The Perfect Day
March 14, 2013 1:23 AM   Subscribe

Yeah cheers, that's just what I needed at work.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:30 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah... no. I couldn't possibly. No, really.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:51 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm feeling upset and I haven't even clicked on the link yet. To be honest I'm not sure that I will.
posted by spectrevsrector at 1:55 AM on March 14, 2013 [17 favorites]

It is a lovely story though, even if it's sad and bittersweet and a great idea of how to properly say goodbye to a beloved pet, by giving it a perfect day together where they get all the treats and you do all things you like doing together, while they're still capable of enjoying it.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:42 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anyone Remember Jon Katz from his slashdot days?
posted by delmoi at 3:00 AM on March 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

For those of you reluctant to click on the link.. it's a sweet story but not the devastating tale that you might expect.

I'm going to store the "perfect day" idea away for use some time down the road... here's hoping it's a long, long road.

For those of you with a love of dogs, I highly recommend "Drake" by Craig Kivi. It's a limited edition, self published work, you're not going to see it in the book store, you'll only find it on the web site.
posted by HuronBob at 3:28 AM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Katz is such a divisive character. I cannot agree with much he says about border collies or their training, and in his books he describes situations I'd call careless and even heartless. But he's a decent writer, and some of his anecdotes are amusing. My wife, who loves border collies like nothing else, abhors the man.
posted by maxwelton at 4:26 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bill Simmons, love him or hate him, wrote a beautiful piece about his last days with his Golden Lab a few years back.
posted by fredericsunday at 4:53 AM on March 14, 2013

Anyone Remember Jon Katz from his slashdot days?

posted by tommasz at 4:59 AM on March 14, 2013

I confess that story made me tear up in remembrance of my dog Pippy who did not have a perfect day before dying.

It also is making me wonder why I have now a cat who hates me instead of another loving dog.
posted by francesca too at 5:42 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Friends of the family recently had to put down their 14-yr-old amazing Border Collie, Maxwell Smart. They also gave him a Perfect Day (feeding him alll of the hot dogs he wanted, a gentle walk, lots of snuggles, etc), and then had a vet come to the house that evening. His passing was peaceful, and surrounded by his family. I hope that when the time comes for my two furry family members, I'm able to do something similar.
posted by Fig at 5:46 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Jesus, I just hope that when it's my time to go, then my children (or who knows, maybe my dog by that time will be able to do it, as well) will feed me bacon and steak, and take me for a walk in the park, and that evening let me sit on the couch and watch a Clint Eastwood movie.

I'm glad that some of us are able to have that Perfect Day. Because usually, death is nasty and painful and vicious, and I hope I never have to watch another loved one (furry or human) die in a hospital.
posted by math at 6:05 AM on March 14, 2013 [19 favorites]

Gotta say, seeing the link to the Amazon page for the camera the guy used dumped in the middle of the heartwarming tale kind of took me out of it a bit.

That said: .
posted by fight or flight at 6:19 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are really intent on crying at work about dying pets, I recommend this reddit comment from a couple of days ago.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 6:30 AM on March 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you are really intent on crying at work about dying pets, I recommend this reddit comment from a couple of days ago.

Ugh, brutal. Beautiful and brutal.
posted by bfranklin at 6:46 AM on March 14, 2013

When I made the appointment to have Zach put to sleep, I arranged it so I could have one last chill-out-around-the-house day with him. Even though he couldn't walk very well without having to stop and rest every few feet, even though he wasn't eating; I was there to chill out with him the whole day, checking in on him now and then for head scritches, rather than just being the person who was gone all day in the middle of the day whom he only saw in the evening.

At some point that day I saw him trying to cross the room towards his favorite chair, saw him summon some pissed-off level of determination and then get tired after a few feet, and I had this whole Sam-Gamgee moment and picked him up and carried him to the chair, and settled back onto a nearby couch while he was settling in himself.

About an hour later he woke up a bit and shifted to resettle himself, but suddenly fell over and went into this jerky, gaspy breathing; something was very clearly wrong, and I knew this was It and I rushed him to an emergency vet hospital, where I tearfully told them that no, they shouldn't perform any heroic measures, because I'd scheduled euthanasia for the following day anyway so I guess maybe this meant they should just do it there, and they did.

