For the past several weeks—and especially on the weekends, probably because we were around him all the time and he couldn’t show us just his energetic side—our Vizsla, Mateo, had been acting like he was suffering from a little bit of arthritis. He was stiff and achey and sometimes he wouldn’t really want to walk. We were upset, but not that surprised. He was closing in on his tenth birthday and was definitely becoming a senior. I said, again and again, that this was what things were going to be like now and that we just had to enjoy his good moments and make him as happy as possible. We bought him some joint support treats. We let him spend more of his time in the evening on the sofa between us. We, of course, let him spend the entire night and most of his day in our bed; his bed had become more a formality, to be moved from room to room as if he were actually going to use it, though we knew that ours was the bed he preferred.
This last weekend, he had a good weekend. He played on Saturday and Sunday. He went on a great walk with me in the sun and heat of Sunday. Monday, Fernando took him on another walk he really enjoyed. When I got home from the university on Monday, they were still out on their walk. I heard him crying from blocks away because he had sensed that I was home. When they got back, he searched the house for me—I was in the bathroom—and he was so excited to see me.
Monday evening, he was stiff again. He was having trouble getting comfortable. We called him onto the sofa after dinner and he finally relaxed between us. When we went to bed, he got into bed with us. But he woke up at midnight, as if he were thirsty or needed to go out. Fernando got up and opened the door for him, but he collapsed. He couldn't stand on his back legs. Fernando got him back in and he got back on the bed. When I got up with him at five, the same thing happened. He collapsed. Then he got himself up and tried to drink water, but he couldn't lean down to do it. He got up again and walked into a corner of the patio and lay down.
I lifted him—this was a dog who would never let you pick him up—and carried him back into the bedroom and onto the bed. His breathing was labored but he started to calm down. He wouldn’t, though, turn his head when we called him by name; he was concentrating on not hurting, it seems. We talked about what to do. Should we see if he felt better? Should we go to the vet immediately? Should we wait until our vet opened?
He fell asleep again and so we let him sleep between us: the dog who was always with us, around whom we defined ourselves and our lives. We got up at seven. He tried to drink water. He couldn’t. He vomited it. He collapsed again. And, so we called our vet, who couldn't see him until the late afternoon. Off to the emergency vet. It took us far longer to get there than it should have. Modern technology doesn’t always help you get where you need to go.
We took him in. The vet came to talk to us quickly. Our boy had bloody fluid in his abdomen and evidence of at least one mass. The prognosis wasn't good. Even if it was benign, the chances that he would make it through the surgery were low; among other problems, the old boy had a heart murmur we knew about. And, the chances were that it wasn't benign. If it was cancerous, we were told, he would have another month or maybe four. And, that was only if he made it through the surgery.
We made the decision we had to make: to have him put down. We went back to see him and though he couldn't kiss us as he used to do always and given every opportunity, as almost every picture of him shows, but he gave the tok-tok-tok-tok of his tail that always meant that he had seen his guys.
They wheeled him into the room where we had been earlier and we spent time with him before and during and after the procedure. We bawled and have been bawling for the twenty-four hours since.
We left a piece of ourselves, individually and as a couple, on that table. We scheduled our days around him. We bought the house we now live in because it would be good for him. We bought cars based on whether they could carry him. We planned vacations and trips based on who could take care of him—he was too idiosyncratic to be boarded successfully. Half our conversations were about his bowel movements or what funny thing he had done or what he had eaten. He kept us both sane. He has kept my depressive swings from going too low, because there was always him to take care of and to comfort me and us. You didn't have to explain things to him.
He was a dog, but he wasn’t just a dog. He was a friend. He was a lifeline. He was an object and giver of love. He was supposed to live longer. We were supposed to get to watch him get older and take care of him and see his face turn white and hold him and feel him against us in the night.
I hurt—we hurt—in ways I haven’t in a long time. All I see in the house and all I heard in the night was his absence. We look for him and he’s not there. We look at each other and start crying again. I want him to comfort me and he won’t ever again.
I’m really, really sad. It’s because of something—someone—really amazing who is gone. I miss you.