Last Friday, I told Chris he needed to stop at the grocery store on the way home and buy some more food for Jake. When he got to the store, Chris stood in the aisle for what seemed like a long time, pondering a simple question that he had never had to consider before.
"Big bag or little bag?"
He got the big bag. He has always been optimistic.
On Saturday Jake started to deteriorate rather quickly. His leg started to swell up again, indicating the tumor was again blocking return blood flow and pooling in his leg. His belly began to turn crimson, indicating blood there as well. As the day went by, the color turned a light purple and then, by Sunday, a dark purple. Sunday evening it was almost black.
He was eating a lot of grass, which we took to mean that the steroids had finally given him an ulcer, as his vet said they might with extended dosage. He had an accident in the house, which I have never, ever seen him do. He hobbled and refused to put weight on the leg. We doubled his pain medication. He still hobbled.
I watched him try to sit down for 25 minutes while I nursed Charlotte on Saturday afternoon. He leaned this way and that, tentatively lowered himself and then decided that it hurt too much and he'd just stand. He did this about ten times, never getting himself all the way down to the floor
He smiled and was happy to see us and he ate our dinner scraps on Sunday, but he was absolutely high and totally out of it. He was hurting.
By Sunday evening it was clear that he needed to go back to the vet for a final visit. It was time to say goodbye. Chris barely slept that night, in part due to Charlotte but mostly he was thinking about the next day. He got up in the middle of the night to research it. I let Jake out at 3 am and silently wondered if this was going to be his last time to explore our back yard. I tried not to cry. I gave him some extra pats when he came back inside.
Our hearts were so heavy when we woke up this morning. I could barely look at Jake, much less say a proper goodbye.
The appointment was for 830. I herded Claire upstairs and Chris put Jake in the car and left. We told Claire that Daddy was going to go get donuts for breakfast. Not ten minutes later Claire had noticed that Jake was nowhere to be found.
"Mommy, where's Jake?"
It's the first of many recitations, I'm sure.
Chris came home with the donuts, but without Jake. I had secretly been hoping that the vet would say something like, "Oh! I can fix this after all! No need!" and Chris would come home with him. But, he didn't. He came home and said that the people at the vet's office were very, very nice. He didn't say much else.
We left the house after lunch today and I had a brief series of thoughts that had me in tears as we prepared to leave.
Gathering up final bags to load into the car: "I need to go let Jake out before we leave...oh, wait."
Closing and locking the garage door: "Make sure to leave the utility room light on so Jake can see his food and water bowls...ohhh. I don't need to do that. I can turn the light off."
I whispered to Chris that I just remembered we don't need to let Jake out. I was starting to cry. He said it would probably be a long time before the reminders went away, and that's okay.
In the car, Claire falls asleep. I tell Chris that I want to know what happened, what the vet said, now that small ears aren't listening. The tumor was visibly and palpably in his abdomen. Blood was collecting and pooling there as well. He guessed that there were only a few days before the tissue in Jake's leg started to deteriorate and became "unviable." He was very sorry that there wasn't really anything to be done. He was in pain, it was only going to get worse, and, if we were ready, it was time.
They let Chris have a few moments alone with Jake before coming back into the room. It was quick. And then he was gone.
At home tonight, there is a storm. There is thunder and lightning and while the storm is still far away I know that Jake would be able to hear it with his super dog hearing and he would be nervous. He would be panting. He would be at my bedside, seeking comfort from simply being close to us.
But, he's not here tonight. I miss him.
Claire is asleep. I need to go pick up Jake's food and water bowls, empty them and put them in the dishwasher while she can't see me and ask too many questions. I need to take his bed and stash it somewhere. I need to figure out what to tell her when she asks me about him tomorrow. And then I need to figure out what to tell her the next day and the day after that.
As it turns out, the surgery to remove the tumor bought us about two months before it grew back and the steroids bought us about 20 days instead of a handful. One of them is shorter than we thought, the other longer. I still find myself surprised by what happened today. I really can't believe it. It's over and he's gone and he's not ever going to greet me when I come home.
This is shitty. This is the shittiest, most grown-up, crappy thing I have ever had to do.
Oh, Jake. We loved you, buddy. You were the best dog and you gave us so much joy. You made our lives richer.
Thank you for loving us, too. There will never be another puppy quite like you were. We miss you already.