But when I called my regular vet the next day to cancel the euthanasia appointment and told them what happened, the tech said that the gaspy breathing he was doing was often the body's literal last gasp, one of the last flickers before death. "Which means," she said, "that at that point he was no longer aware of what was happening to him anyway."

And that means - the very last thing my cat was aware of was me helping him into his favorite chair and petting him before he settled down for a nap. And for that I am very glad.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:47 AM on March 14, 2013 [29 favorites]

Not only did our Airedale Stanley not get a Perfect Day before being perfunctorily put down by my mom, she didn't even warn me she had made that decision until after the deed was done (snif). But Homie is correct, I think the proper remedy for the pain of this loss is another Airedale – just as soon as I have the money/space/husband who is more amenable to the idea of having the dog version of Brian Blessed running around the house.
posted by Mooseli at 7:01 AM on March 14, 2013

Yeeaaah, no. I am still in the snotty hiccup-y stage when I think about the last pet death related thread, so I'm going to pass on this one but it sounds like it is a very touching story/good thing.
posted by halcyonday at 7:09 AM on March 14, 2013

The reddit thread linked above has a few people mentioning that their vets charged an extra fee ($300 quoted by one) if the owners wanted to be in the room while the pet was put down. Anyone know if this is common practice?
posted by BurntHombre at 7:11 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

BurntHombre, my vet didn't charge anything for us to be in the room when we had her put down our elderly Bichon. How strange that a vet would do that...wonder why?
posted by Infinity_8 at 7:16 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

The reddit thread linked above has a few people mentioning that their vets charged an extra fee ($300 quoted by one) if the owners wanted to be in the room while the pet was put down. Anyone know if this is common practice?

Not at my vet. (And I feel like they don't hesitate to charge for everything.)

And yeah, with an old dog at home, not a chance I'm reading that article at work.
posted by inigo2 at 7:58 AM on March 14, 2013

It's that same Jon Katz, delmoi? I was looking for his cheerful friend Junis from Afganistan.
posted by dr_dank at 8:05 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

We visit an old school country vet in a nearby little town for simple pet medical issues. He only sees pets a couple days a week in the office since he is also a large-animal vet. His office is a complete dump, you usually can't get through to their phone because it's just him and his assistant, but he charges a small fraction of what the suburban vets charge and is predictably conservative with his care. If he doesn't end up doing anything other than a quick exam, he usually doesn't charge you anything. Crazy in this day and age.

I took my dog there several years ago to be put down. He didn't charge us anything for his services. I'm sure my dog's body ended up dumped out in the back of his pasture--his rural county may not even have disposal laws--but that doesn't bother me. It's just a hunk of flesh at that point.
posted by tippiedog at 8:13 AM on March 14, 2013

I'm glad he was able to do this while his dog was still able to participate in the activities he loved. I've long been contemplating how to make the remaining time good for my 19-year-old kitty, who has been slowly declining for more than a year. Most of the things that bring cats joy, like hunting and chasing toys, are too hard on his old joints. Luckily I think he'll be able to enjoy one of his favorite things, a nap in a warm spot, until his dying breath. I've been trying to give him plenty of extra-soft and extra-warm places to hang out. And lots of head scritches.
posted by vytae at 8:37 AM on March 14, 2013

I made it through two paragraphs and started crying already. This one will have to wait for when I'm not wearing mascara.
posted by greta simone at 8:38 AM on March 14, 2013

Just so you guys know, you might want to turn off Pandora when reading this stuff, just in case Swing Low, Sweet Chariot comes on the traditional folk station.
posted by iamabot at 8:42 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

As my still healthy and active love approaches her 14th year I am increasingly convinced that a dog's lifespan in comparison to man's only shows that if there is a god, he takes glee in fucking us over.
posted by sourwookie at 9:12 AM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

I wish I'd had the chance to have a last perfect day with our sweet beagle Fred, who died (way too young) of lymphoma this past fall. As much as I like the idea, and as beautifully written as this piece was, death has a way of sneaking up on you and saying, "Yeah, no, fuck this perfect day shit. Here, have a little perfect chaos. It's on me."
posted by blucevalo at 9:27 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I learned my lesson about sad animal stories in the early '90s with James Herriot. This was while I was cold calling market research surveys. Not the brightest. :)
posted by SpannerX at 9:39 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

What blucevalo said. Sometimes you manage to have a special day or give a special last treat to an ailing companion animal. Sometimes it doesn't work out that way. As I was reminded last month, the wish for a little more time together fades pretty dang fast when it's 3 am, the old pup is suddenly panting in distress and pain, and you're just waiting for it to be 8:00 so you can call the vet clinic and get the critter that merciful pink shot ASAP.

