“Before you close your eyes, say a little prayer…every day, in every way, it’s getting better and better…beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy.” ~ John Lennon.
Pretty Boy Zoid is no more. He lives across the veil now, and frolics in the bright green meadows and chases as many squirrels as he can.
Pretty Boy Zoid, or Maximus Otto Servidio, as his certificate of ownership officially stated, crossed the Rainbow Bridge on September 1 at 3:10 pm. He died peacefully, as we, his family, surrounded him and gave him the greatest gift that we ever could give him.
The day I adopted Max, and many times over his 13-year lifetime, I have saved him from death. Every single skill that I learned throughout my years of nursing had paid off; I nursed him back to health on so many occasions, I cannot count. And it was all worth it. But for the past week, regardless of what I did, what I purchased, how many things I tried, I could not save him. We all agonized over the decision, and I guarantee you, it is not an easy one to make. Our first dog spared us from making the decision; she passed on her own, after what appeared to be a rally from her, on a day when I was called into work emergently. But our wonderful, beautiful boy was suffering, and we couldn’t stand to watch it. He had stopped eating, and he was only drinking minimally. He had pneumonia (something that our former vet overlooked), a blown out knee (in humans, it is known as the ACL), and had such severe osteoarthritis of both hips that he was barely able to move. He was on a huge cocktail of medications, which he had stopped taking, the day before I called Journey’s End, and had this new vet evaluate Max on Saturday. Because of his size and the breeds he was mixed with, the new vet told me that even if we were to cure Max’s dehydration and pneumonia, he would never recover from the surgery. Most large dogs of advanced age do not do well with hip replacements. We asked about wheelchairs, slings, rear harnesses. We asked about every single thing that we could do, to save this poor dog’s life. We were at a point of desperation; he was our boy, he was loved by everyone, he was the friendliest dog in the world, and we could not face the fact that we were slowly losing him. Desperation at the end is something that most pet owners face, and had it not been for the wisdom of our teenaged daughter, who actually was Max’s true owner since she was 4, he would have been malingering.
And so, on Saturday, September 1st, at the very end of the summer, I saved Max from life.
Before Saturday, I actually never believed in euthanasia. Well, I’m not going to say “didn’t believe in”. I actually believed in it for humans, especially for those who were malingering in comas for months and even years, enduring decubitus ulcers and ventilators and all sorts of treatments, in order to allow the family to keep the dying with them just a little bit longer. I would actually pity the patient, and as horrible as this sounds, I would wish that they would peacefully pass, or that someone would come and put them out of their misery, because the soul was no longer there - it was just a body. It offered comfort to the family, but not much; when the end is in sight, as I said earlier, humans will resort to desperate measures at all costs to keep the beloved with them.
Any time a friend or family member had to euthanize a beloved pet, I felt badly for them. It was not just for the loss; that is painful enough. Pets are a part of our family, and as any pet owner knows, they are irreplaceable. Unconditional love, that adoration in their eyes, their unique personalities - these are things that non-pet owners cannot understand. No, the pain of the loss was not just what I felt for family and friends. It was the agonizing decision of having to put the animal down. And I prayed to God and every single religious figure, including St. Francis of Assisi, to help me to avoid having to put my beautiful boy down.
He had so much life in him; he was struggling on Monday of last week with the old vet, (who will no longer be used) who said, “Your dog is very healthy. He just has a bad back, and we should put him down now.” Max was on the table, completely alert, his eyes were fixed on mine, and he looked at me as if to say, “Get me the hell out of here - I want to go home and eat my kibble.” I refused, because the vet had said, “He will only get worse. You can get a little more life out of him if you use a rear harness or a towel under his belly.” The rear harness was like two leashes stuck together, and it did absolutely nothing for an 80 pound dog. The towel was putting too much pressure on Max’s abdomen, and so we resorted to having my husband carry him out to do his business. This continued through Thursday, when my daughter said to me, “I had a dream, two years ago, that this was the day that Max would die. Let him go in peace…does he look happy to you?”
I looked at my boy, and he was still smiling, wagging his tail, but he was not eating anymore. Nothing that I gave him actually stayed down; he vomited everything he ate. And on Friday, he completely stopped eating. I was able to get some natural healing solutions into him, but we all could see that Max had given up fighting. Every night, since he fell on the previous Saturday, when this all began, I whispered in his ear, “It’s okay to let go. It’s okay to go, if you have to go. I will miss you, but if you need to let go, then go.” He would turn his face on me, and I thought, “Wow, he has no intention of going anywhere. Maybe I’m wrong.”
Denial is a horrible friend. It teases you into believing that the impossible can happen. And so you hang on, one more day, in the hope that your buddy will last one more minute, rally, and get better. But this doesn’t always happen.
