of the technicians.

Chloe’s 13th b’day party/”bark mitzvah” thrown by her “Auntie Heather & Uncle Kevin”
When I would ask, “exactly HOW SICK is Chloe” I couldn’t get a straight answer.
By noon, Chloe had been given additional fluids, more anti-nausea, and more painkillers. I couldn’t help but do the math because the costs were adding up, very quickly (and I resented that I was doing the math). By 1:30, Chloe was being administered IV fluids, electrolytes, pain killers… and was “resting comfortably.” And I started to understand, because know one was telling me but I could read between the lines, I was going to have to make a decision, at what point was I going to HAVE to say, at 13 ½, I cannot justify additional costs just to try to find out what is ailing my little dog.
My biggest fear was staring at me through the black face of my blackberry screen. At 13 ½, when do I say, my little dog has fought long enough. She has come back from near death multiple times already, has had multiple surgeries, already, and was such a strong, sweet, little fighter who even when in pain (already) and sick (already), would still be just so sweet and so happy.
Such a quiet, little, loving, stoic. Chloe could not stand on her own, her fever was not dropping, I was going to have to transport her to an overnight emergency vet for observation through the night, but for now, she was “resting comfortably.” Umm, no. She was stoned out of her mind.
Looking for clams in Mexico.
Was I really giving up on her by saying $1700 (total cost of treatment up to that point — that day — and still not-performed-but-recommended-tests) is too much money to try to find out what’s wrong — $1700 before we can even begin attempting to treat (if we even can treat) what we might find out is wrong? And was I really being fair for her for thinking oppositely, and deciding that, no matter the irrationality and (frankly) irresponsibility of accruing whatever cost I could to try to keep her with me? When would I decide that my little fighter has held on long enough, that it’s okay for her to go, that she can let go?
At my totally open-office-environment, in the company of a good colleague, I broke. As he talked me through the reasons why I could the best doggie-mom NOW and help her let go, NOW. I started sobbing. I totally and fully… LOST. MY. SHIT. On the work floor. In plain sight of employees, other managers, other directors, I could not have created any more of a circus if I channeled PT Barnum. COMPLETELY UNPROFESSIONAL.
And, as he gently explained to me, I had made my decision, and I didn’t need to feel badly about my decision… for her, I was making the decision. And, he was right. I was right, and this time, I did not want to be, right. I wanted to hear the vet tell me what she wouldn’t tell me. I wanted the vet to tell me she could fix Chloe. I wanted the vet to tell me Chloe still had more fight, more life in her.
But I didn’t get that answer. In fact, I got NO help from that awful woman (why oh why couldn’t have Dr. Jensen been here one more time to help Chloe and me?).
Here she is, healthy — about 7 years ago — looking at how full her little belly is… by the time she passed, I could encircle her “waist” with my hands. At her healthiest she was 19 pounds. She weighed 13 pounds on 01/11/11.
I left work. I called my mom, whom I had been texting – my mom actually is the one who found and purchased Chloe. And my mom, alone, knew exactly how significant Chloe was to me. In fact, Chloe was originally my mom’s, but my mom gave her to me when she realized my Chihuahua liked her (my mom) more than me and Chloe and I had a sweet little connection. My mom heard my voice, cracking and choking, and she knew. I knew. We both knew what I had to do.
Swimming lessons. Chloe liked to chase lizards. She fell in the pool once and sank. Fortunately, we were outside and rescued her. We decided she needed to learn how to swim.
I did not want her to hang on in pain. She gave me far too much in my life for me to force her to live in misery. I did not want to come home from work – or anywhere – one day to find she died when I was away, to think that she could have died painfully, and alone. I did not want to get a call from any vet office telling me they lost her, and she died, locked in a little kennel, away from smells and sounds and textures she knows.

I called the vet office and spoke with Theresa, a vet technician who I have been working with at the office for years and years. And I told her, “we’re going to let Chloe go, tonight.” And Theresa finally told me what no one else would. “Yeaaaaah, Jennifer, she’s not doing well. We don’t know what’s wrong. I think you’re making the right decision. You’re making a good choice. I’m so sorry. I’m really sorry. We tried, we did.” We made arrangements for me to arrive in about 30 minutes and they would have a family room ready for me to spend with Chloe for as long as we could, and Chloe’s euthanasia would be the very last thing the vet did that day. I stopped to get some cheese. To hell with the diabetes and the bladder stones and the damaged pancreas, cheese would not hurt her, anymore. And she loved cheese, and couldn’t have any because of her restricted diet. My little dog was going to have cheese, if she could eat the frigging cheese.