I just try to give my dogs and cats long, healthy, contented lives and comfortable deaths with as little fear and suffering as possible -- preferably not a day sooner than necessary, but better that than a day too late.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:44 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

For those of you reluctant to click on the link.. it's a sweet story but not the devastating tale that you might expect.

Alternative view from somebody with a six-month old puppy: I started crying in the fourth paragraph and closed the tab.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:19 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

EmpressCallipygos' story has a much more satisfying narrative structure. The Perfect Day should not be followed by a few weeks of normal letdown. I was actually a little surprised when there wasn't a trip to the vet for euthanasia in the Slate article.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:27 AM on March 14, 2013

Ok, I'm going to sound like an old curmudgeon, but I give my dog that kind of day EVERY DAY. Maybe not all day, but she always gets a bit of people food (don't even start) and hugs, and snuggles and plenty of head scritches and we go for a walk or a run every day (sometimes both) and I guess what I'm saying is dogs are so easy to make happy, why not just take a bit of time and do it every day? Kinda like we should do with the people we love. Oh, good grief, now I sound like a Hallmark card. Bye.
posted by Kokopuff at 10:28 AM on March 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

Funny, my dog Ant was always the one who gave me perfect days. Walking together, hearing his nails click on the pavement, stopping to sniff random walls. Then a small treat at home. Perfect.

I had to say goodbye to him a month ago. First came the week at the vet, who was kind enough to give us a private room for the last three days, so I could sit with him in my lap while they pushed fluids to try to help his failing kidneys. I really thought he was going to bounce back.

Friday they told me it wasn't working. I brought him home for the night. He hadn't eaten for a week at that point. He still let me know when he needed to go outside to pee, though. Such a good boy.

The next day, I took him back to the vet to put him to sleep. I parked a few blocks away so I could have longer to carry him. A jogger passed us, totally unaware, and gave him a bright smile. That was his special power – he made strangers smile, right up until the very end.

I miss that little guy so much.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:33 AM on March 14, 2013 [9 favorites]

Well, I sobbed everywhere at my desk. So, there's that.
posted by kbanas at 10:48 AM on March 14, 2013

but I give my dog that kind of day EVERY DAY. Maybe not all day, but she always gets a bit of people food (don't even start) and hugs, and snuggles and plenty of head scritches and we go for a walk or a run every day

Ditto. This is what I attribute the unusual health and activity level of my nearly 14-year-old to. She gets people food from my hand daily. We went running in the woods Sunday, running in the alleys last night, and Tuesday she caught and killed a bunny which kinda ruined my day, but I've never seem a dog her age act like this.

When she goes I will be destroyed. I hope I can recover without too much damage.
posted by sourwookie at 10:49 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Great, and then I read that reddit link, and now I'm just done.

I have to go hide in the bathroom.
posted by kbanas at 10:50 AM on March 14, 2013

Dear God, Rodrigo Lamaitre, that video just about killed me. Mopping up now, and willing every good thing in the world to wonderful, wonderful people who care for stray and abandoned animals.
posted by artemisia at 11:10 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nanuk’s brother, Tyson, passed away a year ago in January. While they were only brothers by marriage, since Ty was originally my wife’s dog, they were best friends. Ty was a Sheppard, small for his breed – kept that way to minimize the impact of his hip dysplasia. Since my wife was home with the kids, her hands were full, and she routinely had little time for the dogs. They were relegated to me running them out for the bathroom, and a few walks a week. During the spring, summer and fall we would go walking as a family on the weekends, but for this story - it was January in Massachusetts, well - maybe I can back the story up to as far as the summer prior to his death – but that’s about as far as is pertinent, time permitting.

Ty was a great dog, obsessed with chasing sticks and balls, listened mostly, and he let the kids crawl all over him. I could trust him off lead almost completely. All I needed was a toy and he would keep his focus on me completely. Then one day he started to just stop listening. He wouldn’t come when you called him and he became sort of a brat. A few weeks into the behavior I told my wife that I thought he might be going deaf. She came out to watch him and yeah, he wouldn’t listen to her either. We cleaned out his ears, and used some drops to treat his allergies – somewhat of a standard protocol for him; however, it didn’t seem to help. Around this time he started dragging one of his back legs slightly – not enough that we thought much of it, but enough that we started watching his diet – thinking that the hip dysplasia was acting up. We scaled back the treats, and the frequency of his walks and time outdoors. He would start out strong, but he would start lagging behind, his toenails dragging against the ground, making a distinctive scratching sound.

