Some Before, During and After

It’s over – we euthanized Pippin Thursday, June 25th. I’ve had pets before, but never from baby to death. My veterinarian, Dr. Katz (I kid you not)  eased us through the transition. She had a separate room away from the check-up rooms, on the opposite side of the office. The lighting was dim, there were sweet decorations around – like rocks painted by a friend of hers with angel-dogs and angel-cats. There’s what looked like a changing table with a blanket on it. We put the blanket on my lap and lay Pippin on me. Afterward, I would pick up him with the blanket and lie him on the changing table.

As soon as we walked in, the staff was ready for us. We were led directly to the room, followed by two attendants.  They explained the procedure, asked if we had any questions, asked how we were doing. There is no soothing like kindness, and they were full of it. They processed my payment in the room, before the procedure started, so we could leave directly when it was over. Neither Natalie nor I wanted his ashes – I think having Philip’s is enough. But we will be getting a paw print.

Then Dr. Katz’s assistant came in. Another kind, lovely woman. She gave Pippin a shot to put him to sleep. We were warned his eyes might stay open, and they did. Natalie and I sat next to each other, holding him, while he relaxed. Ten minutes or so later he was still somewhat awake, so he got another shot. A few minutes after that, Dr. Katz came in. She touched his face by his eyes and squeezed his paws – no response. It was time. She sat on the floor with her assistant, shaved a bit of his leg, found a vein, inserted the needle and then the drug. I thought I would feel something when he died, a lightness, a sense of something leaving his body. I didn’t. A minute or so after the injection, he was gone.

Years ago, when I first moved in with Nadiya, Pippin kept pooping in the house. It was a reaction to living in a new place, but it went on for too long and I thought I was going to have to get rid of him. Philip was living in a house by campus and offered to take him in if it came to that. He didn’t get him then, but he has him now.

When we left the office, Natalie leaned against a wall, bent over and sobbed. I rubbed her back and wondered why I didn’t feel the same. I had my bi-weekly therapy appointment that evening. My therapist said I was in shock. Okay. But I’m still not feeling much of anything and it’s more than a week later.

I don’t understand the magic of connection. It’s what I’ve been writing about for one of my next posts. You can’t force it. I love Pippin, but at some point I didn’t feel connected to him. He grew into a serious dog. He was always happy to see me, and I don’t mean he had a temper. Well, a bit of one. His idea of playing with a ball was taking it in his mouth and lying down with it, then growling if you came near. We tried to cure him of that – we’d force the ball out of his mouth and say, “no.” But nothing changed until he got older and didn’t care enough to take the ball in the first place.

We got Zoe when Pippin was six. I thought for sure he’d get excited – he was intensely interested in other dogs when we were outside, so I figured I’d get him one for his own. Plus I had this idea in my head that shih-tzus should come in pairs.

My neighbor Jim had a friend Elaine who raised shih-tzus, and gave me her number. It was around Christmas time, 2007. I called, Elaine told me she had a litter that she wasn’t showing until January, but since Jim was a good friend, she’d let me come and see. When I got there the puppies were toddling all around the kitchen – six of them, I think. I picked one up as I spoke to Elaine. Puppy put her tiny head on my shoulder and I stroked her. “You can’t pick one yet, she said. They’re young, and I’m waiting to see how their blaze comes in.” These were show dogs, and the “blaze” was the shock of white hair above their eyes. Then she looked at the puppy I was holding. Unless you want that one, she said. I can tell her blaze isn’t right.

Of course I wanted “that one.” I had to wait six more weeks to get her, sometime mid-January. By this time, Philip was 16, Natalie 14. I wanted to make Zoe part of Christmas, but not as a gift. I wouldn’t give a dog to a kid as a gift. They’re simply not going take care of them the way they need to be taken care of, and what happens when they grow up and leave? So I made a certificate that read, “This entitles the Smyth Family to one female shih-tzu named Zoe to be picked up in three weeks.” I put it in an envelope under the tree and had the kids open it last. They looked at each other, looked at me, and shrugged.

Yeah, I felt dopey, but I wanted that puppy and no amount of adolescent indifference was going to change that. Besides, wait til I got her home – who doesn’t love a puppy?

Pippin, for one. When he saw her, he gave a sniff and walked away. As the weeks went by, nothing changed. Sometimes when he looked at me I thought that if he could talk he’d say, “Really? I mean, really???”

Mourning is as it is. Grief knows its own mind. Pippin was hard for me. He had anxiety – he would constantly pace and start howling for no discernible reason. He threw up several times a week for years. He was serious. He had to be on leash or he’d wander away. And by the end he was deaf and blind, had to be carried anywhere you wanted him to be. It’s no wonder I grew apart from him. Zoe’s different. She’s so happy it looks like she’s smiling. She’s affectionate, gentle and her feelings are easily hurt. Sometimes I put her on my lap and talk to her, and she makes noises like she’s trying to say something back. She stays by my side, she looks for me. I can read her – something I couldn’t do with Pippin.

Connection. There’s so much to say about that. More, then, in my next.

© 2015 Denise Smyth

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Robin
    Jul 05, 2015 @ 23:13:40

    I read this as my little Bear lay asleep on my lap. I went through a very difficult disease and recovery with his brother that gave him and me a very different connection. Unfortunately, I can think of the same connection with people. People can drain you and have a negative impact in your life; sadly, their passing doesn’t have the same effect as the people who touch you deeply. R.I.P. Pippin. You were still loved.

    Reply

  2. jmgoyder
    Jul 06, 2015 @ 06:32:50

    After reading this I let Blaze into the house (our mini- dachshund) and he is at my feet now. So sorry about Pippin.

    Reply

  3. amotherwithoutachild
    Jul 07, 2015 @ 14:33:39

    I am so sorry to hear about Pippin, it’s so desperately sad. I quite often read your posts and your heartfelt ways of explaining grief and conveying your emotions is very endearing. I would like to nominate you for a Liebster Award, I really think that your blog can help many others, I really hope you accept. xx http://amotherwithoutachild.com/2015/07/07/whats-a-liebster-award/

    Reply

    • Denise
      Jul 09, 2015 @ 10:33:33

      Thank you for your kind words – and I am honored to be nominated. It’s a rare privilege. I am unable to accept at this time – I’m overloaded at work, and I don’t have the time for the intricacies involved in accepting. Please know how much it means that you even considered me – many, many thanks.

      Reply

  4. Natalie
    Jul 10, 2015 @ 13:14:38

    I love your posts. My heart and love goes out to you and Natalie for the loss of Pippin. Let’s hope his demeanor is happier in Philip’s company!

    Even if you’re too busy to accept the Liebster nomination… KEEP WRITING! You’re lovely and loved!

    Reply

  5. Denise
    Jul 13, 2015 @ 14:05:30

    Thank you Natalie – what a kind thing to say.

    Love is all, isn’t it? xoxoxoxo

    Reply

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