Thursday, October 07, 2004

They Call It Sleep

Well, it's done. Bitsie's gone. It was much harder to deal with than I thought it would be.

Emily and I got down to GDB just fine. We took Bitsie to the grass, and let her go potty before we went into the vet's office, which in retrospect was a very odd thing to do. We were bringing her in to die, and I was worried about her going potty on the grass like she's supposed to.

Bitsie was suprisingly energetic and curious about the grounds at GDB. She sniffed all over, undoubtedly smelling the other dogs that had walked that grass before. It was most ironic that Bitsie seemed more healthy on her last day than she'd been all week. Emily and I both new it was a deceptive display of excitement, probably due to the two steroid pills Emily had given her earlier in the day, and we still had to do what needed to be done. Emily and I walked down the long outdoor hallway to the vet's office. We were both OK until we got into the office.

At that point Emily and I both began to loose composure. The vet, Dr. Williams, was so kind and compassionate about the whole thing. He sat down and quietly explained the procedure. He told us Bitsie would get a simple overdose of the exact same drug used as anesthesia during surgery. It would put her to sleep and simply stop her heart and other organs from functioning. Bitsie was going to fall quietly and quickly asleep before any of her body functions stopped. Dr. Williams assured us she would experience no pain at all.

The nurse took Bitsie out and brought her back with a catheter in her front right leg, for the final injection. As we cried, Emily and I pet Bitsie for a moment, and Emily, the vet and the nurse all fed her some dog treats which she gobbled up. Seems kinda futile to feed a dog right before putting her out, but I guess they do that for humans too. Bitsie was happy, and loving those dog treats.

The nurse had Bitsie lie down on a blanket on the floor, and the vet looked to Emily and I one last time, to verify wether we were ready or not. We nodded through our tears. The vet quickly injected the anesthesia into the catheter, and Emily jumped up to stand next to me as I knelt next to Bitsie with the nurse and vet, petting her back. I just had to pet her while we did this. It didn't seem right to abandon her at this point. Bitsie looked around for just a second as the drug took effect, as if confused. Then, as the vet pet her head, she put her head down, and she rolled over on her side, like she was very tired, and just stopped moving. The vet used his stethoscope to listen to Bitsie chest for a second, and then said simply, "She's gone."

The process was suprisingly simple and quiet. Peaceful, even. There was no wimpering, no struggling, no barking. Just a quick injection, and 15 seconds later, Bitsie was fast asleep. 10 seconds later, without a sound, she was dead. Just like that.

Emily and I cried and hugged each other for a few moments. I asked the vet what happens now, and he said they will have Bitsie's remains cremated. Emily and I nodded. They asked if we wanted to spend some time with Bitsie now that she was gone. Emily answered no, thank you. The vet removed Bitsie's collar and gave it to Emily. Kind of like a keepsake I guess. We thanked the vet and nurse, took a last look at Bitsie, and left.

And that was it. We drove in silence for a while, each with our own thoughts. As we put distance and time between us and the GDB campus, the emotion of the moment began to abate, and we were able to talk about it. By the time we got home, we were both doing OK.

Experiencing this made me realize what a tenuous, slender, gossamer grip we all have life. To watch it slip away without the slightest struggle was just overwhelming. To see how fast it can happen was shocking.

The vet did say one thing, though, that really put this whole experience in perspective: He said we were granting Bitsie a priveledge that we don't even afford human beings. That's the priveledge of dying with dignity; without pain; the priveledge to not suffer needlessly in the face of an incurable illness. To die quietly in the company of loved ones, and to do so painlessly.

I thought that was a good was of looking at it. We needed to do this, there is no doubt or other argument. It just doesn't make it any easier.

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