Fast-forward to the fall, and all of a sudden, he magically starts hearing me again. We’re overjoyed. Ty is back to his normal self. We keep with the drops as necessary for his ears, but then he stops wanting to do as much outside – he becomes content with sitting down shortly after he’s done his business. Sure he’ll play for a few minutes, but then he just takes the ball and sits. At this time he’s 13, so he’s earned a rest.

I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but I noticed he kept skidding out on the wood floors. So once we’d go inside, he’d find a place on a rug to lay down, and that’s where he’d spend the day. Now I found myself helping him not only into the car, but now suddenly, I’d be helping him up the stairs to our front door. I said something to my wife. She didn’t want to hear it. This continued for the fall and through Christmas.
Then came January. By January, he was having trouble standing up after he was laying down, and if he tried to get up while on the wood floors – well, it was like watching Bambi on ice. In a matter of weeks we watched as he began to become unable to hold himself up consistently. We figured out that he couldn’t feel his front paws, so the back legs, the ones that weren’t able to hold his weight before, were now the more reliable feet. He knuckled over trying to stand on more than one occasion. We wept trying to get him outside to use the bathroom, and to get him through his duties before he would slip and fall in it. There was ice out, which made it worse.

There was a snowfall the weekend before we put Tyson down. He loved the snow, loved chasing shovels full of snow, and would stand outside shaking from the cold in hopes of someone throwing snow into the air. And this weekend, try as hard as we could, the expected excitement was trapped in a body that was failing him. Cognitively, he was sharp – ready for things, but he couldn’t trust his own body, and it was evident he was getting scared and tired of falling over.

The last month of his life, my wife and I ignored the kids when we had the opportunity to – not to say that we had much opportunity to… but we knew what was coming. It was a necessity to somewhat make amends for the pressures that having little kids put on pets. The dogs ate well, there was a lot more stuff that wouldn’t normally be in their diet that found its way to them.

My Wife, Tyson, Nanuk, and I went to the vet together. Nanuk was there for moral support for Tyson – to make some part of this feel okay. Ty was never a fan of the Vet. They went through some bloodwork to confirm that indeed this was nothing that could be treated, and with the results of normal, we spent a little more time in the room with him eating cookies and giving him belly rubs. He was still alert and together on the inside, but he was trapped in a failed body. We all hugged him and we said goodbye.

My wife stayed in the room for a while afterwards, but she said that she couldn’t look at him any longer – because it looked like he was still there. She took Nanuk out to the car and I stayed with Ty for a little while longer – she didn’t want him to be alone until they could come for him. I’d like to think that being surrounded by the people you love is a great way to leave this world.

My Son will occasionally tell me he misses Tyson, and this morning he even asked if we could get another dog like Tyson. Actually, he asked for fourteen dogs, but he wanted to make sure that one of them was a Tyson Jr.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:44 AM on March 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

The last cat who lived with me, I adopted him as an elderly cat. He got along with my roommate's cats well enough, and he'd just been recovering from a self-scratched ear that had ballooned, when suddenly he hid under the bed and wouldn't come out.

I took him to the vet straight away, and after the checkup I was told he had cancer and it was extremely far advanced, despite them not noticing anything wrong one week before when he was examined prior to having his ear drained. So I gave him a few good days -- during which he mostly hid, other than a few moments enjoying batting a fly around in the air -- before taking him to the vet to be euthanized.

It was the first time he'd been in my car since the adoption, and I didn't bother to put him in a crate, because he wasn't going to be moving. I drove him to the vet and he was so calm, I started wishing I'd brought him in the car prior, since he was such a pleasant driving companion.

When I left the vet, devastated, I got in the car and turned to back up...only to find that he'd left me a final "gift", right in the middle of the back seat of my car. For some reason I found that hilarious, and that turned my grief right around. It was like a great big "hey, just in case you thought I loved you, don't forget that I'm still a cat, and so I'm going to leave this right here."
posted by davejay at 1:05 PM on March 14, 2013 [9 favorites]

The horrible, terrible pessimist inside of me thought about doing this about 3 weeks after rescuing Cash from the shelter (about the time I totally fell in love with this dog, and about the time when he claimed me as 'his person').

