Losing Liam

Liam, Christmas Day 2012, Santa Monica Beach

Our house seems a lot quieter now. One dog in the house instead of two feels very different. Liam added that perfect amount of chaos to our days that I’d gotten used to over the past 13 years. He went from a mischievous eternal puppy to a blind older gentleman very slowly. I was still running with him 4 miles a day up until last year. Even being an old dog, Liam had that spunk and spirit that livened up our home.

It went downhill so fast. Less than a month ago we’d gotten Liam’s right eye removed due to glaucoma from his PRA, and I was so optimistic about his last years of life. I thought, he wouldn’t be in pain anymore with that eye pressure. But there was also this gagging and coughing, which suddenly went from once a day to many rounds throughout the day and night.

We brought Liam to the vet and they said his chest was full of fluid and had to be drained. It seemed to be from a tumor in his chest bleeding into his chest cavity. I was so sad to hear Liam gagging again about a day after the fluid was drained. His coughing had gotten so bad we couldn’t have him sleep in our bedroom anymore because it woke everyone up. Through it all though sweet Puppos still had a hearty appetite and wanted to go on walks!

I started to have a gut feeling though that our days with Liam were extremely limited. On days I’d normally run with just Byron I walked both dogs instead. I hugged Liam each and every time I walked by him. I didn’t want to have any regrets.

We decided to bring Liam back to the vet for an X-ray to see what was going on with the chest fluid. My heart sank when I got the text from Patrick that said, ‘chest is full again.’ It’d been only one week since we drained it last. Our vet gave us the contact of an end of life vet and I understood then that we were going to lose our sweet Liam.

But I thought we could plan and have time. We called Dr. Dale Krier and explained Liam’s symptoms. She said he could have a traumatic bleeding experience at any time, and was most likely already in great discomfort. It was recommended we put Liam down as soon as possible, tomorrow in fact.

No, no, no. This couldn’t be real. Liam was supposed to live to be 17. I always pictured him to be ridiculously old. But I knew in my heart Dr. Krier was right. Liam’s quality of life wasn’t great. He had a chest full of fluid making it hard to breathe, a nagging and painful cough and gagging, and he wanted to be left alone a lot throughout the day. His breathing looked so different than Byron’s, his chest looked like it couldn’t take in a lot of air.

~

I wrote the above a week ago and I’ve been dreading writing this last bit. It’s been so so hard and I’ve finally started to feel better. But at the same time, I don’t want to forget this day, Liam’s day.

Dr. Dale Krier was coming over at 1:00 in the afternoon on Thursday, June 28th, exactly one month after Liam’s 13th birthday. I got some work done as fast as possible in the morning and we all ate breakfast as usual. The dogs ate their eggs and fruit. It was a thunderstorm and cloudy and sometimes sunny kind of day, and a bit cool. The night before was stormy too, and I felt sad that Liam’s last earthly sleep was during thunderstorms. He was terrified of thunder. Patrick said it was like the heavens were preparing for Puppos.

I went on one last walk with Liam to our usual place at White Memorial. I thought he’d enjoy a familiar place nearby. I cried the whole two-minute car ride, and told Liam he was such a good boy, the best boy. Then we walked like we’d been doing for 13 years together. I couldn’t remember the last time we went somewhere just the two of us. I was reminded of many trips to Petco when we lived in Collinsville. We’d go there and get a new toy, some treats, and always a frozen yogurt. I wished so much to have one more Petco trip with him, but I knew our time had run out.

I let Liam swim in every possible place he could, and let him smell each scent to his heart’s content. He was having a great time like he always did on walks. I wanted that walk to last forever. I tried to memorize as much as I could in those moments, noticing each spot he peed on and smelled stuff. Then I got a text from Patrick that Dale was on the way. I felt my heart cracking and my tears overflowing. I had to bring Liam home.

