Ash, my dog, got put down today.
He was a Jack Russell and would have been 16 on the 16th of December. I think that's called a Champagne Anniversary.
He's been a bit down for the last couple of weeks but on Saturday night he was really down. He was bleeding from his mouth and my mum took him to the vets on Sunday morning and they arranged to remove one or more of his teeth on Tuesday. They took some bloods and noticed his platelets were low, meaning his blood wasn't clotting, but they would decide more on the day. They gave us some antibiotics and painkillers and we were to take him back if he didn't stop bleeding from where they took blood from his neck. After he got back he got worse, going into the back garden and just lying down, not settling and a couple of times he stumbled or collapsed, like he had no strength. I tried to give him some painkillers but I couldn't get them down, he threw up a bit from that but I didn't think there was any blood in it but his gums were white. I tried again later on with the same result.
Took him back on Monday morning, they did more scans. Said it was a growth on his spleen causing this and they'd give him blood and an IV to get his strength up. They sent a text in the evening saying he'd eaten and he was looking better and that they'd call us in the morning with an update.
Unfortunately he'd taken a turn for the worse so they rang this morning. His gums were yellow indicating liver problems. They referred us to a specialist centre where they would be better equipped to deal with him. It was a long shot but I think any pet owner would make the same one.
When we went to pick him up he looked miserable, all wrapped up in a blanket and kind of limp. As soon as I took him from the vet he started whining. Got him to the car and tried to get him comfortable in my lap. It was a long journey and took about an hour and 15 minutes and he was whining on and off but I tried to comfort him as best I could. I saw Season 6 Episode 4 of The Walking Dead the night before and I think that put the idea into my head that with every whine he was saying something like "Let me go" or "Let it end".
When we got there they took him straight to the ICU, our vets had called to let them know we were coming. They did some test of their own while we gave a medical history relaying the past few days to a student. The vet came in and said they were going to do an ultrasound of his stomach and some x-rays, did those, came back and said there was a lump on his liver as well as his spleen. They couldn't do a biopsy because of his clotting but they said it was probably cancer. They mentioned something about the fats around the organs being abnormal on the ultrasound and it had travelled through the fats or that it was an indication that it had spread or something. They also mentioned he might be a bit brain dead because he wasn't getting enough oxygen to the brain with him being anaemic but, speaking as his owner, I don't think that was the case. I couldn't really take it in at that point as it was pretty clear where it was headed. They basically gave us two options, give him plasma, IV and the like and hopefully he would get better so they could operate or put him down. She said there was a possibility his heart would stop before the treatment could work and it sounded like a long shot at best. My mum and I decided on the latter. He'd been through enough.
We wanted to be with him when it happened so the vet talked us through what would happen, they'd inject the stuff into his cannula and he'd stop breathing. Warned us there might be some erratic breathing and twitching, loosening of the bladder and bowels, maybe some foam coming from the mouth from the lungs. But he was always a good dog and he didn't do any of that. My mum asked if he'd close his eyes but the vet said they don't usually do that. Tears had started by this point. She brought him in on an examination table, covered in the blanket so his head and paws stuck out and gave us a little time to say goodbye. He wasn't really there at that point. The vet said he was unresponsive when she examined him. I mentioned brain death earlier but I think he was just ready to go. I like to think he knew we were there. I like to think he felt us stroking him. I like to think he heard us tell him we love him and that we'll miss him. And the vet put the syringe in and pushed.
She flushed it through afterwards so it would get into his system while we continued stroking him. Unfortunately there was a problem. His breathing slowed but didn't stop. The vet went for more of the drug while we continued to comfort Ash. Vet came back and put about half again in. To my mum and me it seemed like he didn't want to go but the vet said it was more likely his weak circulatory system. Still no real change. Vet checked the cannula and it turns out it wasn't put in correctly or that it had changed position at some point and she'd been pushing the drug through a burst vein. Kinda looked like a big lump above his elbow.
