The Last Day

What do you do when you know for sure it’s the last day? Some of it, for sure, is what you’ve been doing for months. At five in the morning, you hope the dog you’ve nursed those months hasn’t soiled the bed and that you can get him out in time. This morning happened to be an epic fail, but some mornings you make it. But after that—after the dog goes back to sleep and you can’t—you go to Starbucks and get him a pup cup. That follows the extra breakfast you already gave him, and the treats you’ve been handing out with ridiculous frequency since you gave up on the idea of even dozing. You get down on the floor by his bed and you hug him. No, he doesn’t particularly appreciate that; unlike your last Lab, this one’s not a hugger, but this hug’s for you, and so are the kisses you plant on his face between telling him how much you love him over and over. He clearly thinks you’ve gone over the edge, but is thrilled by your tumble into insanity since each kiss comes with another big treat.

You get a text from a vet who was surely created out of equal parts skill and kindness, the one who’s taken care of him through the entire terrible spinal injury, the hospitalizations, the “crate rest” for 8 weeks, the one who taught you how to do his physical therapy at home. The vet who rejoiced when your dog was able to stand alone, to walk with a wonky gait, and, this summer, finally swim in the wide, singing creek in our nearby forest. You sent him and his staff videos, and they never failed to respond, cheering him on. The text from him says he’ll take care of your beloved dog on his day off, when the clinic is closed for the holiday. You know it’s pure kindness.

The last month or two the nerve damage from the spinal cord injury has reasserted itself. You see your dog struggle more and more. You hear how he starts panting at the beginning of walks that are shorter and shorter. And you start with the questions: is it time? Not yet. Not yet, you say.

He falls more and can’t get to his feet without help. He can’t do stairs at all anymore. Then suddenly he can’t really help by getting his front legs into the car while you lift his back end.  It’s harder and harder to lift him. He’s no Great Dane, but he’s not a Yorkie either. He’s your beloved Lab. He’s Scout, who loved to run, to jump, to play, to retrieve and retrieve and retrieve. Tennis ball Scout. Guard dog Scout.

Six or eight weeks ago there’s a skin infection that seems to be allergy. You treat it. You’re hopeful. It comes back with a vengeance and spreads. You find big clumps of his hair all over the house. It’s apparently not an allergy, the vet says. Could be his immune system breaking down, could be cancer, could be mange. Only way to know is testing. Testing is invasive.

His back legs give out and he can’t get up without help. You agonize. You ask for whom are we doing this?

It’s time.

Today, you take him to the woods and you let him sniff and sniff. He drops his ball every couple of steps, and you pick it up and give it back to him. You encourage him into the wide, singing creek he loves and you soak your shoes to get him back out when he falls there.

You prepare another bowlful of meat and cheese and hand feed morsel by morsel while you lie by his bed on the floor where he rests, and you love him. And you know. It’s time.

One last time. Good boy, good boy, you whisper, and stroke his ears. Good boy. Good bye. Good dog.

It was time.

Thank you from our hearts to those of you who have shared this journey with us.

(for Alan)

57 Responses to The Last Day

  1. Oh Lynne – I’m so so sorry and can’t imagine how difficult it was for you to write this. I hope it was just a little bit healing. I am holding you and Alan close to my heart. ❤️

  2. Oh Lynn and Alan, my heart goes out to you. I’ve been there. It hurts like hell and it isn’t fair. Why! The question echoes with no answer. We love them so much and can’t fix it. Why? I’m so very, very sorry. Scout was loved. That is important and all that there is. He also loved you. Love.

    • You’re so right. There’s so much we just can’t fix no matter what we do and loving requires we be there, do the things that don’t work, and endure it all in so many circumstances. And love what we love. I know you understand, Rosalyn. Thanks.

  3. Such a beautifully-written tribute, Lynne. I’m so sorry for your and Alan’s loss. Scout must have had a wonderful life with you, and I’m sure enriched yours immeasurably. I still think of my cat Jasper almost every day…good to see you recently and look forward to seeing you again soon. XOs

    • We don’t forget them, do we? They are such a part of our daily lives, greeting us, rubbing against our bodies, comforting us wordlessly on a bad day, absorbing our daily small irritations and happy surprises and meeting them with concern primarily about whether our being distracted is going to delay their dinner or walk. And that’s a good, healthy perspective for us a lot of the time. Thanks for sharing about Jasper. I know you miss him still, as we miss Scout and always will.

  4. Warm tears and sending, love, peace, and commiseration. You both did everything right. Exactly right, and at the right time.

    • I so hope you’re right, Donna. I know we got the best advice we could and tried to discern what was best for him rather than us. Letting him go was unbelievably hard. The three of us went through so much together. Such a good, good dog. Thank you.

  5. Unconditional love – such a gift. Though Toby and I don’t have a dog anymore we enjoy the love from Mike’s and Jenny’s labs. I’m so sorry to learn of Scout’s suffering again.

