After having a dog for 16 years, deciding to end his suffering was an extremely difficult decision because my family and I clung to our once lively companion. Even though the fateful decision was made on a chilly October night two years ago, all of the memories of him remain crystal clear.
I remember when I was three-years-old sitting in the backseat of our blue truck, next to a yellow Penzoil box. In the box was a red Dachshund puppy curled up, sound asleep on a pink blanket. I stretched my arm out to pet the puppy and barely brushed his ear, but he didn’t seem to notice. Not too long after getting home, my sister came home from school to the surprise.
The years went by with Cody being the best dog two little girls could ask for. We took him on trips to Lake Michigan, where he gladly walked up and over sand dunes and along the beach. He ran up to the lake and attempted to bite the waves as they washed up around his paws and brushed his belly, or maybe that was his way of getting a drink.
On family vacations to South Dakota, Cody walked in the badlands and quietly sat in the van as we drove through Custer State Park admiring nature. We took him to the top of Little Devils Tower, where he fearlessly went to the edge and peered down at the forest hundreds of feet below.
The adventures went on and on until about the last five years of Cody’s life when his liveliness faded. He could barely manage a walk around the block, let alone the long, vigorous walks he used to take. We took him to the vet, but he came back with a clean bill of health other than signs of arthritis. Soon he began losing control of his bladder and no longer had the luxury of sleeping in bed with my sister or me at night. His weight dropped too, leaving him weaker than before and looking like mere skin and bones. Just more signs of age.
One day in the summer, he walked right between the vertical railings on our deck and fell off. Luckily, he landed about three-and-a-half feet below onto our air conditioning unit instead of the full five-and-a-half feet to concrete. We tied a fishing line along the lower part of the railings to prevent a future mishap, but that was only the first sign of his failing eyesight.
His nose worked as well as ever. One afternoon when we were eating McDonald’s outside, I dropped a French fry and he scrambled over to eat it only to end up eating a piece of mulch instead, which didn’t seem to faze him one bit. Another sign of getting older.
Cody managed this lifestyle until something much more serious happened. One morning, we woke up to find him in his bed with a bloated stomach ferociously rumbling. We tried to coax him, but he just looked at us with sad eyes as his whole body convulsed and he softly whimpered. Setting up food and water nearby didn’t make a difference either. Due to the amount of pain and discomfort he was obviously in, my mom enticed him to eat part of a baby aspirin coated in peanut butter. We planned on taking him into the vet the next day if he wasn’t showing signs of improvement, but the next morning he was eating, drinking, and moving around some. We didn’t want to believe something was seriously wrong, so we let it go thinking he would be fine.
This happened a few more times over the course of the last few years of his life, until the last time when he showed no signs of his usual improvement after two days. Eventually, Cody lost control of his bowels. He was moved along with his bed and blankets to the tiled laundry room while we wondered if it was time to let him go. It was difficult to decide. When I checked on him not even 10 minutes later, his bowels were bloody and, realizing he wouldn’t be fine this time, the decision was made.
Immediately, we took him, bed and all, to an emergency vet where, through choking sobs, we informed the receptionist we wanted to euthanize him. The vet took him from my arms and said she would put an IV in him to sedate him, then return for us so we would be present during his final moments.
After what seemed like hours, she returned and led us into a room I can’t even describe because my eyes noticed nothing besides the helpless red Dachshund with an IV in his right, front paw on a metal table. When he saw us, he made a pitiful attempt at greeting us with a wag of his tail. The vet left us alone with him for a few minutes and as we pet him he attempted another greeting by trying to lick our hands, but his tongue was hanging halfway out of his mouth. When the vet returned, we did our best to comfort him as his body stilled and the awareness bled from his eyes.
Cody’s body was returned to us in a small cardboard box. I couldn’t resist taking one last look at him before putting him in the hole we spent an hour digging into the half frozen ground of our backyard. Amazingly, he looked exactly like he did when he slept, but only one thought raced through my mind, “Did we let it go too long?”