The story of two Floridians and their foster Great Danes
Today, Rocco passed away peacefully on my lap.
Rocco came into rescue having a few health issues and they only got worse over the 6 weeks we had him. He had a history of seizures (and once seized in my car), a ton of growths in his liver, some fluid in his abdomen, heartworms, joint problems, and severe anxiety.
They did some blood tests and ultrasounds and the results didn’t look too great. Last week, when we were in Petsmart, I decided to weigh him over at Banfield. He weighed 15 pounds less than he did a couple of weeks before. I told the rescue about his dramatic weight loss and they scheduled a vet appointment for the following week (today).
I took Rocco to the vet (Christian was at work) and P from the rescue met me there. The purpose of this appointment was to do more blood work and another ultrasound to see how his liver was doing.
P and I were not there while they were doing the tests. The vet came out and said that when she had the probe on his abdomen, he writhed in pain and scooted away. We wondered if it was because of his anxiety (I wrote a little about it here). She said she’s seen many dogs and is quite sure this was pain.
At this point, she gently gave us her recommendation. The likelihood of his quality of life getting better was very small. When the vet left the room, P and I talked about it. There was no doubt between us that this was the right choice. It just sucked.
From here on out, I’m going to be pretty candid about what happened. One of the details is probably slightly grotesque, but I want to share it. If you don’t want to read the story,
stay tuned next week for my thoughts on death you can read my thoughts about death here.
Honestly, Christian and I had a feeling that today would be his last day. In anticipation of this, I brought his blanket from home and left it in the car. After I got his blanket from the car, they took me into a room in the back. It was a small room with a small couch, an armchair, and a white shag rug in the middle. An assistant came in with some supplies and had a very sympathetic look on her face. She started setting down dog potty pads. I was crying at this point, but I managed to get “this is my first time” out. She explained to me what I might see:
She said that they were sedating him at that moment. Then, they would walk him in and then overdose him with an anesthetic once he was with me.
After she put the pads down, she put a nice fleece blanket over them and left. Then another assistant brought Rocco in (alive and walking). They had just given him the sedative. His eyes lit up when he saw me. They asked if I wanted to be alone for a few minutes and I said, “yes”.
I sat on the ground and I encouraged him to sit. This was usually difficult for him, but he did it like the good boy he was. He laid down and put his head in my lap. I swear that I did not put him in any position so he would lay down like that. Like I said, it was difficult for him to sit, so I couldn’t really adjust him. That happened naturally, and it was beautiful.
He was looking around a lot but then he slowed down and rested his head fully on my lap. I was petting his neck when I went up to his face. Normally, he trembles a lot and his face twitches a lot (we think from anxiety). When I pet the side of his face, his eye didn’t twitch. That’s when I lost it.
Two assistants came in, one with a needle. All of the ladies I saw and spoke with were so sweet and so kind. They asked me if I was ready and I said, “yes”. They injected one of his back legs with the anesthetic and then once the needle was empty, they injected a little bit of air into his leg.
This whole time I was just stroking his face. After they were done, they waited a few moments and then listened to his heart. “He’s gone.”
They asked me if I wanted a few minutes and I said I did. It was so nice of them to ask for my wishes during this whole experience.
So, I sat there with Rocco’s head on my lap and just loved on him. Because of the sedative, I didn’t really notice the moment where he crossed from life into death. It hit me when I tried to get up. Lifting his shoulder up so I could get my leg out was fine, but it was eerie not feeling any muscle contractions. I laid his head gently on the ground.
I noticed his tongue was sticking out. I didn’t want to leave with him looking like that, so I lifted his tongue and put it in his mouth.
It was ice. cold.
You know what a piece of frozen meat feels like after it has sat out for a while to thaw? The outside feels thawed but the inside is still solid? That’s what his tongue felt like. For literally hours after that moment, I could still feel the coldness on my hand. I’m haunted by that moment.
Something sweet happened during all of this. While they were injecting him with the anesthetic, a beautiful cat walked in. Apparently, this cat lives at the hospital and is sort of the “office cat”. They said they like to think of her as a nurse. She jumped up on the couch and watched. After the assistants left, the cat stayed on the couch and watched us. When I was in the doorway about to leave, I turned and looked to see if the cat would follow me. Nope. She was on the couch, with her body facing Rocco, just looking up at me.
I know she probably wasn’t there to comfort me, but I like to think that she had my back and made sure my baby wasn’t alone, not even for a second.
I snapped a picture of my favorite kitty nurse:
I walked out of the room and one of the assistants came up and gave me a big hug. I asked that they take his pawprint and they did. I’m going to frame it and put it on my desk.
When I got home, I wasn’t crying. I was just kind of quiet. But I guess Roxie and Mia somewhat picked up on it, because they both immediately jumped up on the couch and curled up against my leg. It was unusual because:
I don’t know if it was coincidence or what, but I choose to believe that they knew what had happened.
Rocco was technically our foster dog, but I refuse to think of him as having died as a foster. He died as one of our family pets.
I’m going to write my thoughts about his death and death in general and post them next week. Until then, give your babies a huge hug from Christian, Roxie, Mia and me.
Edit: Read my thoughts about death here.