  6. I’m so sorry, love. We just had to let go of our beloved Gyro. It was extra hard, because he was Chris’ cat. We held on to him as long as he had quality of life, and then we let him go. Thank goodness for small favors–the vet said we timed it exactly right. Another couple of days, and it would have been for us, not for him. He was only five pounds (from 18) but, until the day prior to his send-off, he’d been eating and drinking, purring and pooping. Letting him go hurt like hell, but it was, as you say, time.

    All my love to you, sweetheart.

    • Thank you, Terri. And I’m so sorry about Gyro, especially knowing he was Chris’ cat, widening and deepening the hole. I so wish it weren’t this way for us. You’ve always done the right thing and you did again. Sending you love and support.

  7. Lynne,

    Our hearts go out to you and Alan. You went above and beyond because you love Scout. And he knew how loved he was. He was a sweetheart. We grieve with you and offer the comfort of making a happy life for and with him. Truly a good dog and a good life.

    Sue and Rick

  8. So sorry about your pet dog. And anyone who has a pet knows that all they want to do is to make you happy and to be loved. They’re just wonderful companions They bring us happiness with their way. Is so sorry for your loss. It suggests that you get another pet right away
    Love and peace

  9. I am so very sorry about Scout. You three went through so much. Scout couldn’t have had better care. I am grieving with you. Sending my sympathy and love to Alan and you.

  10. I’m so sorry you’ve lost your dear Scout. ❤️ This is a beautiful tribute to him and the loving ways you found to say goodbye.

  11. The tears started halfway through and full on sobbing at the end. The few times we had to make that decision was so hard, I know exactly what you were going through. You and Alan gave Scout the very best life and did so much to help him through rehabilitation. I know you are experiencing that quiet house now, which is also so hard. Thinking of you both. ❤️❤️❤️

    • Oh, Carol. From the pictures and stories you’ve posted, I know what a dog lover you are. You’re right, and thank you for understanding.

  12. Thinking of you at this unimaginably difficult time. It’s been two years for our one Cavalier Spaniel and one year for the other. We also had to make the agonizing and impossible “it’s time” decision for both. We still see them in our hearts every day. You know, our dog family never really leaves us. Scout is running around in some other place just waiting for you.

    • I know so many dog people like you have also been through this, and I feel for each. Thank you for your caring and support and also for sharing a lovely mind-image, Elizabeth.

  13. Our dogs are a significant part of our everyday lives. Their loss leaves a deep emptiness and longing for that wagging tail and wet kiss. Holding you and Alan in gentle care as you grieve.

  14. I mopped away tears as I read this. What an exquisite tribute to your beloved dog. You were lucky to have him and he was lucky to have you. You gave him a good life and a good death. There’s a Raymond Carver poem that ends: “What more can we ask for/than to love and be loved/on this earth?” That’s it, really. He gave you that; you gave that to him. He will be with you always.

    Sending love, lots of it.–Deb

    • Thank you so much, Deb. I know you know about this from all your work with and at shelters and your own dogs. Your support over the last year has meant so much.

  15. I am so sorry, Lynne and Alan. It is heartbreaking to lose Scout. But if ever a dog was so ‘there’ for others, Scout would be the one. I am crying right now thinking he has left us.

    But he had a wonderful, happy life, living for his family and everyone he met, or who heard of him.

    Again, I’m so sorry for your loss, and our loss, too.
    Love, Tara

  16. Being where you all just were is the toughest part of dog love sharing. We know how hard you worked to make him better and how hard that was-words do not tell the whole agony. Even though your words are as good as they can get…they arent enough. He will walk again with us in the woods, in the water, in the snow and yes in indescribable crap made for rolling or munching. You rescued Scout and he rescued you as they do but he was champ at being heard and that silence is so hard. Know we are with you always, H B and Roxy

    • You’re right, Barb–words can’t capture the whole experience. Sometimes they’re all we have, and you know me, I have to try. But they’re not enough.

  17. So perfectly, lovingly written, of course.
    So very sorry. I know how difficult and heart wrenching the experience is. Snickie had a tumor that slowing and not so slowly took him a few years ago. Paws on your heart ❤️
    Love to you.

    • I didn’t know about your dear Snickers, Jan, and I’m so sorry. I know how hard that must have been. Thanks for caring about Scout now, too.

  18. I can’t claim to be one of those who have shared your journey, since I wasn’t aware of it, but thank you for sharing it with all of us today, this last day, so beautifully. Clearly you were both blessed to be in each other’s lives. Take good care of yourself and your family, P.

    • Preston, I remember your comments to earlier posts about what happened to Scout, and in that sense you, too, shared this journey with us by expressing concern and support–just as others have, and not a word of which has gone unabsorbed or unappreciated. Thank you so much.

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