On the day you’ve said good-bye to your good boy, happy hour isn’t happy at all.
We managed him through escalating arthritis and kidney failure but in the end it was cancer. His slow but controlled decline turned into a catastrophic plummet seemingly overnight, his body wasting away right before our eyes.
We called the vet. We were pretty sure of what lay ahead of us but not completely certain. Like most people facing this kind of loss, we held onto the most translucent thread of hope that there would be something left we could do for him other than let him go.
The vet had an emergency surgery so we couldn’t go in until 3:45. On the one hand we had the day to spend with him. On the other, it was the cruelest of countdowns. And he was deteriorating rapidly. We drank deeply from the coping-mechanism cocktail of denial and misplaced-optimism to help us get through the day. But of course we knew; we just needed to pace ourselves on the path to acceptance.
J. gave him a soothing bath, brushed him, sat on the floor petting him—giving him the physical affection he could never get enough of. After awhile he mostly just wanted to sit outside and enjoy his yard—surveying the landscape, sniffing the smells in the air, wallowing in the grass, sitting under his apple tree. He was quite peaceful. Serene, in fact.
As the time approached to leave for the vet’s office, we sat on the sofa for a few minutes, watching him rest. The air was sticky and uncharacteristically still. There was a surreal quiet in our usually fairly noisy neighborhood. Then we carried him to the car and he sat in the back seat, happily enjoying the scenery on the drive.
We have a friend who lost his faithful girl a couple of years ago whose vet told him it’s better to let them go a day early than have them suffer greatly by being a minute too late. Our vet confirmed that was the cusp Toby was on. It wasn’t a surprise obviously and it was time to set aside the hope we’d clung to all day. It was time to say good-bye.
The process was mercifully quick. We held him and loved on him while the vet tended to giving Toby the relief he needed. We rubbed his ears, looked in his eyes, and whispered to him. And we wept as he faded away.
We drove home from the vet in sad silence and opted for an early happy hour under the circumstances. He loved happy hour. We reminisced about his adventures with us and laughed talking about all of his quirks. And we cried for missing him so much. The sky put on a gentle, orange sunset and we watched it together in the back yard as the bittersweet memories of how much he loved it there washed over us.
He loved his yard. He loved his tree. It will always be his tree. And happy hour will never be quite the same again.