I remember thinking, “But how will you KNOW when the end of your pets’ life is near?” As I write this with tear filled eyes, the computer screen is blurry and I keep pausing to rest my head in my hands to just sob. From time to time, Humphrey’s head will look up from his own paws to glance at me; but not often. He’s a very sick and very tired boy. And today he was given his life sentence.
Hours ago I sat on the floor at our vet’s clinic, gently petting him as we waited for the doctor to come in. The doctor who has been seeing Humphrey for at least a decade; who I used to work with at different animal clinic long long ago, and who knows me incredibly well as his client. “Okay, Ashley…” he said when he came in. I knew from his tone, and I couldn’t retain my tears. He continued to tell me about the diagnosis: a large mass in his chest, which has put pressure on Humphrey’s heart. He also has fluid in his lungs, and all of this is why he has been coughing for months. Months that I will never get back. I assumed he had acid reflux because it never seemed severe…until last night.
Last night I was sitting at my desk writing when I heard him cough. The cough was different this time though, I looked up and within seconds, Humphrey towered to the floor on his side. He attempted to get up three times and fell over after each one. I screamed for my husband who came flying down the stairs. I tried to explain what happened—it didn’t seem like a seizure, I just wasn’t sure WHAT had occurred. One thing was for certain though, Humphrey immediately transformed into a different dog. His eyes changed, his breathing became labored, and it appeared as if the will was sucked from his spirit. I almost had a panic attack…every ounce of me was shaking and I just kept saying, “I’m not ready. I’m not READY…..!” He calmed down some breathing wise, was able to go outside to potty, and we made it through the night without any other events. At 4:30 in the morning I heard him cough again and I stumbled out of bed. I could tell he was imbalanced and just not well…as much as I tried to sleep, it wasn’t happening and I knew that there was no way I could teach today.
I am glad I took the day off and that I was able to get him in to the doctor. But at the same time, I am so mad at SO many things. I’m mad at myself for getting so angry when he hasn’t been able to hold his poop and has accidents inside. I’m so mad at my negative thoughts that I have truthfully had, my impatience and frustration. Even recently I browsed the internet for Golden Retriever puppies because well, who doesn’t like looking at puppies?! And now I feel TERRIBLE. I had no idea. How could we have, right? But that doesn’t change anything. With my anger filters in sorrow and regret: how many more times could I have walked him around the neighborhood or taken him to the park? How many more photos could I have taken when he was healthy and fit and HAPPY? Sadness and fatigue now haze his beautiful brown eyes and the photos I have taken today remind me how quickly life can change.
Twenty-four hours ago he was playing with a ball and wagging his tail. He was following us up the stairs to the kids bedrooms and family room, he was begging for food and constantly under foot. Now I wonder, how will we go on without him?
I’m not dumb or irrational about my grief…I KNOW that time will heal us and that we will BE okay. I don’t think the world is going to combust or that anything serious will happen when Humphrey passes. But why do we have to experience this NOW? I’m not ready. I want more time.
There’s a good chance that you have had a pet of your own pass as well. Who is EVER ready for death to knock on their door step? So while I don’t know when it will happen, I do know that it will be soon. I don’t know how, but I know it will be tragic. I pray for my kids, that they can witness our strength and dignity through this time and that they will also grieve our Humphrey. I pray that they remember him always, as the Big Brown Wonder who used to knock them down SO often as babies, and who just recently, covered Pierson’s bare tummy and back with hundreds of kisses at bed time. I pray for my husband, OH how I pray for my husband…who picked Humphrey up and brought him home as an 8 week old puppy. Who endured major depression as a young adult, clinging to Humphrey the entire time. And while I pray for these things, I also want to remember, so bear with me as I share some of my favorites:
-The first day that I met Humphrey. It was my first unofficial date with Asa. Humphrey greeted me by knocking me down and slobbering all over me.
-When he lived me for a period of time while Asa and I were dating and later engaged
-When he jumped out of a glass basement window just to be near to Asa
-He ate a 30 pound bag of dog treats while we were out of the house…and then pooped for days
-He ate our Christmas ham while I was nursing Reese and had no idea
-He welcomed a prostitute who broke into our house while I was nursing Pierson (okay this just changed my crying to laughing. Thanks, Hump)
-When he sliced a major artery in his tongue after catching a stick at the park; that wasn’t funny, like at ALL, but the memory of it is just insane and it has made for a good story ;)
-The 5 times he has moved with us into different homes, each one of them he has followed us around in and helped make us feel SAFE
-How he used to break up our fights. He would sit in the middle of us and paw at our legs trying to get us to stop!
-How he constantly whines and barks and whimpers while riding in a car…until today. When he laid down the entire time and never made one peep. My heart shattered and I’ll never forget that.
-His many trips to Michigan, how he loves to sunbathe on the hill in my parents yard, overlooking the field of sheep
-Taking him hiking and walking, watching him fetch sticks in creeks
-How he welcomed our kids when each was born, and how he has loved each of them so very well
There are so many more. You don’t put 11 years of memories [Humphrey was 1 when we met] into a single blog post. You can’t. I don’t know what the next days will look like. I keep going from being fine and talking calmly, to just sobbing hysterically. Never have I felt so emotionally unstable, so heartbroken, or so shattered. If you know Humphrey, I’m so glad that you do. For so many of you, he has greeted you with sloppy kisses and begged for food off your plate. Thank you for loving him.
I love you, Humphrey Bogart Glass. When it’s your time, may you greet Jesus with a ball in your mouth, leaping and bounding through His pearly gates. Please greet me when it’s my time down the road, okay? I too, may be a little older and a whole lot more grey, but you’ll remember me right? Bring me your ball and you can introduce me to our Creator. While you are still here, I promise to do nothing but love you, hold you, pray over you, and give you whatever you want. Be strong always, dear boy, here or there.