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Losing a Pet

It’s officially my last Bo post unless I change my mind and reminisce. If you don’t want to read the entire story (which I’d encourage you to, obviously, because my last few weeks have not been “normal” even in the scheme of things), cutting to the chase: Bo passed away peacefully this morning at around 11a after almost 13 years of life. 

Now, with the spoiler alert over with, I’ll go into more details even though I have so much going through my head right now that I can’t really think straight. First up, I’m okay. I have had a lot of friends reach out, and a lot of love flowing my way over the last days and weeks and months, and it definitely helped today. I didn’t sleep much last night, as you can imagine, and I woke up at 2a and from 2 to 4:30 or so, I just hugged and loved on Bo and he just laid there and let me. It was great. Over the last (lifetime…but) few months, especially, I’ve been constantly reminding him what a “good dog” he was, and how I loved him very much, and I continued that trend this morning. I got out of bed around 4:30 and started the coffee. Routines tend to be my “thing” for those of you who didn’t know. I guess you’ll have that. I cried A LOT this morning (and over the last few weeks – all without witnesses) and I told him how sorry I was and how much I loved him and how I was just trying to do what’s best for him and that I don’t ever want him to be in pain, etc. It was gut wrenching and it just wrenched it out of my eye sockets. I fed him the second half of the steak I made him last night for breakfast because I wanted him to have steak every day this week, and I pretty much succeeded. I think I ended up missing Tuesday, but doubled up on Wednesday, and last night I couldn’t decide what steak to choose so I got him both a filet mignon and a sirloin and I ate half of both and he ate half of both. It was wonderful.

Toward the end, he wasn’t really eating unless I bribed him. He would end up nibbling at his food every couple or so days. The vet told me that was one indicator that the end was closing in. Another indicator was his belly. The vet told me that I’d know it’s getting close when Bo’s belly started to really get big, and over the last couple months it slowly moved into “really big.” By today, he looked like a pear…he had lost so much weight that his shoulders and legs were boney and he had so much loose skin I could make it into a hat on his head. His breathing had changed as well. Also, as I’ve mentioned previously, his sleep patterns were non existent since about February which (save for the last week, which he ended up sleeping through outright) meant that I haven’t had a week worth of sleeping through the night since the beginning of the year (when I was in Thailand). Also, I’ve been sleeping with earplugs in for months because he would wake up and just look at me while breathing in my face until I woke up. He started to never be more than a few feet away from me, within eyeshot, and he’s never been a terribly “clingy” dog. All of these were a few of the indicators over the last few months that it was “the right time.” 

Here’s an even more fucked up thing that I still can’t believe: on Wednesday of last week, the assistant that Dr. Mike (my / Bo’s beloved Vet at Western Vet Group) had called me right before I was leaving for work. She informed me that Dr. Mike had been in a plane crash coming back from a Vet conference, and he didn’t survive, so he wouldn’t be able to perform the procedure putting Bo down. Reread that sentence. I mean what the absolute fuck. Obviously a human life is so very much more significant, especially because this particular human life was loved by so so many people, and he had a wife and FOUR kids. It’s beyond devastating. I was a wreck at work and over the following days. He was so kind and loving, and I drove to Lomita to see him which he always appreciated, and then his assistant, McKenzie had the thought to call ME among all of his patients? Jesus. She was so so sweet on the phone, and so apologetic and sad, and I just wanted to reach through the phone and hug her because here she was, her mentor had just passed away, and she was worried about me. Yes, it was awful that my Vet wouldn’t be able to perform this awful thing I had planned for a couple months, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I just am devastated for his family. And McKenzie has been so helpful to me though, and I finally got to meet her (for the first time!) today. What awful circumstances in which to meet someone. For what it’s worth, if you’re feeling giving, Dr. Mike had started a foundation years ago called the 4Ever Foundation and if you wanted to donate in memory of Dr. Mike and Bo, that’s what I did.

Reeling it back in, though, yesterday was great. It was a beautiful day, so I took Bo to the Huntington Beach Dog Beach where I took about a million pictures of him dipping his toes in the water. He hadn’t had the strength/energy to jump OUT out into the ocean for a while now, but he walked along the edge – all the while looking over at me to make sure I was around. He sniffed some butts passing by, and laid by me for a while. Then, I took him up to the Wayfarer’s Chapel which is this beautiful little chapel overlooking the ocean. Years earlier, I took Bo there and took one of my favorite pictures of him, so I wanted to revisit that feeling. The whole day was a huge success and I cried and cried and took selfies and drank a couple beers on the beach as Bo shuffled around. It was really great. 

Then, today, it was time to take him in. I left my place at 8:30, after remembering to check in to my flight tomorrow – which, in and of itself was miraculous considering – and it ended up only taking about an hour to get down there because holiday traffic in LA is on the verge of moderately tolerable. I got there and McKenzie greeted me with a hug, which I needed, and Bo and I were directed into our own room. I had asked McKenzie to join us, and she was so kind to do that, and she and I were able to talk for a while and she sat right down with Bo and loved on him as well, which was really nice. The replacement Vet came in and gave me the low-down, and the assistant came in and asked what all I wanted to do, I paid and then it was time for me to just hang with Bo a little longer. I asked McKenzie to stay because she was so warm and comforting and it was nice to have her there because in the scheme of things she doesn’t know me at all, she just knows that I’m a human who has a dog I have decided to put down. It really didn’t feel like that though, she was caring and it was just really really appreciated at that particular time. I had illegally brought some whiskey because I knew I would need it, so I took a shot of whiskey with Bo (literally), and then, his entire life – he had always wanted chocolate whenever I had it, and so I brought him and me a Reese’s cup as a final delicacy. He snarfed it up and looked for more. Throughout this whole thing, I’ve kept to what I’ve felt I needed to do, and I did it “my way” so to speak, and I’m glad I did.