My mom and her dog Hooch awaited us at home along with Patrick, Shep, and Byron of course. My heart split deeper once I heard Dr. Krier’s car pull in the driveway. After chatting for a bit inside with Dale we decided it was time. The storms had let up for the time being so we decided Liam’s last moments would be under the big maple tree in the yard. Patrick prepared some sardines, a tortilla, and chocolate in a bowl while I spread a white quilt I had sewn in the yard. We led Liam and Byron outside. Byron busied himself with eating apples from the apple tree, and Puppos sat on the blanket for his lunch.

While eating his stinky favorite fish Dr. Krier injected him with the sedative. I was trembling inside, so terrified of those unknowns ahead. In less than a minute Liam could no longer stand and gave in to the relief. He laid on his side, I took his dear head onto my lap. His tongue fell out of his mouth, his eyes rolled back. He already looked dead, but that chest rising and falling assured me we still had time, he wasn’t gone yet. The doctor said she was going to now begin the injection of whatever it is that stops the heart beating. Patrick and I nodded and stroked Liam’s beautiful coat, telling him how much we loved him.

Liam passed away in under a minute, his body seemed so tired. I’d heard the whole process can take 15 minutes or so, but our dear puppy boy was gone in minutes. I saw his chest stop and all the blood leave his gums and ears. Our hearts broke in half as we said goodbye. We cried so much we lost our breath. Our dear Puppos was gone.

Byron came over and smelled Liam’s mouth and backed away. He knew. My mom came out to say goodbye with Hooch. Patrick carried Liam’s limp body to Dr. Krier’s car to be brought to the crematorium, and laughed in grief about how heavy his body felt without his spirit to hold it up. I gazed at his beautiful face and body one last time, in disbelief that I’d never see that sweet soul again. I asked the doctor for some of the furs from his rugged thick neck, where it gets lighter in color. I always called those spots his angel wings. She shaved off a chunk, it was still wet from swimming. It smelled like heaven. The fur made me want more of him, I wished I could have one of his feet.

We thanked Dr. Krier as much as we could in those strange moments, like thank you could even be enough. To have someone come and gracefully facilitate such an event still leaves me in awe. We could’ve never navigated the dark journey without her light. It was harder than I can put into words, but Dale was there, steady and calm. The goddess of death. After watching Dale and Liam drive away we went back into the house. The sky broke open again and it poured rain and thunder the rest of the day.

It’s only been a week without Liam. Shep asks if he’s coming to bed, Byron looks for him when I say his name. I think I see him out of the corner of my eye or hear his breath. I don’t know where he is, all I know is he’s not here and it feels wrong for life to move on without him.

I am at peace knowing he’s not in pain. And I have no doubts whatsoever that June 28th went exactly as it should have. Liam gave us only joy; it was the least we could do to give him a walk, a snack, and the most gentle eternal nap.

Nothing bad should ever happen in a dog’s life, they’re our angel creatures. A peaceful and heartfelt goodbye was what Liam deserved. Our ultimate final gift to our dogs is what we’re left to deal with once they’re gone. The emptiness and tears are our lots to bear in exchange for our dogs’ precious innocence and peace. Liam never knew pain or fear, his life was only full and long and love. His death was love. We loved him so much we let him go. No one tells you these things when you buy a puppy!

Every day I feel a little better, but I still long to see Liam again. Byron sure helps, I hug him constantly. The book of a dog’s life feels entirely too short, and I don’t believe it would ever feel long enough. I’d always desire one more chapter. Liam’s book was a masterpiece I never wanted to put down. But it was the end. Goodbye to our beloved best friend, Liam/Angel Boy/Puppos/Pusty/John S. Puppos/Mr. Julie. We love you so much.

Fall 2010 or 2011, Nepaug Reservoir Canton

 Kate's house, Santa Barbara 2012





Topanga, 2013

 Liam's last morning with Byron, Litchfield 


Our last walk together, Litchfield

3 comments:

  1. I am in tears after reading this. What a heartbreak. I am so, so sorry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love ya Amy <3 Dogs are angels. Thinking of you and Daisy Mae <3

      Delete
  2. Oh sister! I’m crying again! Mr. Julie ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ You guys are so strong.

    ReplyDelete

 

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