A tough year has gotten tougher. Last night, we had to put our 10 year dog, Dakota, to sleep.
We had lost our first family pet, a dog named Spooky, while I was at the Chicago Comicon. He had mysterious internal injuries and he left us way too soon. No sooner did we return from a vacation, than the kids insisted we find a new pup.
As Kate explained over at her blog, “I found him after spending a few weeks of my summer with the phone book in my lap on the steps at the front of the house. I sat on those steps with the cordless phone and called all the shelters and vets within the county and then I started to move outside the county when that wasn’t working. Finally, one of the vets directed me to a woman who saved pregnant dogs and puppies from kill shelters. She had a mother with a whole litter. When I called, she had one puppy left. That tiny rat of a dog would grow up to be my 75 lb. hunk o’ enthusiastic love, Dakota.”
He loved being with us and when it was clear he was lonely when we were gone, and therefore prone to trouble, he was coupled with a pup named Dixie. Still, the kids loved Dakota; their friends loved him, too.
Growing up, he was playful and sought love and affection. As he aged, he grew territorial, making our home an unwelcome place for other dogs. Maybe he didn’t want to share the humans (or the food), but other than that, he was loving and loveable.
He was also strong-willed. He never quite got the Invisible Fence training. Dakota would stand in the field, his collar buzzing and shocking him and he’d yelp, but he was determined to bark at whatever captured his attention on the other side of the fence. If he could, he’d crawl under our fences or break through the Invisible Fence. His walkabouts had grown worrisome but whenever we found him, he gleefully jumped into our car for a ride.
Dakota was smart, figuring out how to open cabinet doors or garbage lids making dog-proofing the house an artform. It was hard to stay mad at him as he wagged his mighty tail and wanted to be petted. He loved to sidle up for attention and gratefully accepted belly rubs.
He loved the sun. Outdoors, he would sit atop the backsteps and survey the land. Wherever the sun shone, he would lay and bask. He could stay like that for hours. Indoors, he would find a shaft of sunlight coming through the window and lay there, regardless of room.
He was also starting to age. In December he was diagnosed with arthritis in his hind legs. Anti-inflammatories helped and we began giving chondroitin to help. Still, we were surprised when he had trouble moving yesterday. He went out as usual, but was reluctant to come in nor did he eat breakfast. Later, our dog walker called to say when he tried to rise and go out; he collapsed and remained in place on the carpet.
When we returned from the hospital last night, I took him right to an emergency vet clinic in Norwalk. They examined him and came back to say that his belly felt full of fluid and when they took a sample, it was blood. An ultrasound revealed a tumor on spleen had ruptured and he was bleeding internally. This led the doctor to believe our beloved dog was suffering from an aggressive form of cancer on his spleen.
Even with surgery to remove the spleen, she said Dakota would need chemo and even then he would only have three to six months.
Given what we are already dealing with, it made no sense to keep him uncomfortable and put him through something that was short-term at best. I called Deb and discussed it and we chose to let him go.
They wheeled him back in and we sat for a few minutes. It should have been all four of us surrounding him. He should have had more time. Instead, when it was time, I petted his head and he looked around a little and then settled down. His final moments were calm and he went quickly and quietly. Despite the unfamiliar surroundings, at least he had my scent for comfort in those final moments.
The family has lost three dogs in the last decade and it’s been tough each time. Already both kids are talking about finding a new dog to raise. I’m ambivalent because this one was hard and we still have Robbie to be concerned with. Both kids’ reaction was surprising, given how both will be away from home in the coming years. We’ll see.
But for now at least I know Dakota was loved and we did right by him.