This is what I wrote on Bailey’s last day. I had a great response so I thought I should share it and it should live here. This story is the fuel that has propelled me to continue to write. If someone identifies with something I say or likes it, then that is great, but not motivation. I dedicate this blog to Bailey.
The Last Hours
11:30 PM – Midnight Approaches
After a lot of thought and consideration, two days ago I made the decision that my dog Bailey’s pain and anxiety was too severe and his quality of life was in a rapid state of decline. To standby and allow him to continue to get worse by the day would be for my own selfish and unreasonable motivations. My decision as Bailey’s best friend is that he will be departing this world around 1PM tomorrow, November 29, 2015 and that from this moment until then I will be by his side and stay awake, documenting the evening along the way.
12:30 AM – The Cuddler
As I sit here in the silence of the night, I hear only the faint sound of the music on in the background and Bailey’s slow breathing. He knows nothing of this moment except to feel tired, weak and my hope is that there is some level of happiness knowing my arm is laying on him as I type and that I am sitting next to him. He hasn’t slept near me at night for months, as he is unable to climb the long stairs to the bedroom or use the ottoman to jump into bed with us. Bailey was a bed snatcher, a cuddler, taking up plenty of the large bed. He needed to always have his back against me in some way. I know I loved it, mostly. I know I missed it when he wasn’t there. I also know I took it for granted plenty of times too. But this is not the time to feel regret and my hope is that in the coming days and weeks my emotions and reflections will not turn to remorse but that they will be filled with gratitude and joy.
2:18 AM – A Minor Commitment
If you take a snapshot of the moment I am in currently, it has forms of happiness and normality written all over it. A boy and his dog, relaxing together at home and enjoying each other’s company. How many of these photos would there be stretched out over time if we started at the beginning? How different things would look over the course of 13+ years. At 22 years old I could have never imagined what I was getting into, but there was nothing that could stand in my way of getting that 10 week old puppy from the animal shelter. I fell in love right away.
2:42 AM – Life Sucks Sometimes
So much sadness comes with this moment. My unconditionally loving friend has to go away and it has to happen today because I love him so much. I fight back tears as I type knowing that making this decision was right but hating the very fact that I needed to make it. This is life. This is a truth about life. But, I’m sorry, it sucks. I’ve dealt with death plenty in my life, some of which was almost completely unbearable. But right now I see and hear and can touch a life next to me and it won’t be any more in ten hours.
3:15 AM – Young Legs Again
There are no words to speak. He sleeps, soundly, as he does every night. While I imagine he has appreciated the extra attention recently, he is unable to understand why it is happening. Bailey doesn’t think to take an extra moment savoring a treat or smelling a tree. He has no additional reflection when he sees a friend for what will be the last time. When I see him kicking right now in his sleep, as I have so many times before, I take joy in imagining him dreaming of running free in a field, probably after squirrels, as he loved to do so much before his back legs eventually kept him from doing so.
4:00 AM – Final Serenity
The second wind has come and I feel a stronger need to see this through to the end. I moved from meditation type music to the Stevie Wonder station. I decided it was time to take a last photo with Bailey, just the two of us in a peaceful environment. This is what came from that:
5:30 AM – Simple Joys Mean Everything
All I can do is count my blessings and thank God for all that has been given to me. Bailey, who must be somewhat confused and tired since normally no one is up with him like this, still laid on the floor with me as we shared a pillow. I was able to just pet him and talk to him. But mostly, I was able to thank him. I am so honored to have had such an unbelievable friend and companion all these years. No matter what life has thrown at me, the ups and downs, Bailey has always been there day in and day out with the same joy to see me when I walked in the door as if he hadn’t seen me in years.
6:00 AM – The Dog That Saved My Life
In 2010 I was in a bad way. We had just lost my sister’s fiancé to cancer and I was at the height of my alcohol abuse. I was in a downward spiral with very few options for an ending and none of them would have been good. The very last night I drank I officially went off the deep end. My wife was downstairs and I was upstairs attempting to clean up a glass I had broken. Bailey was with me. After making numerous cuts on my arm, on purpose, Bailey ran downstairs. He was frantic (think Timmy in a well). Now Bailey never acts this way. Robyn, who had already had it with me, did not have any intentions of going upstairs until she saw Bailey. She knew something was wrong and came upstairs. The rest of that story takes the focus off of Bailey but does explain that because of this, I went to the hospital for a few days, joined AA and haven’t had a drink in well over 5 years. However, the miracle happened before any of that because of my dog.
8:00 AM – The Dangerous Walk of Doubt
Eventually the sun came up and we went for a walk on a brisk, cloudy morning. Of course Bailey leads the way and we mostly go until he is done or I have to make the decision that his mind may be willing, but the body is not. This is when the severe doubt and questioning steps in. That is human nature, but especially after a long night of talking to a sleeping animal as you tear up throughout the conversation, that doubt can hit you hard. Almost a feeling similar to a craving or very strong desire to do something you know you probably shouldn’t. Your brain tells you what you know and what you need to hear. The facts and last few days flash before you like the credits at the end of a movie. Yet, in your heart you still believe there may be final scene missing where it all works out and the world is happy. Your mind knows it’s not going to happen, but doubt leads you back down the wrong road that brings you back to hope. Now hope is inherently a good thing most of the time, but when you are dealing with a sick, old and feeble being, your options in the realm of hope aren’t particularly captivating. That’s why the doubt that surprised me on the walk opened up that door of hope that was deliberately closed with a decision that took a lot of time, consideration and thought. As the walk neared its completion there was some struggle, limping and obvious fatigue. My hopes quickly returned to visions of massive fields, trees and other dogs in the beautiful next place Bailey is heading.