Making the decision to do it was the most heart-wrenching, difficult decision I had to make. I made it on my own, a day before my husband could come to terms with it. All the thoughts were running through our minds: guilt, betrayal, fear…we kept thinking, “We are murdering our dog.” But the thought of watching him slowly starve to death was more than we could bear.
The phone call to Journey’s End was the most difficult call I have ever made. I felt physically ill, emotionally tormented, and really, really guilty. Questions ran through my head; was I doing the right thing? What if he rallied back? Can I back out, once the vet is here? What if Max hates me for doing this to him?
I spent the entire morning, bathing Max. He had become incontinent of both bowel and bladder, and could not move at all to get out of his own way when he vomited. I gave him his final bed bath and brushed him, and sang, “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon to him, just as I did, every single day of his wonderful life. The hymn of St. Francis of Assisi came into my head, and I began to sing that to him as well, alternating the songs, and kept his head in my lap.
When the new vet from Journey’s End came to the house, he told us frankly what he had found. He told us, compassionately, that if this were his pet, he would do the humane thing, but it was our decision. He left us to discuss it as a family. My daughter said, “You know my feelings - I wanted to have him euthanized two days ago.” My husband slowly nodded his head, and I hugged Max, took a deep sniff of his fur, and felt the words slip out of my mouth: “Let’s do it; he doesn’t deserve to suffer anymore.”
The explanations were lost to me; I didn’t care what was going to happen. All I knew was that in a few short moments, Max would be gone forever, and I knew I could not prepare myself enough for it. Dr. Adam administered a sedative, but Max fought it, the entire time. It wasn’t because we were all there; I had his head in my lap, and my husband and daughter were close by, and petted him and said “Goodbye, Maxie”, which tore out my heart to hear the words spoken. I watched Max fight the sedative, and the vet said he might have to give him more, but then I realized what Max was doing - he was looking for his buddy. Max wouldn’t leave until our golden retriever, Candy, who was with him since she was 6 weeks old, was by his side. We got Candy to pull Max out of the depression of losing our first dog; she was much older than he was, and she could care less about him. But he was still despondent, so we got Candy, a few months later, to ease his suffering and depression. With that, I asked the vet tech to release Candy, and if I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed it possible. He put his paw on hers, she put her paw on his, and she lay at his side. It was then, and only then, that he closed his eyes, and Dr. Adam gave him the overdose of anesthesia. (He did not use potassium chloride) And in three seconds, my beautiful boy was gone.
It has been several days of heartache for all of us. My daughter, ever stoic, has said that she knew, and wanted him to go peacefully, and that she is glad that he is out of his misery. My husband, Candy and I are having a more difficult time with it. But I can tell you this; as agonizing as the task may seem, as unbearable as it may be, euthanizing your pet, when they are at the very end, is so much more humane than watching them suffer, watching them starve and suffocate. These were the things that we were warned about, what we had researched. And so, I am now on the side of euthanasia for animals for end of life reasons only. I still do not believe in gassing animals who are not adopted; I still do not believe in kill shelters. But I have crossed a bridge now; Max helped me to cross it. I had to learn to let him go, in a way that would be best for him. My heart may be broken, but I can heal.
Euthanasia, as I see it now, is not such a horrible thing. It is actually, to me, the greatest gift that one can give to their pet, especially when that pet is suffering miserably, and there is no hope for return. The animal is sedated, and it takes approximately ten minutes for the sedation to take effect. During this time, the family gives love and kisses, hugs, and cuddles to the pet, as he or she drifts off to sleep. During the sleep, the vet injects a fatal overdose of propofol, an anesthetic. In some cases, the animal is injected with an overdose of potassium chloride. In any event, the procedure lasts no more than three seconds, and the pet has passed. The ones left behind are saddened, yes, but you can rest assured, knowing that you gave your pet the greatest gift that you ever gave; you freed him/her from misery.
And as Life would have it, as I returned all of the special food I bought for him at Petco on Sunday, there were more “Shelter Mommy” items by the register than I had ever seen. Had I seen them previously, I would have proudly displayed them on my truck. But there was something that caught my eye; a necklace with a paw print on it. It said, “Who rescued who?” I bought it in a heartbeat.
Maxie, you rescued me. When I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t sure of anything, you came along and stole my heart, with a wag of that curly tail of yours, and your goofy smile. You helped me to love unconditionally, and when the final curtain fell on your life, you helped me to learn the lesson of letting go. It isn’t an easy lesson to learn, but you know, there isn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for you, you wonderful dog. Catch a squirrel across the veil for me, will you?
“By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run,
When their time on earth is over and done.
For here, between this world and the next,
Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.
No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.
They romp through the grass, without even a care,
Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.
All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.
For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
Together again, both person and pet.
So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
The time of their parting is over at last.
The sadness they felt while they were apart,
Has turned into joy once more in each heart.
They embrace with a love that will last forever,
And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.” ~ The Rainbow Bridge Poem
RIP, my Maxie-boy. I will never forget you. <3