My hairy sister was a Chocolate Lab/Chessie mix named Cinnamon. My parents split the cost of her with my half-sister’s Dad. Lisa had always wanted a dog. The reality of owning a puppy wasn’t quite what she expected so the responsibility became mine at the age of six. Lisa moved away to college and Cinnamon stayed with us. She became my dog, my friend, my family. We had quite a bond.
I got older, she became geriatric in dog years and eventually her kidneys and liver began shutting down. I bought her rotisserie chickens and shared all of my food with her. At that point, it didn’t matter. I wanted to make her remaining days the best possible. She lived much longer than the vet expected her to. He said she likely wouldn’t be around two weeks from then. She lived almost six months. She didn’t appear to be in pain, though she was less active during her last days. She still followed me around and popped her fronts legs up off of the ground repeatedly when she saw me grab the leash. Walk time!
We weren’t planning to put her to sleep unless we noticed that she was struggling. The thing about Cinnamon is that she wasn’t very stoic. Her doofy doggy sibling, Jesse, had his knee and hip replaced by the time he was three years old and didn’t whine once. Cinnamon had some fatty cysts removed and cried for two days straight. I cried with her because it made me so sad.
We knew she wasn’t in much pain because she seemed happy, so we gave her and ourselves the extra time to enjoy each other’s company.
I was away for a weekend visiting a friend when my Mom called to let me know that I should come home if I wanted to say goodbye to Cinnamon. My pup was in the sunroom laying on her side and was having trouble breathing because her entire body had become fluid overloaded, likely because her kidneys had completely stopped working. She was on a sleeping bag barely aware of her surroundings, but when she saw me walk in, her tail started to smack against the floor. Her less-hairy sister had come home! It was difficult to see her like that. When I walked into the house to announce my presence I could see that my Dad had been crying.
My parents called the vet earlier in the day to see if he could come out to put her to sleep because we didn’t want her to suffer any longer than she had to. Our vet had been called away out of town and wouldn’t return until the following afternoon so we considered loading her into the car to take her to a 24-hour emergency vet in Columbus.
I went back out to the sunroom to be with my homie. I stroked her head and ears as I listened to her labored, irregular breathing. I told her it was okay to let go. She didn’t have to suffer anymore. Not even a minute had passed before she took her final breath, exhaled, then started to twitch. A few seconds later, she was completely still, tongue hanging out of her mouth. She was gone. Maybe it was a coincidence that she died right after I told her it was okay but I like to think she understood what I was saying and that she was happy she didn’t have to die alone.
Cinnamon was cremated and her ashes were buried under a lilac bush. That bush has been transplanted three times to three different properties. Cinnamon, the lilac bush.
We went through something similar just three years ago with our Rat Terrier, Gidget. In many ways, it’s worse than losing a human family member. Dogs are inherently selfless and good. The same can’t be said for most people. It seems unfair that they have such short lifespans, but I don’t think a person can know true love until they’ve had the love of a canine companion.
I’m reminded of all of this because this morning when I visited Whiz to fill her water bowl and spritz her with shedding aid, she was dead. She started having problems with her eyes a few weeks ago and was so blind that she had to be hand fed. What I initially thought was a fungus was actually retained skin that hadn’t shed properly. I don’t know if this was owner error (a new lightbulb, changing the type of substrate) or if she was just old. When I was home, I was sure to spray her tank with water a few times a day. Having been away more often than I’ve been at home for the past four months, I don’t know how well she was taken care of while I was gone. I also have no idea how old she was when I found her, though I assumed she was a juvenile. It’s not really a surprise. The surprise is that she lasted as long as she did after we noticed there was a problem. Yes, it’s a little sad. She was cool. I scooped her up and then…flushed her down the toilet. Sort of like an urban Viking funeral. 😉
So long, Whiz!