9:12 AM – The Unnerving Silence & the Ordinary Routine
Sunday mornings. By 9:12AM the family room would be a mess and breakfast ideas would be discussed. This is a strange one-time situation where Dylan stayed at her aunt’s house and Finn and mommy were up so late they haven’t gotten up yet. So Bailey and I have had what is turning out to be an insane amount of time together. There is even guilt associated with spending a few minutes on this, although he is probably beyond exhausted so he is passed out right now. Does his exhaustion matter? Shouldn’t I keep him up no matter what? Now you see a glimpse into my crazy mind. These are moments, days that define us, I believe. The graduations, accomplishments and so on most certainly do too, but a person’s character is molded, somewhat, by the really crappy, terrible things that happen in our lives. This is just my opinion of course. Perhaps the paragraphs are increasing in length because as the moments pass, the nerves increase dramatically.
9:35 AM – I Wish it Were Worse
I have officially decided that now I wish this dog was barely able to breathe, let alone walk, eat, drink and so on. He still can’t do those things very well, but he can do them and it kills me. He gets up slowly and I feel better, then he walks around like it’s a Sunday…..which it is! Give me a whimper or cry out that “you just want all the pain to go away!” I am selfish.
10:01 AM – Mom’s Know Best
If there is one person Bailey likes as much, if not more than I, it is my mother and she has arrived. She makes me feel so much better. I’m 35 years old and I don’t care. She still knows how to say the right things. Only a few hours left…….I can’t remember a time in my life where I was filled with so many different emotions……..I love my mom so much, I know that.
11:07 AM –
We took the walk Bailey wanted. We went where he wanted to go and he smelled everything he desired. We only went home when he wanted to. Barring any changes, that was his last walk of his life. I feel like I am having some amount of clarity and peace at this moment as we get so close. Bailey is just laying with my mother and me. Robyn and Finn said their goodbyes. The following photos were taken during this time and one from yesterday with the kids:
We now cuddle, pet and wait. A strange calm takes over, yet the anxiety remains and remains in a serious way for me. Coffee, tea, juice, club soda, and ginger ale continue to keep me busy, somewhat hydrated and take my mind off things. However, then my irrational and illogical mind take over again and I feel bad for even leaving the room for a few moments this close to the conclusion of his life. The reality is truly beginning to permeate my entire body. I cannot remember the last time, if ever, that I denied my body sleep for so long. This lack of sleep has taken my emotions, which were already the equivalent of a roller coaster running on jet fuel, and unlocked the seatbelts. We are in pure instinctual, survival mode, trying to give every inch of our love and comfort over to this animal for his last bit of time on earth. I can confirm that he truly enjoys this, even if he has no real concept of the specific reason it is happening right now. I feel comfort and joy knowing that Bailey really doesn’t know what is happening and that, as far as he knows, he is just having a great day. There is some serious appeal there.
12:10 PM – The Call
Some people see their life flash before their eyes in a moment of true panic and danger. I am sure that right before that moment, the feeling of your stomach dropping out of your body occurs. I have just experienced that moment. The doctor is on her way. She will arrive between 12:30 and 12:40.
So the scene is set. Everyone deals with extreme life events in their own way. Here is how I handle this, and remember, I’ve never done this before. I’ve got candles lit and I turned meditation music on. This stuff is for me, not Bailey. He has no speak able opinion on these items. So the laptop is closing for now. The feeling of strength and desire to be there for my mother has kicked in. The tears are flowing and the emotions are about maxed out. See you on the other side of this. I’ll pick back up later. Life is sure a trip. I love you, Bailey.
12:11PM – 3:10 PM – The Difficult Synopsis
Well here we are. The reason we all came here in first place. The doctor was incredible and made us comfortable from the first moment. Just my mother and I laid and held Bailey as he was given a sedative. He was so good and didn’t fight us at all. The tears fell and could not stop. The doctor laid his soft paw on a circle of clay and he made one final mark to remember him by. Finally, a slight patch of fur was shaved off us his leg and the final dose was given. Moments later, he was at peace. We brought my sweet prince on a stretcher to the doctor’s car, laid him down and I gave him one final kiss on his gentle fur.
The Next Day – Afternoon – When Reality is Actually Real
The day you lose someone is really sad. The subsequent mourning of that event is sad and there is a somewhat predetermined amount of time allotted to do just that. Our employers usually even have such a clause in their employee handbook. There are numerous items that must be checked off of a list and these items take time. You need to call people. Those people need to call people. Other people need to call other people and a lot of plans need to be made. Finally, those plans need to actually happen and all the people who called each other come together and make those closest to the situation try and feel better. Then the chaos settles and the world returns to the way it was, except for those who were there day in and day out. Now, I’ll describe this process, as I see it, when a pet passes away. It works in some ways in reverse. The actual passing was planned and the mourning was able to happen in person and goodbyes were able to be a part of it. In some ways the smaller sized chaos of the smaller sized world affected by this event settles before we even get to the experience. There are no predetermined amounts of time allotted and no items left to check off the list. You may call a few people and let your world know through social media, but mostly, there is just silence. It is in the silence that the sadness digs in. There is small amount of relief and a lot of the anxiety is gone and exhaustion finally sets in. It is so fresh in your mind you don’t even know which way is up. And here’s the strangest and craziest thing I can say right now. That was the easy part. The day after, when routines aren’t quite right and the strange, difficult high you were on begins to fade, your reality becomes real. It is at this point that I feel this story should reach its conclusion. This began as a way of documenting and honoring the most loyal and loving friend I have ever had. The purpose was to never forget that one night in November when for over 10 hours, it was just the two of us and the universe granted us this beautiful moment in time to say goodbye. I’ll never forget that and I will never forget Bailey.