Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Wednesday
Apr072010

The Sunset Of His Life

The first time it happened I was naked and petrified. Oh, YOU. See how you are? No, I'm not talking about the first time I did it. Besides, I wasn't even naked for that. Everyone knows premarital Mormon sex (GO TO HELL GO DIRECTLY TO HELL DO NOT PASS GO DO NOT COLLECT $200) doesn't ever involve nudity. It involves guilt, mostly. And a lot of Levi lovin' and later underwear sex. If she's really looking to impress she'll eventually slide her panties to the side but she will never take them off! Only girls that have sex take off their panties and this? What we're doing here? This isn't sex, right? Right?

But I digress in a most heinous way, likely because I'm still upset and when I get upset, I become inappropriate. It's almost like Tourette's. I begin blurting out the most unseemly things I can think of perhaps in an effort to downplay the current horror that is before me.

The first time Spliffer had a seizure I was in the shower. Whenever I'm home the old boy has to have his nose pretty much touching whatever part of my body he can reach. I guess because he's blind and deaf he finds it comforting. Kind of like if I went blind and deaf I'd probably spend a fair amount of time driving Serge mad by wanting to hold his hand all the time ALL THE TIME, just to know he's there, you know?

So Spliffer follows me everywhere. I'm always tripping over him, whacking him in the head and closing doors on his bony body. It's not ideal, but he doesn't seem to mind so long as I love him up every now and again. And I do.

This explains why he likes to be in the bathroom with me when I shower. He just kind of stands there forlornly, cloudy brown eyes focused on nothing, waiting until he can stick his nose in the back of my knee or nuzzle my ankle with his face.

It happened fast. I heard a THUMP and then wild scratching. And then my dog of seventeen years started to cry. Ever hear a dog cry? It's awful. I heard it once before when a Pit Bull attacked Max after we moved to Brooklyn. Both times it's been a scream-cry. A horrible, terrible noise in which you can hear all your dog's pain and fear.

I whipped the shower curtain aside and there he was, flopping around on the tiled bathroom floor, a giant fish stuck on dry land, his overly long claws scritch-scratching the cabinet. A fresh pile of vomit was near the door, like, right before the earthquake struck his body he'd minded his manners and attempted to puke somewhere more appropriate than the bathroom floor.

I stood there for what seemed like centuries, watching my guy scream-cry and flip-flop on the tile. It was probably only seconds but in that time the vision burned onto my brain and then I swallowed it down, down deep into my guts where it will probably coil there forever.

I screamed for my mom, who was sleeping off her graveyard nursing shift. She came running just as Spliffer ambled casually out of the bathroom like he wasn't just recreating a scene from a Stephen King movie and went back to hovering around my still soapy, half-shaved legs.

What do you do in the moments after a dog that's in the sunset of his life pulls a grand mal on your bathroom floor? And damn, it's not even sunset anymore, the sun has done set y'all. It's as dark as his vision now.

Mom cleaned up the mess while I carried Spliffer back to his little dog bed at the foot of our bed. He immediately dropped into a sleep rivaling whatshisname Van Winkle.

It's time, we said to each other. The tumors are growing, it's time.

That was several weeks ago and we kept putting off putting hime down. I took him for a walk in his beloved mountains and he had such a spring in his step, such juice in his jive that we couldn't do it that week. And last week was Easter. Excuses pop up and you grab onto them. Life preservers, something to keep you afloat on an ocean of sadness.

He had another one about a week ago. Nobody saw it but we found him laying in the corner of the living room next to a puddle of puke, wedged between a chair and an end table.

And then this morning. What was hopefully his last one. It's time now.

Reader Comments (37)

It's terrible to see a friend suffer or experience pain. My heart goes out to you and your Mom. It is such a courageous act to let them go ...

My thoughts are with you.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNJ

Oh Monica, I'm so sad reading that, it's brought tears to my eyes...you always said when the time was right you would know. I'm sure you have given each other the most amazing companionship over the years, and it is going to feel like losing one of the family. But you must be strong for him and for your mum, and the other dogs. He was a very blessed fella to have had so many happy, lively, beautiful experiences, loving people and stunning views in his long life. What a grand ole life he led. Sending you hugs.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSM

oh fuck, i can barely even read this post. i had my dearest dog put down eight years ago and to this day it is one of the most traumatic memories of my life. it was a small town and the vet did a home visit because my dog was too ill to travel; i remember laying on the floor hugging her as she took her last breath. i know it was the right thing to do but it doesn't make it any easier. my thoughts go out to you!