Basically, Cash-buddy has determined that our day is going to be marrow bones for breakfast, a ruben for lunch, a trip to the coast for some swim-time in the waves and beach-running, a full turkey dinner (no bones though), and finally getting to sleep on the bed.

Now, if I could only figure out how to give him the gratification of actually catching that goddamn squirrel in the backyard.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:33 PM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

I didn't want to read this, because I knew I'd cry...but I did anyway. My dog's 8.5 (and a mini breed), so I hope I don't have to face this for a long time. She's the light of my life.

Non-dog people: you have no idea what you're missing.
posted by Sassenach at 1:33 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

My beloved boy turned 3 two days ago.

Gotta be steeled to read this. Don't wanna think about That Day.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:54 PM on March 14, 2013

Kitty Michaels' last day involved spending time with the three humans he cared about, getting some chewed up steak (he couldn't process it if it wasn't pre-chewed), getting some of the juice from his favorite cat food (he didn't like the food itself but her loved the liquid), getting lots of scratches, getting one more chance to be carried around to all of his spots that he liked to mark, getting to gently dance to "You're My Best Friend" by Queen and then having a quiet ten minutes with just me and him where he was able to sleep and purr gently on my chest.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:18 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also the article itself is sweet and lovely. I can't help but like somebody who loves their pet and goes the extra mile for them.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:25 PM on March 14, 2013

Non-dog people: you have no idea what you're missing.

What a cruel, misguided, and flat-out wrong thing to say. We aren't missing anything. I am a cat person, and I am sitting here sobbing.

Please don't dismiss the deep love people can share with other animals than dogs. My cat is 15 now and I cannot bear the thought that he won't always be with me. This is a once-in-a-lifetime companion, and the longest and best relationship I have ever had, bar none. I know I only have a few years left with him (my last cat lived to 19), and there has never been another time in my life when I wished I could just stop time where it is, simply so I could keep him healthy, happy, and here with me longer.

Non-dog people are just as capable of forming strong, tender attachments to their animals as you are. Dogs are not the only animals who love you back and make your life better.
posted by caryatid at 3:07 PM on March 14, 2013 [8 favorites]

My best friend's cat is really sick, and she might have to put her down after 13+ years of companionship. I told her about this thread, and she is hoping to have one last Special Day with Kittie - she said she hadn't thought to make Kittie her special foods and spend a whole day just loving on her before she has to be put down. I hope she gets to do this, but I reminded her that if she doesn't, Kittie had a great life with her full of special times and special days.

Still, I hope she gets to make her chicken mole (Kittie's favorite food, somehow) and give her head scritches and let her sleep on her head (her favorite spot) one last time.

Thanks for this thread. Without it, Kittie would have indeed had a special last day with my friend, but not a Special Last Day™, so thanks.

posted by k8lin at 3:37 PM on March 14, 2013

The first dog I had, the dog I considered "mine" after having some family dogs for short periods was with me for 14 years.
Before him we had a pretty bad run of shelter dogs. Not that they were bad dogs, but our local shelter wasn't the best and my dad was pretty big on getting a shelter dog.
So we had the shakey dog who nips and pees on everything. We had the angry/nervous dog who was afraid of everything because some bastard thought beating on him was 'discipline.'

We had the overbred dog who was literally insane - I know 'literally' is overused and it's retrospection from a child's perspective but he had to have been crazy, my dad, who never raised his voice to me much less his hand, who endured everything patiently (even my mom's apocalyptic temper) with stoicism that would have taken aback Marcus Aurelius (not to mention a healthy measure of athleticism that enabled him to dodge thrown plates, pots, pans and cups), who I'd only seen angry a few time in his life (on my behalf), who had gotten this stupid, stupid, mad dog, had spent months hand feeding him, retraining him to poop on paper, who endured endless (literally endless) barking sessions until the dog exhausted himself, a man who never swore much less blasphemed, who could have been the patron saint of the lost cause, came out of my parents room at 3 am after the dog ran up and down the stairs for 14 hours stopping only for water (he peed on the way) yelled "GOD DAMN IT!" tackled the dog in his pajamas (how the dog got into his pajamas... (groucho)) and forced him into the car to take him back to the shelter the next day - so we had had all kinds of family dogs.

