My Lab of 15 years was euthanized today.
The Passing of "Big Bad John" to Rainbow Bridge
For two weeks, I looked in his big brown eyes, and listened to him moan in his sleep, and I realized how my puppy had grown--grown old in front of my eyes. I knew this was coming six months ago. Because he was a pound pet, I never exactly knew his age, but he came to live with me in 1999. The vet said he was a year and a half or two years roughly, I work from home, and "John" was always by my side, loyally supporting whatever venture we had. I do a lot of writing, and he was always there to help.
Excepting one time. He came to me underweight at 68 pounds, and with regular feedings he grew into a large, then extra-large sized dog. He grew to over 110 pounds because of medication. He never knew he was anything but a puppy. We played like he was a puppy, and he got me to act younger than my age. I'd regularly roll on the floor with him, and he'd jump, pounce, and lick till I had to stop from laughing so hard.
Serious time is when I'm sitting at my computer, and "John" accepted that except for once. He wanted to play. His big beige nose would snuggle under my elbow, under my armpit, and with one good nose push, my elbow would go flying in the air, and my attention was shot.
Nevertheless, I was trying to meet a deadline, so I begged off until later. That lasted about 30 seconds. He went outside, and started his run to get up a good speed, traveling all the corners along the way with no delay. He had a great deal of steam worked up by the time he got to me, and he aimed for the same spot. He trained himself to break my attention. It worked. I left my computer.
He was running so fast, and with his weight behind him, he jostled my elbow away from my side, and his muzzle hit my side, cracking two of my ribs. I heard them when it happened. "Crack, crack." I said, “ouch”. It took a trip to the human doctor's office, however, to verify my malady. My ribs healed, and I figured out not to ignore attempts to get attention
"John" would kiss a stranger long past the appropriate length of time. He never met a being he didn’t like, though he could come out with a very vicious sounding snarl if sister dog or brother cat came creeping too close to his privately designated bone. Bones are for eating and for guarding. Guarding time is dog private time. Bones have always been special for my dogs.
"John" was a neat sort of roommate. The first time he was left alone in the house overnight, we hadn't been together long enough for house rules to be understood. While I was gone to the hospital, he went outside to the bathroom, using his doggie door. Nevertheless, he rearranged the living room for his comfort. I'm a pack rat. I'd gone to the hospital with little warning, and I had left piles of paper all over the room. "John" moved them into one large pile, right in front of the television--which I'm not sure he hadn't been watching. "John" was always at my side after that, unless he'd gone outside to use the bathroom.
After "John" came "Shadow,: the German Shepherd. We already had "Nella" the kitty, who was an older, and more sedate cat by then. We got a cat named "Jazzman" who lived with us exactly one year to the day. I think somebody stole him. He was a white cat with that marking of gray they call a "witch's mark" on his head, and an extra long tail. On his one-year anniversary he disappeared. Nobody had seen him. He was nowhere to be found, and I walked blocks. Cats do go missing without dying, and he was so handsome I think he was stolen.
"Emily" was a gray kitty with a white chest who came to be "Nella's sleeping buddy. They shared a few years in the house on Barnes Bridge with "John" and "Shadow" and me.
"Nella" was euthanized a few months after we moved to the bigger house. She couldn't go poop anymore. Not a situation I'd want to be stuck in. She was about three weeks from being 20 years with me in various houses and apartments in various Texas towns, and she was euthanised. There will never be another "Nellie".
"Emily" went through some changes when "Nella" was no longer with us. She started eating, and eating, and soon she was a big as a balloon--an honest to goodness balloon!
I was watching the classifieds for a cat that looked like "Nell" and in about a month I took my carrier and went for a home visit. Sure enough, there was my "Nella" almost, blue eyes and a bit darker of fur, but "Nellesque" nonetheless. My kitty I was waiting to find!
In the same litter were two, twins as a boy and a girl, who were what is called "Golden Siamese". These cats have gorgeous blue eyes, white fur, and golden yellow tips on their ears, and tail and feet. The girl owner wanted to adopt the twins out to the same home. I'd already found the kitten I was looking for. To shorten the story a bit, I went home with three Siamese kittens who went by the names of "Stella," "Fella", and "Angel Bella".
"Stella" the silver was a more petite cat, and ended up at the bottom of the cat totem pole. She chose to be an outside kitty, but I think "Fella" convinced her that was the Alpha's rule. She comes inside to eat dinner, take afternoon naps, usually to spend the night, and she becomes a house cat in cold and bad weather.
"Angel Bella" is her Mama's favorite lap cat. "Angel" comes to find me at 10:30 or 11:00 pm to tell me it's time to go to bed. She sleeps in the bed next to me. She established the nightly routine, and it's good for me to try keep up with it. "Angel" has a better internal clock than I do.
"Fella" was many cats: “Longfellow”, “Poor Fella”, and “Good Fella” at times. He was the boy kitty of my family, and alpha critter, in charge of all of us. He loved to go hunting at night. Too often, in my opinion, he brought home a dead rodent as a prize for the family. He was the male provider. “Fella” guarded the back gate, and “Shadow” guarded the front gate. What a system those two developed!
People have opinions about whether cats should be allowed outside. I know inside cats live longer because their environment is safer. But if I were a cat, I wouldn't feel like I lived unless I experienced the outside world. That's my opinion.