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpeach

aw, what a terrible thing to go through. thinking about you and sending you some hugs across the miles.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchristine from canada

Aw, I put my kitty down just over a year ago. It was similar, we knew for sure it was time. Doesn't make it any easier does it? I'm so sorry for you, and your family. Hugs

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFable

I was so moved by your post that I had to go away and come back before I could write a comment. It brought me to tears (or almost tears since I'm at work). Sympathies to you and your family. How sad it is:(

I know the feeling though. My mom's poodle Trixie is 16 this year and nearing the end of her life. She's so blind her eyes are white and she's so deaf that you have to yell at her in order for her to hear you. The last time my mom put a dog down, she didn't call me for three days because she just didn't know how to tell me. I'm sure I won't hear from her for a week when she finally lets Trix go.

Again, sympathies to you and yours.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

Dear God what heartbreak! Just seeing your beloved devoted friend in pain and crying. I'm in tears and I'm seriously heartbroken for you. It's good you waited until now... when he told you he was truly good and ready. Now you won't have any regrets. I wish you peace and you must know that little Sliffer's ghost/spirit/energy will remain with you. I know it will. I've got a beloved Cat whose energy makes itself known every now and then, and it always brings me peace.

I'll be thinking of you guys Monica. ♥♥ & Hugs.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

I'm so sorry you have to go through this. So very heartbreaking. I don't know what else to say, just I'm sorry.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShauna

I'm so sorry. Spliffer is a prince.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJ

Monica, I'm so sorry. I'm glad Spliffer was well enough that y'all could wait until you knew it was time ... But my heart still breaks for all of you.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersquandra

A toast to Spliffer, he was a good dog.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjls

I'm so sorry to hear about this. What matters most is that he knows he's loved, and it sounds like he does.

We were in your shoes a few weeks ago. My dog of 12 years had a tumor removed a while back and we were told there were likely more. After a day on fluids at the vet we brought her home to die, and I thought she did right in front of me. She took in a huge, seemingly last, breath. Let it out and was still. I was on the floor with my arms around her, crying, and my husband behind me with his arms around both of us. It was the worst night of my life. She is my very best friend in the world.

An eternity later she started breathing again. All though the night I checked on her, called her name and she would slowly wag her tail.

In the morning my husband went to his father's to dig her grave. This is a 65 pound dog, so the grave was no small feat. Throughout the day I thought she would die any minute, but she held on. The next day she was a little better. The day after that she acted like the whole thing never happened and was back to running sprints after squirrels.

Now my father-in-law has a gigantic hole in his lawn.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkiki dogwood

Oh man, I'm so sorry. It sucks, doesn't it? The dog we had when I was a kid lived long enough for my son to meet him. Once he couldn't get up anymore my parents couldn't stand to do it. So I did it. It was awful. I hated every second of it.

A toast to your fur baby.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Domestic Goddess

My heart goes out to all of you...and most of all, Spliffer. This final goodbye is so hard, even when you know you're doing the right thing.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarole

crap. i'm crying at work. lots of love from a stranger...i hate that anyone has to see this day.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlynda

Sending you love and strength and good thoughts. I can't imagine what you're going through.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjamie

I'm so sorry you have to go through it. I am crying right along with you. My heart still hurts from a dog my family had to put down 7 years ago. Love to you and your family.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole M.

this made me cry

all our dogs except 1 have all lived to ripe old ages meaning we've always had to make that horrible heartbreaking decision. In retrospect I am almost grateful to the snake who took that responsibility away from me with my Hugo.

My Big Boy is turning 13 in November and its already floating around in the back of my mind as I watch him get stiffer when he gets up in the morning, as he struggles with the stairs at night, when I have to lift him into the back fo the car when he used to spring up so easily.....that within a few years I am going to have to make that decision again...12 years ago I watched his mother give birth to him so making that decision is always going to be too soon for me.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Oh you do make me cry a lot Monica, my heart is seriously breaking for you right now! I'm so sorry that you and your mom have to make this decision, I know it's incredibly hard. I'm sending positive thoughts and mental hugs your way.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendi

it's horrible seeing a dog have a seizure. I had a dog who I adored and he adored me. One time when I was on a sleepover (as I was younger at the time) my parents left the dog outside on the top porch to do his business, because we are lazy like that.

They must have forgotten about him or he saw a bird or something and the poor thing jumped off the top porch. He was ok, but he crawled over to the fence and waited for someone to let him in.

After that happened he seemed fine, but sometimes his back would arch and he would shake and be uncontrollable for a couple minutes. It was horrifying and I would just hold him and pet him until it subsided. The poor thing. I loved that dog with all my heart and was devastated when we moved, and my brother left the gate open. and our 2 dogs got out. They both tried to cross a busy street at night being that we just moved but not far, I am thinking he was trying to get back home

and My little Niki was small and White and got hit by a car and didn't make it. I still miss him, he was the greatest dog ever.

Good luck putting your old boy down. It'll be hard, But think of all the good times you had with him.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

I'm so deeply sorry. You're doing the right thing for your best friend, easing him into the next world with dignity. I know how hard it is, but I hope it helps you to know that you gave him a wonderful life of love. No dog could ever ask for more. Take care.