And I got to the vet, and I was brought into the room, and I waited for Chloe. Theresa told me she called Dr. Jensen, who wished me to have her regrets and condolences, and who also stated that Chloe has fought a lot, and even though she’s not there to see Chloe herself, it sounds to her like “it’s time.” I actually appreciated that a call was made to my primary vet, even though the answer was what I didn’t want to hear.

When Rachel carried her in, my limp little dog smelled me, and perked up, and got a little shot of energy. Rachel put her on the ground, curious to see of Chloe would stand, and she ran right to where I was sitting. And she wagged her little tail-nub – and I swear she smiled. Rachel exclaimed amazement and stated that they had not seen as much energy from her in the entire day. I picked her up, and she just melted into my lap, and fell asleep, instantly. I held her, alone in that room, my tears falling on her little, white, forehead and I brushed back her eyebrows. And I spoke to her. And fed her come cheese, before she lost interest in even that.

She couldn’t even stay awake as I held her. And I sobbed. I didn’t even try to be quiet. I cried, completely heartbroken. At 5:47, the vet came in. She medically, sterile-ly explained how the injection would work. I carried Chloe to the table, and she looked up at me, with her huge, brown eyes, and she just looked so tired, and… sad. I gently laid her on the cushion on the table, and then embraced her.

I stared at her left eye, the only one I could see from the angle which I held her, and I alternately sketched back and forth to the needle I allowed the vet to stick in her little leg, and the blue solution – a powerful blend of barbiturates that would shut off all functioning in her brain. I knew, in less than moments, she would be gone… because I signed a paper (and paid $1048) and gave the vet permission to humanely kill my dog. In front of me, because I held my helpless, trusting, little, Chloe when the poisons were injected into her.
She’s gone.” 
That’s what heart break sounds like. A true shattering of one’s core. 
Her heart stopped beating after I knew Chloe was really gone. I knew the instant “Chloe” left. I saw her eye change, and that’s when I knew the barbiturates entered her brain. There was no shudder, no sigh. She left, still and quiet.
Getting blessed by one of the Franciscan Friars from St. Mary’s Basilica at “The Casa” (Franciscan Renewal Center) for the annual blessing of animals.
AND I KNOW that Chloe (is) “just a dog.” I KNOW. But she was mine, wholly mine. The one thing I haven’t totally fucked up as an adult. Chloe. Was there for every break-up. EVERY break-up. The big ones, the unexciting ones. She was there when some jerk wouldn’t call, and she was there when the loser-who-couldn’t-get-a-clue wouldn’t stop calling. When I broke up with my best friend of 13 years from high school, she was there. When I found myself terrified in my condo, living alone for the first time in my life, she was there. She filled this horrible little condo with life when I was a veritable walking dead woman. She helped me build a home, and I probably invested far more of my emotional self into my little pup, but she was the constant in my adult life.
In fact, it’s easier for me to think about what part of my life hasn’t had Chloe in it. She has flown across the country, road-tripped into Mexico, tag-alonged to interstate polo tournaments, investigated cattle on a New Mexico ranch, and stalked horses…. Chloe hiked and camped all over the state, swam in the ocean with me, camped on beaches. Heck, she was featured in a local news promotion spot as a doggie model…. Where hasn’t she gone with me?

People can disappoint. We lie. To each other, to ourselves. She didn’t, not once. She kept me honest, she kept me accountable. I had a rhythm in my life that revolved around my little dog. That rhythm, the heartbeat that depended on my protection and my nurturing (the rhythm and heartbeat that stabilized my own rhythm and pace), stopped, somewhere between 5:51 and 5:53 pm Tuesday, January 11, 2011.

She’s… gone.

The last picture I took of her.

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous
    January 23, 2011 / 4:05 pm

    Oh Jenni,
    My heart breaks for you. I was in tears as I read your story. I know how difficult a decision that was to make….only time can heal the loss you feel….love you, Aunt Cathy

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