December 18, 2007

The Finality of It All and Letting Go

Hogan is sleeping right now. He's twitchy, but he's been like that for months when he sleeps. Today, however, is different.

Hogan is going to die today.

This time yesterday, it didn't even seem possible. I've been back and forth on this issue for some time now. He's had a couple of strokes. The most recent one made the whole left side of his body weak. His ear drooped, as well as the whole left side of his face. The shape of his head even looked different as the muscles on the left side gave out. I spoke with his vet and she agreed that he probably wasn't in any pain. He wasn't any more tempermental with the kids or anything. He was just happy to be touched, even if that mean a toddler hurling herself onto his back while he rested. I would think that any actual discomfort would make him a little less welcoming. He had trouble walking and you could hear him limping around, every other step being much heavier than the last. He was still eating like a horse and doing his 'business' outside. He still followed me around and I couldn't even go to the bathroom without him seeking me out in a matter of seconds. He just seemed content to be near us.

He was very hard to look at, though. His posture was affected terribly and he cocked his head to one side. He had trouble walking through doorways, not being able to effectively determine depth and distance. His left eye even started to cloud over. In fact, his whole left side seemed to be shutting down.

Even still, he would also have some good days. He had days where he actually seemed to be starting to recover. His left side wouldn't droop as much and he even appeared to have more energy. He never seemed too uncomfortable or even sad. I just hate the idea of 'playing God' with a life like this. Some of you may not know this, but I used to work in a pet store that sold reptiles. I had no problem killing an animal to feed to another one. The animal had a purpose and it didn't bother me to end its life myself. It's all just a part of the food chain. After all, I eat meat. While I've never actually killed a cow with my own two hands, I still love a good burger or steak. That sort of thing has always been very 'black and white' for me.

Hogan, however, is a grey area. He's my dog. He's old. He's smart. He's dumb. He's a real pain in the ass, and he just gets worse everyday. But he didn't seem to actually be suffering, so long as made him feel safe and comfortable. He's only been an 'inside dog' a little more than a year now. He was always outside with the other dog we had. While he picked up on the idea of being inside and knowing his place in the house very quickly, he has become more work lately. But, I couldn't stand the thought of having him put to sleep simply because he was a burden on us. Because he was hard to look at. His life has more meaning than that, at least it does to us.

Last night, Hogan took a turn for the worse. He woke up from a nap at about midnight, sounding like he was maybe about to throw up. I raced to the back door to try to get him outside, which is always my first instinct when an animal makes that wretched sound. He stood up, as if he were to follow my directions. However, nothing came out of his mouth and he suddenly fell to his side. It was then that he appeared to be convulsing.

David, who had been napping in the recliner, jumped up and we both got in the floor with Hogan. We both stayed there for a good two hours, just reassuring him and petting him. He was calm, but his muscles seemed to have other ideas.

His breathing would get very labored, so much so that David and I would both say that we thought maybe this was 'it' for him. After a moment or two more, he would breathe again. I stared at him, caught between feeling sad that he was going and mad that he wasn't actually gone yet. I don't like seeing him like this. David finally went to bed at around 2:30 or so. I slept on the couch, while Hogan dozed in the floor right next to me. I am running on about three hours of uncomfortable sleep, and Hogan is still with us. However, he can no longer stand up. He has tried a couple of times and his back legs don't seem to want to work anymore. He can lift the front half of his body and reposition himself, but the back half pretty much wants to stay where it is. He pretty much just naps quietly right now.

I called the vet and we have an appointment to have him euthanized at 3:30 today. I will be with him when it happens. I didn't want to have to take him in because he always gets so nervous when I take him to the vet. I don't want his last moments to be in fear. But, he cannot go on like this any longer. The quality of is life has shifted dramatically in the last twelve hours. I have no doubts that today needs to be the day. The vet did tell me that we would just *know* when the time is right. And I know.

I'm not sure if he knew what was going on, but he was acting differently yesterday. He even chased the Schwan's guy away as he walked to his truck. He didn't bark or bare his teeth. He just followed that guy with his snout practically resting on the back of his leg with every step. He was just making his presence known, as he always does when I'm home alone with the girls and a man comes to the door. Even if he practically knows the guy. That's Hogan. He even got something off the kitchen table. I wouldn't have thought that a dog with very little control over half his body would be able to manage something like that. But, he did it yesterday.

Well, I have a school program to go to tonight, a cookie exchange being hosted by a friend, and I still need to bake the cookies for it. And in between it all, I have to get Hogan to the vet at 3:30 to be put down.

When it rains, it pours. And it's definitely raining right now.


wildtomato said...

Oh, Leann, I am so sorry. You're right: when it rains, it pours. RIP, Hogan.

REENblack said...

I'm so sorry. He looks like such a great dog...he had a good life. I'll be thinking of you.

SJSFalter+ said...

Oh sweetheart Im so sorry. I am crying like a baby and I didnt even know him. You did the right thing.