Tale of Tails: Clifford Part 2
Part 2 of the touching story submitted by our reader Tina F. about the love of her dog Clifford and their fight with cancer.
February 11, 2013 This was Clifford’s last day with us. The vet was coming at 7:00 this night.
This day he awoke feeling a bit brighter than he had. I thought possibly it was from the great day he had yesterday: his favorite visitors (Tom, Tim, Veronica, Libby, Tom and Nancy), the good meal (lamb – his favorite) and a good night sleep. I fixed him a ribeye steak for breakfast which he ate out on the deck. It was a warm morning and he decided to jump up on his perch one last time (which we almost did not allow, but I got it at the last minute). The wind was blowing and he rested his head on the railing of the deck seat and gazed toward the street, or toward the heavens, not sure:) This was his favorite resting place which gave him a great vantage point to keep the neighborhood safe from school buses and UPS trucks:)
I had my chair yoga class that morning and I actually got through the class without breaking down. The theme was grief and gratitude. One vinyasa we did: start with hands in front of heart. We slowly lowered hands to the ground, allowing the grief to drain from our heart into the earth and slowly raised our hands over head, reaching for gratitude that we then brought down into our heart, returning back to seated mountain pose. This was healing.
I came home after class… I could feel the anxiety rising in my soul as I looked at the clock and realized I had only 5 or 6 hours left with my boy. I started reading Dr. Villalobos chapter on euthanasia thinking there was maybe one last thing I may have missed, one more piece of research or article that would make this easier. But now, I was wondering if HE was ready – maybe he wanted more time with me, would I find this answer in a book????
As the hours wore on, I started feeling more anxious and could feel it escalating to sheer panic. How could I live my life without my boy – what if he was telling me he wanted more time???? I knew the end was near, I knew this disease would not be cured and would continue to progress at a very rapid rate, but maybe just one more movie to watch together, one more snuggle in bed, one more plush toy to devour, one more…… one more…..
We decided to take Clifford and Gracie to Oak Openings park – one of his favorite places. He stuck his big ol head out the window and breathed it all in as we were approaching the park. I thought we would let him out for a few steps, but he had other things in mind. As soon as he got out of the car, he started nearly bounding into the weeds to PEE and sniff – we probably walked for 10 minutes or so – I was astounded at how far and how fast he was bobbing along.
Driving home, I felt the panic rising up in my chest and my head was swimming. I wanted to talk to anyone and everyone and have SOMEONE help me feel better; have SOMEONE tell me what he wanted. I was too afraid to be truly present to my boy. I called Tom, Sue, Dr. V, Rose….. they were all so compassionate, but I felt like I was receiving conflicting messages from everyone. I wanted to talk but I also wanted everyone to shut up – most importantly my own mind.
In the meantime, Michael had quietly and reverently prepared the meditation room so beautifully. He laid out a beautiful coral colored satin cover, arranged the buddha statues, placed Clifford’s “Aflack duck” on the altar. He continued quietly in the background, experiencing his own grief, yet able to prepare a peaceful place for Clifford’s passing… he then closed the door.
In the meantime, I was freaking out and felt this immense responsibility, grief and panic continue. Clifford had been whining and groaning since we returned from the park. I contacted two of my friends that can communicater animals well. Gale, who has connected with Clifford frequently and Jen an animal communicator I never met – a referral from Kim. Here is what they said:
Gale: “ Let me go meditate on this and call you back.” “Penny and I both meditated on this and both feel very strongly that he is ready and does not want you to see him suffer anymore”
Jen: ”He is actually ready, does not want you to see him worsen”
Other friends that day had told me not to do it if I was having 2nd thoughts. The conflict I was feeling led to more panic as the clock ticked down now to less than 2 hours left.
I laid on the our bedroom floor with Clifford and said ‘PLEASE tell me buddy, what do you want??? ” He started whining, and so I had him jump into bed with me, he then, picked up the stuffed bunny that was there, jumped down, waited til I opened the bedroom door, slowly hobbled over to the meditation room, waited til I opened this door, and laid right in the middle of the satin cover with his toy and stayed there!!
Dr. Sue Savage arrived…. I was still in panic mode. She took a lot of time to talk to me, saying “Physically, his body is tired, he is in a lot of pain, with pain meds at their max. He will not be getting better and is headed only for more pain. Why not allow him to go out on a good day. Is this whining and moaning normal for him”?
After more questions and reassurance from Dr. Savage, I reluctantly agreed. Michael took me aside and said, “This is the best time for him to go. He has so many angels and love around him right now”. This was true. The whole day I kept getting texts and calls from Gale, Annie, Rose, Nancy, Tom, Rance, Linda, Nephew C, Kate, Jay, Dr. V, Jenn, and many more…… They were all praying for us, sending light and love. It was palpable.
So we all went into the meditation room, Clifford and I lay on the floor. Dr. Savage prepared the sedative, drawing the liquid into the syringe. She went to his left hind leg and started to inject the liquid into his thigh. Michael was holding his head, I was petting him. He did not like it, it hurt going in- he turned his head toward her and snapped a bit just as she was finishing. Turning like this caused his head to now rest on my legs, his back to me. We laid like this as I curled around him petting him, telling him how much I loved him, while favorite chants played in the background. I started singing these to him and telling him to surrender to all the love around him. Telling him that Grandma and Moses(as in my cat, not the prophet) would be there to greet him; that I would be there too in a blink of an eye and I wanted him to be the first one to greet me. I thanked him for finding me, I thanked him, I thanked him….
I continued with my head on his belly feeling it rise and fall, he became very peaceful and sedated. Dr. Savage said she thought he was very well sedated and ready for the euthanasia liquid. We agreed, she administered this and I continued to stroke him, sing to him and tell him how much I loved him – that part would never die. I felt him breathe his last breath before all the liquid was even in him. As I continued with my head on his side, breathing him in, Dr. Savage slowly and respectfully listened to his heart and lungs many times assuring us that he was gone.
We brought Gracie in first – she smelled him several times, circled his body and smelled his mouth like she always loved to do. She seemed to take it in and didn’t freak out like we thought she might. He was her red badge of courage, she his shadow.
Callie was next – she seemed more interested in the toy and steak that we had in the room. Eventually she stopped long enough to smell him several times- in her own fast way, I am sure she processed it.
We then helped Dr. Savage place his body in a bag, I was stroking that big old head all the while. Dr. Savage, being so compassionate, said, “Would you like me to leave his head out?” I said yes, we placed him on a stretcher and helped load him in her car, followed her to her office and Michael insisted I stay in the car while he helped her place him in the clinic awaiting cremation.
That was our last day together. I know now that his whining was him pleading to me to go through with it; his request that I stay as brave and strong til the end as I had been for him throughout his life. Being his guardian and advocate and protector – he needed me to find the strength to allow him a peaceful passing and a chance to move on to his next important work.
We thank Tina for sharing her story with us. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments for Tina in our comment section.