Today was a sad day. We gifted Tobias, our “Toby,” with the release from his pain and suffering. We said goodbye to a friend we have known for nine of his sixteen difficult years.
I won’t gloss over the fact that Toby was a difficult old man, that he would bite if he didn’t like what you were asking of him, that he urinated whenever and where ever he felt, that he refused grooming, medicating, and certain embraces and that he detested kids, vet visits, and being left alone. He was demanding and difficult and exasperated me many days, but he had a capacity to love that brought tears to my eyes, and he could lick my arm in the most gentle, calm way when I was holding him the way he liked, letting me know he loved me after all. He had a special way of snuggling into the nook of my arm that seemed a perfect fit, and, when I held him just right, he would go limp with pleasure and stay there for hours. I held him for hours today, in that special position as a last favor and comfort to him and as a souvenir of our time together for me. Then I handed him to Danny, and said goodbye, watching the nurse come to take him to place the catheter and then administer the fluid that would take away the pain of cancer, of arthritis, of renal failure, and the mental anguish that he had been subjected to for years before he came to us at the Long Way Home.
Toby came to us nine years ago as a last stop from a Yorkie Rescue that simply couldn’t find a home that fit. He came to the Yorkie rescue after his previous owner died and he was left with her dead body for days. From there, he went to live with a college student whose only way of dealing with his separation anxiety and unwillingness to potty train was to keep him, pretty much 24/7, in a shower stall. As a result, when I first got him, he would try to drink from the faucet in the bath tub and went in furious little circles constantly. He was so used to being held by his previous elderly owner that he demanded constant contact and lap holding, so the college student, whom I’m sure was busy and had a social life, was ill equipped to meet his constant demands. By the time I got him, he had been returned from five foster homes. I was recently jobless and thought, “Wow! A project! I’ll cure him with my love, and I will potty train him.” Nine years later, Toby was not potty trained or cured by my love. He did, however, lose the frenzied circles, and he only resorted to them when he was really put out. As the debilitating arthritis set in, even ambulating forward was too much for him, and I used to think I would give anything to see those circles again because that would mean he didn’t hurt in every joint.
Toby had numerous illnesses. He had severe arthritis, cancer in his mouth, and constant gastro-intestinal issues related to medications. We simply could not medicate him. He was impossible to pill because he would bite, and anything we could hide in his food would make him develop bloody diarrhea. We suspected an ulcer. After discussing the issue with his veterinarian, we decided to make him as comfortable as possible and to monitor him for signs of decreasing quality of life. This last year, he really aged. Because of his fractiousness, we were unable to brush his teeth, so he had very frequent dentals. We would do everything we could to him at that time while he was sedated for the dental–groom him, express his anal glands, trim his nails, etc. because when he was awake, it wasn’t happening. We found the hemangeosarcoma in his mouth on his last dental about six months ago. He had kidney issues for the last few years, but on a special diet, his bloodwork always come back great. I noticed this last year, though, that the arthritis really limited his mobility. We took him to an orthopedic specialist for injections into key spots that helped for a bit, but he would gradually lapse back into the painful little dog that we lifted at every small step and that needed us to carry him more and more. I knew our time was limited with him and that 2011 was going to be his last year. That’s why when he became sick this weekend, I knew in my gut that it wasn’t just another GI upset as usual. His horrific bloodwork confirmed that intuition today. The doctor laid out a grim scenario of multiple days of hospitalization and fluids, injections, and oral meds giving us a week or so if we were lucky. I knew that Toby would be absolutely miserable with his last weeks being fraught with me fighting him and him feeling forced to bite me. I looked into his eyes today and knew that he needed to be let go from his pain.
The last few hours I had with him were very special. He snuggled his tired little body into mine and clung there while I carried him and told him how special he was and how much we loved him. Danny was with him as he was sedated before they stopped his heart, and he said it was a peaceful passing. Tonight, I listen for all the signs that he is no longer waiting for me. He is not whimpering for his 4pm chew treat that he loved so much. He is not barking and demanding his supper, and I won’t have to help him up and over any steps anymore. He won’t go on his “walk abouts” in the backyard that took him hours to sniff and walk the whole perimeter of our large yard, and probably the most sad thing is we won’t be playing “Tickle Butt” his favorite game anymore. I’ve cleared away his kennel and bedding and will cry myself to sleep tonight just as I always do when I lose one of our babies, but I truly know that Toby needed to pass to the next phase. I like to believe that he appreciated me and that we had an understanding that I was there to help. I hate myself for all the times he grated on my nerves and I lost my temper with him. He was a very difficult boy to love sometimes, but every problem he had were problems given to him by humans, so I always assuaged my frustration with the fact that he had every right in the world to be crazy. Goodbye my dear crotchety old man Toby. I miss you and love you and believe we met for a reason. I learned your lessons and you deserve each tear that is falling….