April 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

Oh this is so sad Monica. I'm so sorry for you and your Mum, but it sounds like Spliffer has had one hell of a life growing up with your family and it's just the right time to let him go.
Take care

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVicki

I'm so sorry that you are having to go through this...I just went through this with my childhood dog (16 year old Yorkie). Like Spliffer, he was blind and deaf and had several seizures. We were also mulling over when to go to put him down. He had a final seizure last Wed., went to sleep in a sunny spot on his blanket, and died peacefully in his sleep. I am so grateful it happened the way it did. It is not easy to face the prospect of putting down a dog that you love so much. When they are in pain, however, it definitely is the most loving option. Again, I'm sorry about your little guy. It sounds like he has had a wonderful life/ loving family.

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSue

Aw....Splifer. You description of his nose, Splifer's having to be in contact with you is so sweet. Every word you use here captures the image of needing to connect ...with love, to feel secure.


What you wrote- "Excuses pop up and you grab onto them. Life preservers, something to keep you afloat on an ocean of sadness." Is so true! I have been through that with Bailey, My husband would not let her go and we waited until one stromy night when she started crying. I felt it should have been sooner but we just waited until we could wait NO LONGER. I guess we all hold out hope and it seems that a premature decision might feel like you are letting the air out of the life preserver (inner tube), while the right time is more like pulling up in a boat besides Spiffy and pulling him in. Rest assured that Splifer's time will be the right time. Peace in the storm. (sniff)
Never easy. God Bless you.

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterg-clair

So sorry:( Thinking about you and your family. Just went through the same thing this past fall. Still cry thinking about my Kota. Sorry Monica.
XOXOXO

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKel Scott

I had a very sick foster puppy come to my house basically for respite care. After 24 hours and multiple seizures it was decided to euthanize.

I knew he was sick and was going to die in my care. I only had him for 24 hours. I was a wreck once the decision was made. I second guesses myself, cried a river of tears and held him while he received the injection.

I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and grief you are experiencing.

I LOVE reading about Spliffer. I love his hikes. I love his simplicity. I love his open adoration. I love his zest.

It was a wonderful day when the two of you found each other and a wonderful life you have shared together.

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGreenInOC

I'm so sorry. You gave him a wonderful life of mountains, love and freedom.

He loves you and it is time.

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

I'm sorry Monica...

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteramy s (OH)

This is so very sad. I am sorry Monica....thinking about you!

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

sorry you have to go through this....you and your family will be in my thoughts

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkacy

Good Lord I'm crying. I'm really sorry for you all. This just sucks. But it's time, you're right. The poor guy has to be tired and scared. It sounds like he's had a great life and even got to enjoy it some more with you all at your moms. Taking him on walks and such... He probably really loved it, like a dog does ya know?! No wonder he sniffs your ankles = ) Just do me a favor for Splifer. Stay with him and pet him. Love on him and don't leave him with the vet aides to do their thing. It's hard but it'll make him more comfortable just to smell you and know you're there. X's and O's. lots of them.

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLori

I'm so sorry Monica...This is so, so hard. Words don't make it better, just a lot of time and a lot of reminiscing. I'm sending good thoughts to you and your family tonight. From your stories, I know he lived a great life and you have many MANY memories to carry with you. Hang in there, lady.

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Oh I'm so sorry. I know how much you love Spliffer.
We're going through something similar with our older dog Sam. We're gonna put it off for as long as possible b/c right now he's still happy and pain-free. I'm more worried for my kids though b/c he will be their first true loss, and they grew up w/ little Sammy.

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChrissy

How horrible and freeing in the moment he is free. My sister works with dogs and she told me of a story where at work they had to put a dog down because of aggressive tumors. She said they had a party for him and let him eat whatever he wanted. Then they sat with him, petting and touching him as he passed. I know you and your mom will find your way to honor Spliffer.

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaiken

Monica, I'm sorry to read this. Strength to you.

April 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPeromyscus

best wishes to spliffer and those who love him.

re: sowing the seeds. interesting article in our newspaper about cough syrup helping the cause:
yeah that's right, i said cough syrup. who knows?!

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/robitussin-pregnancy-in-a-5-bottle-of-hope/article1529730/

April 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteralex

You can rest assured that you did right by Spliffer and he knows how much you all loved him. We had to make this decision a few weeks ago for our 15-year old lab/dalmatian mix. Once she fell part way down the stairs and needed to be rescued, I knew it was time. She fortunately didn't hurt herself, but she could have. We were lucky to have "Dr. Kevorkian" come over and she was surrounded by the love of her family. We miss her so much, but knowshe was ready, like your boy. Excuse me, while I grab a Kleenex. Or two....

April 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSaffoula

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