I had no idea how things would go but I knew that I wanted to be strong for him. I wanted him to have a peaceful, dignified death and I didn't want him to be frightened or upset by what was going on. Looking back, I think that I was able to give him that.
As you know, Sam had been diagnosed with heart failure caused by a mass which was growing in his heart. The presence of the mass was making the good part of his heart work double time, causing it to be enlarged and fluid was collecting around his heart and in his lungs.
The little cough he had over the summer was getting worse. On the advice of his vet, I had doubled his medication after a particularly bad night but I knew that the end was getting near. I didn't want him to die alone, on the floor in the house somewhere, having coughed himself to death in the night. I wanted to be there with him, holding him tight and letting him know how much he was loved. That is exactly what happened.
On his last day, he was pretty weak. The coughing spells were getting deeper and closer together. There were a few times when I thought that he may not make it to his 6 p.m. appointment at the vet. He made it though. He had a whole breast of boneless chicken for his dinner that evening and, for the first time in weeks, no meds. He wouldn't be needing them.
He was his goofy self on the drive up there. My friend John drove as I wasn't entirely sure of how I'd be. On the way to the vet, it was dark and a little rainy and I remember the night Sammy came home with us for the first time. It was a dark and stormy Thursday evening too, just before Easter so we had a four day weekend to spend with our new doggy. Seemed like a million years ago and 5 minutes had passed at the same time.
When we got to the vet, which is in a rural area, we had a little walk around so he could sniff everywhere (as Tim, another eskie guardian says, "reading the pee-mail"), leave a pee (and a poop) and do a little post-poop happy dance in the wet grass. There were a couple of women in the waiting area when we entered the vets. Sam was a good looking boy and there aren't very many eskies around here so as I was used to seeing, they were all over him. He went right up to them to say hello and I told them he wouldn't be going home tonight. Their faces just fell and I explained that he had cancer in his heart and it was time.
I had talked to the vet and read about how the process works, he'd be given sedation, fall asleep and then be administered the drug to stop his poor, sick, heart. The whole thing would take between 10 and 20 minutes. Sam, of course, had other plans. He was hopping around, standing on his hind legs for hugs, smiling and kissing me. I smiled back and kissed him and hugged him and talked to the vet. We got him settled and Sam was given the first shot. He took it like a champ (it can sting I was told). He didn't fall asleep though, not at first, not after 5 minutes, not after 15 minutes...it took my boy 40 minutes to stop fighting the sedation and fall asleep. I think part of it was he could hear John's voice out in the waiting area and he kept turning his head toward the door. I just held him close to me and talked and sang to him, for 40 minutes.
I sang him all of the silly songs I made up for the dogs and told him how much I loved him, about how much all of his friends loved him, how much we would all miss him... I gave him a "punch in the head" from my brother (it was a really cute thing Patrick and Sam did together)... I talked about some of the adventures we'd had, about doggy friends and cousins who he'd known (who were gone now ...Bella, Basil, Bubbles...). I even reminded him about the incredible super-dog, Mighty Spartacus of Massachusetts... I really don't believe in an afterlife for people but I like the idea of the Rainbow Bridge for dogs so we talked a lot about that, about how he'd see all of those dogs and Mark when he got there. I sure hope I'm totally wrong and that place exists because Sam totally deserves a place like that.
When it was finally over, I called John in. We both kissed Sam goodbye and left. I felt strangely peaceful after and I realized that it was because for the first time in weeks I wasn't worried and terrified. Sam wasn't coughing or possibly in pain or frightened and everything I was so concerned about was over now.
The house has been weirdly quiet for the last two weeks, even with three dogs still there. Sam was a bit of a jerk about barking and I would have to haul his butt into the house at least once a day to stop him barking at another dog in the neighbourhood who was also barking (he never started it but always wanted to end it). Gracie was really sad and out of it the first week. The second week was a bit stranger for her and the little girls because my roommate was away so they've been home alone while I've been at work. She's due home this afternoon and I"m sure that those dogs won't be letting her out of their sight for a while!
While making the decision and saying goodbye to my Sammy was probably the hardest thing I've never done, I know it was absolutely the right thing to do for him. I miss him like crazy but given what we were dealing with, I wouldn't have done it any other way.