At that time, I asked McKenzie to leave so that the Doctor could come in and administer the shit. Now, if you haven’t ever been through this, which I haven’t, you might not know what to expect. If this hits too close to home, skip this paragraph and come back at a point in which it might help. But the Vet puts a catheter into Bo’s leg, and Bo comes back into the room and I get to love on him a little more. When I was ready, I was to knock on the door, and the Doc would come in to do the procedure, so after a bit of time, I knocked on the door…and waited. And waited. And I’m like, shit, I had ONE JOB. So I knocked again and then, when it was time, the Doctor and one of her nurses came in and the Doc had two needles. One was full of what looked like Elmer’s Glue – that was the sedative. Then one looked like radioactive ecto-plasm or something – it was bright pink – and it was the parting shot. So she asked if I was ready, and I was, so she put the first shot into Bo’s leg, and he immediately – like IMMEDIATELY – got loopy and sat and then laid down. It was like, NOW I’M TIRED AND HAPPY. So I was just petting him and petting him and even though I’m not religious per-say, I said “Bo, if you find out there’s a dog heaven, go say hi to Shorty (my dog from high school), and Rufus (my dog from like…4 years old?) and try and find Dr. Mike and tell him what’s been going on.” And then the Doctor asked if I was ready for the second shot, and I said yes, and she administered the second shot as I was petting Bo and telling him how much I loved him, and you could just tell he was gone almost immediately. I also opted to not get his ashes because I wanted to remember him for being a big dumb dog, rather than a big dumb pile of not dog. Whatever works for your particular view on that one, it just wasn’t for me. But it was crazy how quickly it happened once I let it. And it was so peaceful. Bo didn’t whine, or bark, or shiver, or anything, he was like – ah, okay, this is happening. And I was the last person he saw, so that’s nice too. 

So that was that. I had talked to McKenzie beforehand and made sure I didn’t need to do anything and that I could just leave, and that was the case – but I also had asked if she could walk me to my car, and she did. I had written a thank you note to her and Dr. Mike about a month and a half ago, and then after Dr. Mike passed away, I had written a letter of condolences to his wife, and included his note, and then I wrote another letter to McKenzie and included her original note too and gave her a little mini poinsettia just for being so helpful. I drove home and got a little choked up when I was talking to the family, but overall, I was okay. 

After 6 months of mourning his eventual demise, today was the day, and he was happy and not in pain and not hurting and full of steak, and we had a helluvah ride together and I’m super thankful for it. So thankful for it, that I decided to immortalize Bothedog with me, so when – oh shit, I didn’t mention McKenzie figured out a clinic that was a friend of Dr. Mike’s that had an EKG machine so that I could get a printout of Bo’s heartbeat with the intent of turning it into a tattoo. She’s the best. Anyway, so I got the printout, came home and scanned it into the computer and spent a few hours fine-tuning the heartbeat and I then paired it up with a waveform of Bo’s grumble, then sniff, then mini bark, and full on bark with a final comment of me saying “good boy.” I then took it to the same-day reco tattoo artist of a friend who proceeded to give me a one-of-a-kind tattoo on the back of my arm that I’m super happy with.

Since then, I’ve pretty much been drinking, to be honest. Just because today didn’t suck as much as I thought it would, it still sucked. But my friend, Faith, came over while I was cleaning and packing for my trip in a few hours, and so it was really nice to talk to her. Along those lines, I can’t ask for a better support system. So many people reached out to me today to see how I was doing or to say they were thinking about me, and I know a lot more people didn’t reach out but still had a thought of it. It’s appreciated, to say the least. Now, I’ve got a story of Bo that’s always with me.

I want to mention one more thing, though. One of the most frustrating things that people have said to me during this whole ordeal is that they “have been there” before and they “know exactly how I feel.” Well, fuck that. No you don’t. First of all, most of my friends who have been through this have a significant other who’s been a part of the pet’s life for a long ass time. I am single. Secondly, even if you had a black lab who was a big dumb dog that loved the shit out of you, you don’t know how I’m feeling. Nobody knows how I’m feeling in general, one. But two, I’d be willing to bet that the Veterinarian you loved who kept your dog safe, who took a grapefruit sized fatty tumor from his armpit, who was scheduled to put your beloved friend down a week later DIED in a damn plane crash. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such a fucked up story, and while the odds of that TYPE of story or happenstance actually occurring again, take into consideration the next time someone is going through a hard time (pet or otherwise) to just say “I’m sorry you’re going through this right now, that’s awful” or “I’m really sorry” or something along those lines UNTIL that person asks you for your opinion…or if they say something like “have you ever had to put a dog down before? What’s it like?” or if they ask “do you think, with what you know, I’m doing the right thing?” Don’t just offer up your thoughts on a matter that might be VAGUELY familiar to you based on your OWN experience, wait until they ASK for your thoughts to provide them.

Thanks for reading and the support and the love and everything. It’s been tough, but here’s hoping 2018 is better. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good Hanukkah.