Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How Do You Say Goodbye

I'll never forget the day our Poncho Puppy was born.  It was Easter Sunday, 15 April 2000.  Bonnie Harrod came home with us after church to have dinner with us when Nikki decided to birth her puppies!  How exciting.  Walt and Bonnie and I sat on the floor in the back porch watching and helping as each of four little puppies were born.  Poncho was the firstborn puppy and the alpha male.

Jenny and the Gang had already put in a bid for a male puppy and I wanted a female.  We had three males and one female.  The Gang named their puppy Pongo (101 Dalmatians was out and popular) and I named our female Daisy.  We subsequently sold the other two male puppies and we had our two left.  In July during haying season I had the pickup out doing some work and somehow managed to injure our little 'Pongo.'  He was still alive, but obviously seriously injured.  I put him in the car and rushed to town - through the construction on the highway and I DID NOT wait for the pilot car, oh by the way.  Pongo was on the front seat and all the way to town I was praying, "Please God, don't let him die.  Please don't let him die."  Well he didn't die, but the nerve to his left leg was damaged and he lost complete use of that leg.  We tried to save it, but by December I knew we had to have it amputated.  At some point Jenny decided it probably would not work very well for them to have this 'handicapped' dog, so they decided to take Daisy.  And we adopted 'Pongo' as our puppy.

I had never been crazy about the Pongo name, but it was funny - my mother never could remember his name and always called him 'Poncho' so that's what we decided to call him.  Now that he was ours.  He was officially registered as 'Hop Along Poncho.'  Cute, huh!


He was an amazing little puppy dog.  He NEVER knew he was handicapped.  But he did know that every person in the whole world loved him especially and he loved them especially.  What a sweet, friendly, well-behaved little puppy dog.

For ten years he was my constant companion.  He went everywhere with me.  And he adored me.  He especially loved to go to the Post Office with me.  After all, Zimmie or Molly might just be there at the same time so they could bark back and forth at each other while we were in the Post Office!  What fun to look forward to.  He was my Post Office Dog.

Some of our grandkids have never known life without Poncho in it.  Wherever Gramma went, Poncho was with her.  He even came to visit them in Texas one time on an airplane!  What a trip.  He was so good - when I got off the plane people around me were surprised that I had a dog under the seat at my feet.  Such a sweet puppy.  And he did love 'his kids.'  Mostly they were more anxious to greet Poncho than Gramma when we pulled into the driveway!  Any time I flew out of their city Sophie and Emily were my main dogsitters and he loved them especially.

He was an amazing traveler.  And he and I did do some serious traveling.  Fifteen-hour days sometimes to go to visit the Gang in Kansas.  He always knew when we were getting ready to go.  He would go and sit by the door and wait.  How did he know?  He did.  He seemed to go into some kind of 'hibernation' when we were on the road.  He ate and drank very little, so he rarely had to stop.  If I was in the car, he was there with me.

And boy, did he love visiting my mother in Billings.  There are the very best scents in the whole world around her house and he can hardly wait to get here and explore.  (There's a walking path by her house.)  And then when inside he could sit right in a chair by the window and watch that path to make sure he was on guard whenever any strange dog was out there walking.

His favorite place in our house was one of the chairs in the prow that we had facing out the front window.  He would sit there for many hours guarding his territory - making sure we were all safe inside.  His domain.  And then Molly moved in and he was thrilled.  In fact it was so funny this year.  In the winter with deep snow I could see where he had worn a path through the snow, but I assumed it went around out front and back in to the front door.  But one day I decided to explore his little 'path.'  It went right next door to Molly's house!!!  So funny.  He did love to play with Molly.

In July he was having some kind of problem, so I took him to Lynn at the Vet Hospital and she took an x-ray and discovered that his L5 and L6 discs had no cushion left in between them and she found a cancerous lump in his anal cavity.  When I got back from Alaska on 1 July she called and wanted to remove the lump the next day (he had been boarding with them while we were in Alaska - his second favorite place to be!).  I said yes, go ahead.  That was about 2 August.  He just didn't bounce back.  At first it was recovering from the surgery, but when that was all healed he still wasn't doing well.  In fact, he continued to go downhill.  And the last couple weeks it was a serious downhill.  Or a roller coaster.  Some days he seemed better, then worse.  I met with Lynn again and she felt that everything was under control - it would just be a matter of getting the pain under control and that he still had many good months ahead of him.  But I continued to see him go downhill.

I knew that I was coming to Billings this week for doctor appointments and then on to Kansas for a couple weeks with the Gang, so I made an appointment for today just to be sure that it was going to be ok for him to travel with me - he seemed so fragile.

Well, for about the last week I think I pretty well knew that it would be my last appointment.  It's been so painful watching him deteriorate.  He started having more and more trouble standing up and lying down.  Problems finding a comfortable place and position to lie down.  Standing in front of me just shuddering and trembling.  I finally had to start carrying him up the stairs, then down the stairs.  But he was still eating.  Lynn put him on a prescription canned dog food.  This for a dog who had only ever had dry dog food.  He was so happy.  He would go and lie in front of his dish on the back porch when he knew it was meal time.  SOOOO  Funny!  He cracked me up.  But Saturday night was the last meal he ate - and he left some of that.  I knew then.  And I could tell the pain was getting worse.  Lynn told me that he could have max 1 tablet pain med every 8 hours.  She prescribed 1/2 tablet once a day before bed.  I knew that wasn't touching his pain so I was giving him 1 tablet every six hours.  And then if I saw him in pain, I gave him another tablet.  I didn't care.  I didn't want him in pain.  In fact, I even thought about overdosing him and hoping he would just go in his sleep.  But I was afraid it might just make him sick and wouldn't do what I wanted it to do.

So I knew that today was the day.

Yesterday I had to start packing up and getting ready to be gone for 4 or 5 weeks.  I had to make myself keep moving.  Poncho just lay and watched me and slept and watched me.  He rarely moved.  Sometimes he would just stand almost catatonic - he was in too much pain to even lie down.  Every chance I got I sat and snuggled with him and petted him and scratched his back and his tummy.  I even let him sleep with me these last two nights.  We both needed that.  I knew that every step I took today was taking me one step closer to "The Clinic."  But I kept moving.  I didn't have any choice.  But I didn't know why he was dying.

Lynn told me she wanted to do some blood work and take some x-rays and then we would talk and decide what we wanted to do.  I am so thankful for that.  The x-ray she took in July showed his backbone completely clean.  She said that in the x-ray today his backbone looked 'motheaten' with cancer.  In that short a time.  It was also in his pelvic bone.  No wonder my precious little puppy was in so much pain.  I just wish I had known.  So our decision was made for us.  I am sorry for his pain, but I am thankful for these last weeks as I was able to use this time to grieve as I knew in my heart it was the end.  I needed it in order to prepare for this day.

So.  I held him and felt his last heartbeat and his last breath.

During my drive down here to Billings I came to realize how very much I have loved my precious little puppy dog, Poncho, all these years.  I didn't know.  He was just always there.  Just a part of my life.  Now he isn't.

How do you say goodbye?

I don't think you can. . . . 


Jenny said...

Oh mom.... I am soooo sorry. I wish I could be there for you- he WAS a member of our family. I really don't want to tell the kids......

Kelle said...

So very sorry for your loss! HUGS It's never easy making that loving decision, but it was the absolute best loving choice for Poncho.
That is the pitfall of owing and loving an animal, we will, most likely outlive them.*sigh*

He'll be waiting for you on the Rainbow Bridge.
Again sorry for your loss