Frankly, I was interested in getting a turtle at that point (they're portable). But we got a dog finally (a golden retriever puppy) and named him Cermait (long story) which became "Kermit" (which you typically don't have to explain).
So we grew up together as boys and puppies do. And while our family life fell apart (father died, family moved around, mom remarried, drinking problems, fights, etc. etc.) he was there for me when no one else was. My mom was always working, my aunts and uncles and cousins were further away now, but Kermit was always there and I think without him, without that unquestioning love and that touchstone I'd be dead or in jail - he would always lick my face when I came home, always greeted me first, always happy to see me, he was *my* dog - I fed him. I walked him. I played with him. He slept on my bed. My stepbrothers would play with him, but he always preferred me.

And I think that was by design. My dad might or might not have felt something might happen to him, but he wanted me to learn the things you can learn by taking care of a dog.
Pets are important. I love cats too and there are things you can only learn from cats. But too there are things about yourself you can only learn from dogs. Not better but different things.
In taking care of them, in many ways, you take care of yourself. I took him to run. I discovered things in the woods. It was like being a pack of two. Intimate. Like we had our own secret worlds we showed each other and that was all that mattered. It helped me grow where I might otherwise have stayed broken.

We had many perfect days together. I knew how important they were. I remember just one summer day sitting in the sun on the grass, the both of us. Just enjoying being together. And I'm so grateful that stands out in my mind right now more than any other day. Both of us young, healthy, full of life and happy for nothing else than being together.

After he turned 14 he had lost a lot of weight. I thought it was because I had been away from the house and no one was feeding him. But it was because his teeth hurt. And his hips hurt.
I know I should have seen the pain he was in but a part of me just didn't want to let go.

Outside the house, all I'd really had was the gym. At home, he'd been the only stable thing in my life for so long.
Eventually my mom convinced me it was time to put him to sleep. He'd wandered out into the street and had been hit by a car and she'd been nursing him. When I got back home you could see this sense of relief wash over him. Like he'd been waiting for me to come and take the pain away. Like being hit didn't matter, he wanted to make sure that I was ok.

My mom didn't want to put him to sleep until I could come home. She didn't feel right about it. I remember I couldn't get out of bed for days. She came to me with the phone and said he was at the vets and they were asking permission.
I couldn't do it.

It was like going through everything again. Like he'd been holding back all that pain and fear and with him gone it would all burst through and wash over me. I couldn't say yes.
I think at last I nodded and cried and I spent the rest of the time in bed.
Three, maybe four days. I didn't eat. Didn't sleep. Just stayed in bed.

For years I felt terrible about not giving the ok to put him to sleep. It felt like the worst kind of betrayal.
We shared worlds. Dealing with human affairs was my responsibility. And I'd failed him. After all the faithful years of him being there for me, I was supposed to be there for him. When it mattered most, I wasn't.

I swore it would never happen again. I swore that I would face death and loss and no matter how it hurt I would be there. And it didn't. I've lost friends and family and my heart aches and my guts turn to broken glass but I'm there for them. No matter what. You honor that bond, that attachment, that path life that you share and have walked together.
And even if it's killing you inside, that - the joy of that bond - can support you in the darkest of times.

And it only occurred years later that this was the final thing I learned from him. And what a truly joyous gift a dog is to a child. And what a great teacher of life a pet is, even years after they're gone.

Kermit was a dog but he taught me to be a man.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:37 PM on March 14, 2013 [20 favorites]

No no no no no! Dogs are the best and dogs live forever and they don't get sick or sore and when they go grey around the muzzle it's just because they are greedy-bums who gobble up all the dinners and lick their lips and they don't die they just have a big sleep and they are in doggie heaven where everything is the best because dogs! Dogs don't die! Dogs don't die!
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:48 PM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

My dog is headed in this direction and OH MY GOSH STOP CUTTING ALL THOSE ONIONS. He's curled up on the couch between me and the cat after a long walk and just got such a big hug. Dogs are amazing. And to cheer us all up a bit, here is the happiest thought about dogs I've ever encountered.
posted by Grandysaur at 4:50 PM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Smedleyman, that was lovely. Really lovely.
posted by math at 5:33 PM on March 14, 2013

Smedleyman, that was lovely. Really lovely.

