Jake had an appointment at the CSU Animal Cancer Center at 11 am this morning. Paul took him up there for restaging, so we could check on the spread of the cancer. I got a sad call from him late in the afternoon while I was at work, telling me the ultrasound indicated that his spleen had ruptured. He was bleeding internally and would be gone soon…a couple days at the most…maybe even just a few hours.
Paul and I talked about whether I should make the drive up to Ft. Collins or if Jake could make it back to Denver. We decided that we would try to do it in Denver. The vets at CSUACC called Dr. Hedlin at Aspenwood Animal Hospital to let her know that we’d all be there in about an hour and to have a room set up for him. I left work right away and waited for them at the clinic.
When Paul arrived, Jake was laying on his bed in the back of the SUV. His eyes were looking around but not really registering anything. It took a few moments before he recognized me and managed a few taps of his tail to let me know he was back.
We carried him into the room on a stretcher and waited for Dr. Hedlin. Jake looked worn out and exhausted but fortunately did not seem to be in any pain. We spent about an hour in the room, talking to him and brushing his fur, as soft as it was the day he came home on 9/10/2001. He seemed ready.
The vet techs came in, shaved a small patch on his forearm, close to the furless scar tissue left over from the original tumor in 2009, and set the catheter. Dr. Hedlin came in and sat with us for awhile. We talked about how many times we had brought him to Aspenwood over the last 9 years, and what an amazing dog he was, particularly over the last couple years during his up-and-down battle against cancer. We all cried and said goodbye. She pushed the chemicals in the syringe and he fell asleep quickly, much faster than I expected.
As I watched him take his last breath, I couldn’t help but remember watching my mom do the same, a few months later the same year he was born. If you’ve never witnessed something like that, you may think that it’s tragic, or painful, or something to avoid. But it is truly an honor and privilege to be there when it happens to someone you love…when they leave us in a familiar place…surrounded by people who cared about them, and for them.
And so, if there’s a message here, you already know what it is. It’s a bit like the ending of that Monty Python movie, “The Meaning of Life” where everything is distilled to a few basic instructions. So simple:
Go for a walk with your dog.
Call your mom or dad, or someone close to you.
Try something new.
And don’t forget to take some pictures.