Sunday, March 29, 2015

Goodbye Sweet Sasha

For weeks, I've been rewriting and rewriting a blog in my head, titling it "Almost Goodbye". It's probably been a couple of months, though, that I have been thinking about goodbye. But before I get to the end of the story, there are beginnings, moments that made Sasha my sweet boy.

You see, I didn't always want a dog. In the beginning, I specifically argued against him. It's not because I didn't like dogs. It was situational. A former family with children wanted a dog. I knew that meant the responsibility would fall to me and my ex, not the children who wanted it. They're children. They don't want to wake up in the middle of the night when the puppy wants out.

And so life with Sasha began. Adopted from The Denver Dumb Friends' League at about two months old, he was feisty, a puppy wanting to run wild. When we took him camping, he'd escape, scampering about, yet at night, he'd cuddle in the tent with us, a fluffy white ball asleep. Out on farm land when young, he ran and ran, while I watched, scared that the horses he ran near would trample him. But just a few years into his life, my relationship with him shifted a bit. He began to take care of me. After a messy breakup, the only thing I insisted my ex give me, was Sasha. I needed him.

And together, we rebuilt my life. He and I would walk often, wander parks together, breathe in the sky and say hello to people. My pal. When I began my relationship with Nan, she needed to pass my Sasha test. So on our third date, we spent the afternoon in City Park, walking Sasha around and around to the point his three year old self exhausted, plopping down to rest, refusing to walk without an ample time out. Nan tolerated him at first. Sasha liked Nan.

Sasha grows on you. And he did on Nan. He did on everyone he met. Simply, he was a good sport. A love. One year, we humiliated him in a Halloween contest. Despite not winning or placing in the contest, he happily paraded around, welcoming the attention. On Sundays when he'd stroll with us to the farmer's market, he always attracted compliments, children wanting to pet his fluffy white coat (which he welcomed), and the noses and butts of other dogs.

He loved company. Other dogs--cool. Especially if they tolerated his horny humps. His toys he shared, always. Letting other dogs rip them even when he only nibbled and nibbled on the toy, keeping toys for years and years.

Cats. They loved him. At times he tolerated their attention, but he never snapped. He would walk away. And they would follow. Dowan would swat at him, throw himself at Sasha's feet, desiring some play. Sometimes Sasha would wrestle with Dowan, careful never to hurt him, leaving only remnants of dog spit on Dowan's head. When a cat took over his bed, Sasha simply moved to a cat bed. That's who he was. When we brought Spot home as a kitten, Sasha belly crawled into the room to meet her, wanting to see his new sister.

For 16 years I have gathered Sasha tales, memories of long walks, belly rubs, happy post grooming pictures, and a connection with a pet that I've never had. He kept me whole when I felt broken and lonely. He protected me from the mailman (he was on the postoffice list of dangerous dogs even though he's never bitten a person before). He loved me as unconditionally as love can be, and I hope he felt at least a fraction of what he gave me.

But I knew that as the last years passed, that his time wasn't forever. Fortunately, for most of his life, Sasha only saw the vet for routine check-ups. But as he aged, especially during the last couple of years, he had extensive surgery for corneal ulcers. He had multiple teeth removed. He visited the vet more frequently than in the past.

And then he got sick. Initially diagnosed as a kidney issue, we knew that there were deeper things going on with him, causing gastrointestinal issues. Yet he masked the pain, the issues, wanting to eat, frolicking about with toys. Over the past several weeks, he worsened. I spent many nights beside him on the floor, chatting, telling him he could go if he needed to--I would be fine without him. I asked only one thing--please go when I'm home, not traveling.

Yesterday morning we made the decision. After an ultrasound revealed so many issues, we knew it was time. Rather than wait until he couldn't eat, couldn't move, couldn't take himself outdoors, we wanted to be more humane and let him go while he still had some sense of Sasha. He woke in the morning having difficulty moving, dragging his back leg some. Yet, he breathed in the warmth of the morning and the sun with us. But we could see in his eyes that he had been fighting for awhile.

Caring Pathways said they could be over that day, in just a couple of hours. We said goodbye. But Sasha wouldn't leave quickly, not before giving me a final gift of love. After the first shot of sedative, he wandered to Nan, his alpha, his protector, letting her love on him and reassure him. He wouldn't give into the sedative, still trying to stay strong for us, not wishing to submit. After the second shot of sedative, though, he could no longer pretend. So, right before he gave in, he came over to me. A final gift. He put his head in my hands, burrowing a bit, letting me kiss on him and love on him. And then he rested on his side, taking the final injection, quietly and peacefully saying goodbye.