Agreed. Fantastic comment about a very, very good dog.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:12 PM on March 14, 2013

We've had the misfortune to have to go through this with or last three kitties, two of team way too soon.
To make that last day more perfect, I'd suggest seeing if your vet will do house calls, or if there is a mobile vet who can help (your vet may know of someone who offers such a service).
Spot really hated the vet's office, so when it was his time, the vet came over. He stayed a bit, until Spot was comfortable with his presence. Spot died in the arms of someone who loved him very much. There were no strange smells, no howling dogs in the background, just our house and familiar smells and arms. We've done it that way since, and I can't imagine any other way.
posted by dbmcd at 6:13 PM on March 14, 2013

The combination of the links, as well as the intensely personal stories here have me in tears. I've only had to make that final decision for two of my pets in all my adult life so far..I let my dog down in 1994 because my then vet told me they'd have to run an intravenous line and my dog HATED needles - my vet didn't want my last memories of my dog to be him howling. The guilt I had/have for not being there for the last moment made me vow never to let another pet down. And in 2004, when my teenaged cat suddenly took a bad turn, I was by her side as she slipped away at the vets office.

Now, as I look around at a 16 year old cat, an approximately 14 year old cat, an about to be 10 year old big dog (with health issues to begin with)..I am filled with dread over the inevitable. I love them all so much, and I will miss them even more. My pets have carried me through really rough times (and at times I've been loved by them more so than my human children). I really hope we all meet again in the next life - because this life isn't long enough.
posted by annieb at 6:32 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Letterman said it best, about dogs, but about pets in general: "In the end, every dog, all of them, will break your heart."
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 6:40 PM on March 14, 2013

Damn. I take a 'break' and skim metafilter and hit this thread. I'm with Smedleyman here. It's no exaggeration to say that the dog I had as a young boy probably saved my life. Her name was Shout, or Shouty, depending on what we were doing. (there's a story behind the name of course)

We got her when I was 5 and, 46 years later, I remember the trip to pick her out like it was yesterday. My parents and I drove to a farm in Orange, VA and we sat on and old couch while a boy went to get the puppies. He came in with a large wooden box that he set on the floor then slowly tipped over.

Out of the box came a swarm of 9 week old Labrador puppies. They bounced around the room with their tails up but one, a sweet little female, came up to me and just started sniffing. To this day I know that she picked me more than I picked her. During the ride home she sat in my lap and seemed quite content.

We lived in the outskirts of a small college town with miles of farmland around. During the Summer Shout and I would go on adventures in the cornfields and forests. Cornfields can be kind of spooky when you're 6 or 7 but somehow she helped me find the courage to explore and go further. In a small ravine near a cow pasture we found cow skulls and skeletons.

When Shout was with me I felt like I had a friend, someone who cared for me and would give their life for me. I felt safe. That didn't happen at home a lot. Without going into details I'll just say that home was not a "home" in any Norman Rockwell sense.

Why mom and dad got me a dog is a mystery but I think they knew I needed something that they couldn't provide. I confided things to her that no one knows to this day. And she listened, and didn't leave, or judge me for what was said.

Shout died when I was 14. My parents didn't help. So, I wrapped her in her blanket, put her in a cardboard box and carried her down the hill behind the house to the pond where we used to hunt and fish together. There's a rise at one one end that looks over the pond. It's high enough enough above the spillway that the earth would not be disturbed by flooding. I dug a hole as deep as I could and lowered her in. I placed quartz rocks all over the box to keep animals from digging her up. Then I shoveled the red Virginia clay back over her and made a cross out of some fallen limbs to mark her spot.

When I had to clean out mom's house last year I walked down to the pond and over to where Shout is buried. It was sad and reassuring to stand there and look out over the pond where we had played. If there is a heaven I know that dog is there.
posted by skepticbill at 7:28 PM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you don't want to see pets die, consider fostering dogs (or cats)!

We've been doing this for a couple of years and it's been incredibly rewarding. Yes, there's a weepy moment when your dog goes out the door with someone else, but typically they come in depressed and leave cheerful with their tails up and wagging, I call it "graduation". I always get choked up but then I think of them going on to happy lives with the new owners...

> If there is a heaven I know that dog is there.

I hate to break it to you, but according to Christianity, dogs definitely don't go to heaven.