"Nella" had this favorite tree in the front yard in Corpus Christi that she used to enjoy spending time in. She fit perfectly. It was her spot. Every animal probably has a spot or two, whether or not the owner knows it. It's their way.
"Fella" didn't get into many fights that I knew of. When he came stumgling in after the first one, I stayed up all night with him because I was afraid for him from lass of blood. He got it in the neck that time. He died in the third fight. He managed to get himself back home from wherever it happened, and into the grass in the front yard. His body was still warm when I found him. He looked like he'd curled up for a comfortable nap. I explained to him about "Rainbow Bridge" before it was all over with.
I was so sad. I didn’t tell "Angel". I don't know if "Stella" knew or not, but she figured out he was gone and she had the total run of the patio. "John" was at my side while I conducted midnight cremation services. I offered "Shadow" the Shepherd a sniff of the material I'd used to cover “Fella”.. I saw recognition in her eyes. She jumped back like somebody had shot off a gun, and she didn't come back outside for a long time. For a cat, it was a long cremation service. I got a visit from a man with a flashlight because of the amolunt of smoke. I had been crying, of course.
Before he left, he said, "Cremation is okay." My neighborhood is like that.
"Fella" the male white cat, and "Shadow" the black and brown female German Shepherd, had been best friends in the backyard from the beginning. The pdog used to pick up the kitten with her mouth, and throw him up in the air. I was worried, but the cat loved it. He got rather wet sometimes. But he outgrew the mouth stage, and the two of them always sat on the patio together, checking out the world as the birds sand at sunset every night. "Shadow" missed "Fella" immediately.
It wasn't immediately, it was closer to more than a month, but "Fella's” place in the family was filled by a young half-breed Siamese kitten that my girlfriend needed to give away. She was less than six weeks old, and spunky. The Shepherd and the "Vanilla" Siamese play throw up the kitten, and the kitten loves it. They spend lots of outside time together. I even have a photo of them sleeping together on the couch. It's true love
"John" wasn't as interactive with these cats as he had been earlier in his life. He and “Nell” were pals. He was a cat player, not a cat hater. We had three sets of kittens during one summer, and "John" took it upon himself to keep the babies' butts clean. He was a gentle and doting dog uncle.
The kitten "Vanilla" (yes, I'm still rhyming cat names) may be pregnant with her first litter. "Shadow" will have kittens to take care of! But that event could be another month away. “John” was just too overweight and too feeble to hang on for another month to be around to appreciate them. He’ll be with me in spirit forever, because I always told him that he’s my “Forever John.”
Just because "John" isn't an only dog, that doesn't mean that I don't have a big hole in my heart. I do. He's only been gone this afternoon. Tomorrow will be a whole new day to miss him. I’ve already changed from calling out “Where’s John?” to “Where’s Shadow?” She came to me after a minute, and she gave me a look, one of those knowing looks.
"You never called me first before. Somehow things are different, huh Mom?" A vet told me she’s smart. I don’t think she’ll know he’s gone till dinnertime. Only one bowl goes down tonight. They always shared food. They switched bowls halfway through their meal.
We got to the vet okay in Mom’s car, and the vet techs used a long towel as a sling under his belly to help “John” walk inside the building. He couldn't get up and down all the time anymore. That's why we were there. It felt like we waited a long time, but I was just sitting on the floor petting "John" who was panting. I was telling him personal stuff about forever, and I sang his song to him, "Big Bad John" by Jimmy Dean. It's an early 60s song. "John" would wag and kiss when I sang his song.
The doctor did the euthanasia experience differently than before. "John" had a peaceful passing. I was right in front of his face so he could see me when he got the shot for sedation. The doc waited 10 minutes, and by then "John" was snoring with his eyes open and blinking.
Right after he got the first shot, IM (in a muscle), it looked like his eyes were crossing. I saw more white in his eyes than ever. We were both content to continue to sit on the floor and pet. He wasn’t panting anymore. He was feeling pleasant. We had ten more pleasant minutes of being together.
The doctor came in with the last shot for the last time, for the end to come. He worked around where "John" was laying on the floor. Dr. G was handy with the clippers to shave where he was about to put the needle. He didn’t use an alcohol wipe, and my brain wondered if he’d heard the George Carlin bit on that. Carlin questioned the logic of an alcohol swipe if you're the prisoner getting the lethal injection. I miss Carlin too.
My brain was to busy to ask. It was a fat pink syringe almost full with medicine, narcotics. Of course, you don't want a dog not to die when that's what you’re trying to do to him. The doc was already ready for that one. He told me later that he doubled the dose for "John's" weight.
The shot went directly into the vein and the doc pushed the plunger rather slowly. "John" didn't mind that his foot was being touched. The doc took the tourniquet off of "John's" limb, reached for the stethoscope around his neck, gave a listen to his chest, and said "That’s it, He’s gone."
"John" let out two snoring sounds after he got the final shot. It was like two final breaths. The medicine took less than a minute to do its job. Less than thirty seconds probably. "John" looked peaceful and relaxed, and I reminded him about Rainbow Bridge before I left. I told him to look for "Nella" and "Fella." They are already there.
I know when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll miss him, in a totally different way, and it'll take a few extra minutes to get out of bed.
If you are not famiar with Rainbow Bridge Poem, here's a good link to find out about it:
(Reprinted with author's permission this link).
I've never had a better friend than my "Forever John"