When Jeff worried on Saturday evening that Sherlock may not make it through the night, I brushed aside his concerns. "He'll be fine," I said with a wave of the hand. "You just gave him his medication. It takes some time for it to kick in, and when it does, I'm sure he'll start eating again. You'll see."
Earlier that day, a little after 2pm, we arrived home after brunch at our friends'. All morning, Jeff waited for a call from the vet and the result of the biopsy, which would then determine the course of treatment. He spoke to the receptionist who told him that the vet wasn't in on the weekend and wouldn't be in until Tuesday. "I was told that we would have the results in 24 hours. We cannot wait until Tuesday," Jeff told the lady evenly. "Our dog is sick, and we need to get him his medication." Hours and multiple calls later, we finally had the medication. Sherlock hadn't eaten for days, and we were hoping the medication would help him regain his appetite.
After he fed Sherlock his one and half pills of prednisone, Jeff prepared the guest bedroom for Sherlock. He couldn't stand to leave Sherlock outside in such condition, despite T's allergies. He laid some towels on the carpet since all of Sherlock's beds were now weather beaten and filthy from being left outside. Jeff spent the night down there after helping put the kids to bed.
In the morning, Sherlock looked better. He still wasn't eating, but Jeff put some peanut butter around his pills and helped him swallow. In his bowl, we left out two of his favorite foods, salmon and cheese, and left to do our outing for the day. When we returned after lunch, we noticed that Sherlock still hadn't eaten and had thrown up what little he had. He was sitting by the side of the house, and Jeff cajoled him to his kennel where he could lie on his pad. When Sherlock started walking, his gait was staggered and he barely made it across the narrow yard.
While I was inside helping T go down for his nap and feeding S, Jeff sat outside with Sherlock hugging him and petting him. About an hour later, I went outside to see how they were doing. I saw Jeff sitting in front of the dog house crying. "I think I have to take him in," he said. "Look how he's suffering." Through the grates of his dog house, I could see Sherlock prostrated with his sides heaving up and down as if he were weighted down with bricks.
"Oh, no..." was all I could manage to say, and we cried and cried. "Tell me if that's not the right decision," Jeff asked through his tears. And I said, "I don't know, I don't know. I don't know when you're supposed to do something like that. How do you know?"
Jeff walked down the driveway with Sherlock's pad to put it in the back of his truck. Then he came back and waited for me as I finished petting him. He tried to cajole Sherlock out of the kennel but Sherlock couldn't move. Jeff reached in and pulled him out. Then, he picked him up and carried Sherlock's drooping 63 pound frame to the truck. There, Jeff hoisted him up on the back door propped open and climbed up. Once up there, Jeff picked up Sherlock once again and placed him on his pad. From his pad, Sherlock lifted his head to look at me as I stood on the curb. Then they drove away.
Jeff returned less than an hour later. I saw him come in through the gate and start throwing things away. Two doggie bowls, a doggie pad, kennel, a roll of poop bags, shampoo, brush. He said Sherlock didn't even make it to the hospital. When they arrived, Sherlock was barely breathing, and he died in Jeff's arms in the back of the truck.
Just two weeks ago, he seemed perfectly fine. Then this past Thursday, we found out that he probably had cancer, and three days later, he was gone. I can't stop thinking of the book Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, where people are born burdened, fated for a cruel end, and yet they live looking forward, propelling themselves to the next rite of passage. When I read the book, I thought days on end about how true it was, and now I can feel how true it is. And I feel so burdened -- burdened with our fates and what we've brought on ourselves -- by having a pet, by having children. I think of our aging parents, of our numbered days, our vulnerability.
I wish I had been kinder to him instead of treating him as a source of irritation all those days. That I had petted him more. That I hadn't shooed him out of my way all those times. That I had been more of a pal than an enforcer.
Maybe I'm too old to be learning these lessons, but then again maybe you're never too old to learn such lessons. I think of the 10 years that passed so quickly, and how those years sum up to nothing more than the time spent with each other. And I think about how I have to love my children and Jeff a little more, how I have to hug and kiss them a little more, how we have to laugh a little more. I think about my friends I want to see, the talks we can have, the times we can share. I think about being a little more kind, a little more generous, a little more forgiving. And with those thoughts, life feels like a little less and a little more at the same time.