Note: Please read this entire post!
It’s 10:45 am on Friday, September 9. Yesterday, we decided that we are going to take Bradley to the veterinarian that has taken care of him his whole life, Dr. Haims. Our intention is to ask Brad’s doctor to end our pet’s wonderful life. It’s time. With heavy hearts, we have concluded that we don’t want him to suffer needlessly. The kindest thing we can do for him and for us is to let him go.
I woke up this morning at 5:00 am (again) with anxiety that would not go away. I kept repeating, “Let Go. Let God,” but the unease and confusion would not go away. At first, I thought it had something to do with our move, work or other issues, but that was not the case. It was about Bradley. It was about the confusion and grief that come up when someone close to you is dying.
Brad was laying down next to me as I struggled to fall back asleep. He got up briefly and came closer as and that’s when it dawned on me that my plans for today – going to our storage unit and a Yankee game – might not be the right plan. When Beth woke up, we talked about Plan B, if the vet felt that now was the right time to euthanize Brad.
Beth and I talked and eventually lay down next to Brad and looked in his eyes. He didn’t seem interested in going outside or having his food. He was just laying there, alternatively looking at us or closing his eyes in repose. One of his habits – shaking his head – had become impossible for him. He has a new lymphoma the size of a baseball on his neck and another on the side of his mouth.
We called our friend, Erin. We trust her experience with animals (she’s a breeder) and because she’s an amazing and smart person. A few weeks ago, Erin gave me an assignment – to write a letter to myself from Brad – which I posted in this space. In other words, Erin is wise and we needed some wisdom NOW. We didn’t want to make a premature decision or a wrong one.
During the call, Erin was able to say a few important things: 1) there is no wrong time to end Brad’s life, 2) our pets depend upon us and trust us to help them during difficult times, and 3) the most loving thing is often to let go when part of us wants to remain attached to our pet. I could write a lot about each of these items, but suffice to say that we got what we needed. It’s our decision and we needed to trust our gut.
The last words of advice Erin gave me were to be present to my feelings, today. She could sense that I was moving on to the next step (how to use Brad’s death to help others, for example ) and she had the guts to say, “you need to be in your feelings, Scott, or else you’re going to miss a great gift.” Smart. I was busy making plans to distract myself from the pain. So, I canceled all of my plans for today and so did Beth. We are going to be with one another and with our dog.
I wrote our children and encouraged them to call or set up a Facetime with us. I scheduled time before we went to the vet with my parents so that they could say goodbye, too. And I’m writing about this because it’s one of the ways I can avoid cleaning or doing errands and stay present.
It’s 7:05 pm and we’re back home – all of us – Beth, Scott and Bradley.
After a very long and difficult day, we changed our minds and decided to hold off on euthanizing our friend, Brad. He’s lying down next to me after wolfing down his standard meal of ground meat mixed with some kibble and, now, some medication to help decrease the size of his three lymphomas.
During the ride to Westchester, we spoke with my brother, Craig, and another good friend, Eric, from Weaverville, NC. Initially, I was against polling my friends and family about the decision we needed to make, but I think that’s because I wanted to protect myself from changing my mind. I didn’t want to hear anything that would cause me to feel indecisive. (In my upbringing, men were decisive and women were not. Obviously, I watched John Wayne, Bruce Willis and 007 movies too much.)
When we got to the vet’s office it was clear to him that Beth and I weren’t totally united and ready to make this difficult choice. He fully supported our right to euthanize Bradley today given his incurable illness, but the good doctor said some things that gave us pause. Chief among them was that Brad seemed like Brad. He was still wagging his tail and smiling, enjoying sniffing around, showing strong emotions about people and jumping in and out of the truck with some gusto. He may have only been 80% of his former self, but that was enough for us to reconsider things carefully.
My big “win” for the day was to take time to pray multiple times, to listen to my heart and the people around me. I gave up the temptation to be steadfast when it was no longer called for and, instead, chose to accept what may be more joy and more pain with Bradley and Beth. I am under no illusion – we chose a harder alternative. It may mean that we will watch Brad deteriorate, that he may experience some more pain and both will be difficult. Sigh.
Still, I can’t help but feel that this is all enlarging my heart a little more. What has all of the pain and tears been about this past week if not to expand my ability to feel what life has to offer? Perhaps it is “the gift” that Erin said might be coming my way.
I’m scared, but I’m curious and excited, too. And I feel very lucky to be here with my dog, tonight.
The end may be nigh, but it’s not now.