So the vet takes him off so she can reinsert the cannula and we're left in the room. I don't remember how I felt but I'm fairly sure a small amount of anger, irritation and somehow seeing the lighter side were in there somewhere. I remember a clenched fist and chuckling to myself at the ridiculousness of it. I don't blame anyone for it, mistakes happen.
After a while the vet brings him back in. Ash was pretty much gone at this point, still breathing but you could see there was nothing behind his eyes, though we still go back to comforting him. The vet gives him more of the drug and he's gone. More tears and more stroking, more for us than for him. I remember her saying the eyes would stay open so I try to close them as best I could before opening them again by stroking him. After a couple of minutes the vet takes out the cannulas and covers his paws with the blanket and we talk about what we'd like to do with the body. We wanted him cremated so I guess they'll send him off somewhere and have his ashes sent back to our vets. It was one of those moments where some conspiracy theories run through my head about if we'll actually get his actual ashes or not. We still had his collar from Sunday so we kept that. Finally the vet wheeled him out and let us stay in the room for a while so we could collect ourselves. She said he's chasing rabbits in heaven now, but he was never the chasing type. I kept the tears in as best I could because I wanted to be home before I let it all out. He died at approximately 2pm on the 3rd of November 2015.
We went back to reception and mum filled out some paperwork while I fiddled with an awkward hot drink machine. Thankfully minimal paperwork after what happened, they understood it was a rough situation and I guess they'd go through our vets for money and such. I hand the paperwork back and say to the receptionist to pass on my thanks to the vet. She says of course. I hope she did because the vet was wonderful, patient and empathetic and it's the least she deserves. A bit of an odd thing to do really, thanking someone for putting your dog down but I think most people do it. While we were in the room it unfortunately didn't occur to me gives the circumstances. We sat in reception for a while before starting out long journey back.
Arrive at home, greeted by Ash's brother, Brock (Yes, both from Pokémon). We didn't take him with us because we thought it would distress him. I'm not sure how he feels, being a dog and all, but I'm sure he misses his brother as they've been together for nearly 16 years. I'm fairly certain dogs have no real concept of anything other than the "Now" but Brock missed his brother when he was taken to the vets so at the very least "My brother isn't here" will be on his mind. We'll give him lots of attention so hopefully he won't be sad. I don't think the cat has noticed. They weren't too close. She might notice something is missing but that's about it. Cats being cats. The dogs were more my mum's while the cat was mine.
Mum called her friends to give them the news while I called my dad. He was supportive and sympathetic as you'd expect. And I start to cry. He'd been through a similar thing with his wife and he was with her when they put her dog down so he had some idea about what I was going through. I thank him, hang up and finish crying. It takes a few minutes. I'm done for today I think.
I apologise for the length but it's been a long day and it feels like a lot happened. I wanted to write this on the day it happened but couldn't face it for a few hours. I think I just about managed it with multiple edits. I decided I wanted to put this in a journal when Ash was looking bad, probably on Sunday. He's been with me for more than half of my life and I think I needed to type this out to help process it. It still doesn't seem real. I've deliberately avoided not getting angry for the last few days. Trying to keep somewhere between denial and bargaining for some stupid reason. As if it would somehow help. Not sure which of the 5 Steps I'm on now. Still haven't accepted it even though it's just happened.
Ash was a very kind dog. Always knew how to cheer you up. Liked to cuddle. Enjoyed ripping up tissues he'd somehow pickpocketed from you without you noticing. Very much a people person and had an eye for pretty ladies. When the postman came he'd gently pull the letters the rest of the way through when they got stuck, sometimes leaving little rips in the envelopes in the shape of his teeth. While he was mainly my mother's dog he'd come into my room in the mornings. Always patient, once, while he was out a child greeted him and grabbed his head and shook it from side to side and Ash just let him, no growls or anything. Gave me a scar on my arm from his back leg when I lifted him onto the sofa in an awkward way. Liked to dig. Didn't like tug-of-war that much. Absolutely loved a belly rub. And a million other things.
We love you, Ash. You will be missed.