There was a touching "rage comic" on Reddit's r/atheism who asked her Sunday school teacher when she was a child if her dog would go to heaven, and was told no - so she instantly dropped Christianity saying, "If my dog can't go to heaven, then I don't want to go either."

Jerome Bixby has a charming story called, "The Good Dog," about a dog that goes to Hell (in the excellent book "Space By The Tale" that also has the iconic story, "It's A Good Life," that became the famous Twilight Zone episode spoofed by countless people including The Simpsons.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:10 PM on March 14, 2013

Pertinent to this conversation.
posted by echolalia67 at 8:18 PM on March 14, 2013

The Tobolowsky Files: It's Not My Dog.

Pretty sure I've mentioned this in some other thread before, but for those of you crying, this one ends happier.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:06 PM on March 14, 2013

I hate to break it to you, but according to Christianity, dogs definitely don't go to heaven.

Funny, I grew up in a very conservative church and never once heard that. They said heaven was going to have everything that made you happy. Sounds like that redditor's Sunday school teacher had a really narrow and cold version of Christianity. I'd've left a lot sooner if somebody told me that when I was little.

I don't really believe in an afterlife anymore, except I still sort of tell myself "Well, maybe" when a pet dies. Some deep part of my psyche takes comfort in imagining that puppy off running in the forever, or that cat finally getting to take down one of those deer she always chased.
posted by Zimboe Metamonkey at 12:40 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I hate to break it to you, but according to Christianity, dogs definitely don't go to heaven.

I never wanted to punch a guy more than the first time someone used that "Animals don't have Souls" line with me.
posted by DigDoug at 6:26 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Speaking of punching.

My best and longest-lasting cat Biscuit, a Siamese who lived to age 17 and won hearts all along the way from Battle Creek to Atlanta, was my Mom's boon companion until he went. When the vet recommended Biscuit be put down, after months of serial system failures, Mom took him home to think about it. She's never been good at goodbyes.

She gave Biscuit a week of perfect days and then took him to be put down. The vet showed up and coldly said, "Here he is." Mom said, "Yes, and we had such a good week, but now it's time." The vet replied, "You might have had a good week. Biscuit didn't."

If I hadn't been in the Army on another continent at the time I heard of this, I would have driven to that vet's office, identified myself as Alice's son and Biscuit's brother, and punched him in the face. I still get mad thinking about it.

PS Biscuit was a sweet boy. :)
posted by Infinity_8 at 7:26 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Infinity, one of the few times that I have been really angry at my father was when I called them at a panic right before rushing Zach to the emergency vet; I think Dad was trying to help in some weird way, but he said that maybe I'd waited too long to put Zach to sleep anyway. To his credit, when I roared at him that THAT IS NOT HELPING, DAD, he shut up reeeeeeeeeeally fast.

(And I suspect my mother later reminded him of what a wreck he was when our family dog was entering his last months; during one early-ish vet visit, when he was just starting to decline but it wasn't quite "time" yet, my father drove him over but got so scared what the vet would say on the drive over that he apparently carried our dog through the parking lot into the vet's office in his arms, blubbering the whole way, and when he got in the door he stood in the middle of the waiting room wailing, "YOU HAVE TO SAVE MY BEST FRIEND!!!" I think the vet took longer with Dad then he did with our dog that particular time...)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 AM on March 15, 2013

Lazlo Hollyfeld: I recommend this reddit comment from a couple of days ago.

Dude, seriously? You found a reddit comment capable of making ALL THE DUST get in both my eyes and not because it's a shitty comment that makes me weep for humanity?

There's some small glimmer of hope for reddit after all.
posted by hanov3r at 8:25 AM on March 15, 2013

My dog's last week of life was Good Dog Week. Off-leash walks in the woods, his favorite foods, and all the sleep on a human's bed and snuggles he could stand.

My vet offered to do a housecall for euthanasia, and I am grateful for that.
posted by zippy at 9:49 AM on March 15, 2013

Just so you guys know, you might want to turn off Pandora when reading this stuff, just in case Swing Low, Sweet Chariot comes on the traditional folk station.

Now I'm weepy and laughing at the same time.
posted by zippy at 9:54 AM on March 15, 2013

Gah - okay, if anyone needs to cheer up/snap out of it in a hurry, I've found looking at Dog Shaming is very effective.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:30 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Kinda disappointed that the handwriting is so neat and perfectly spelled. C'mon, you gotta sell the premise!
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 6:53 PM on March 17, 2013

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