The night before my departure, I started my next day’s blog, figuring I could get a head start on a short travel day. The photo of Bubba sitting in my suitcase seemed an appropriate intro, and the final page preview of Dark Matter #2 a perfect ending. I would have a couple of hours before leaving home to update you all on my decision which, when I went to sleep last night, was to leave Maximus in the capable hands of my dog-sitter. Circumstances changed however and, the next morning, I ended up shelving my planned post in favor of another, far more difficult entry.
Yes, he was sick. Yes, he was weak. Yes, he’d stopped eating. And though a part of me knows his quality of life had greatly diminished in the past few months and that it was a decision I would have to make eventually, another part of me can’t help but regret that decision.
After collapsing outside on the back porch, I helped Maximus up and set him down on the lawn. It was business as usual for him (although actually lifting his leg to pee had become so difficult a task that he’d given up on it weeks earlier) and, after he was done, I brought him back inside where he refused the food I offered him. Instead, he turned away and lay down, head cocked, resting the right side of his face on the floor – another little something he’d adopted of late. I sat down and transferred him onto my lamp where he lay quietly, unmoving, as the minutes ticked away. In the past, he would have shifted, or stalked off to a more comfortable place but, that morning, he seemed to content to just lie there with me. I considered the possibility that it was the meds (after all, the vet had said that they contributed to his lethargy), but it had been 12 hours since he’d received his last dose and if there was a window where he would be at his liveliest, this was it.
When it came time for the appointment, Akemi wrapped him up in a big, red blanket. He sat in her lap as I drove, then I carried him inside upon our arrival. We were given a private room. A catheter was inserted and I set Max down on my lap. He was a dog who trembled at every hospital visit and, even in his weakened state, I could feel his anxiousness, however slight. The doctor explained that he was going to inject Max with a barbiturate that would put him to sleep and stop his heart. He’d feel no pain and would simply drift off. He waited until I was ready, then gave him the injection. Maximus was on my lap, with Akemi stroking his head, when he went. It was, as the vet had assured me, very quick.
If there’s one thing I wasn’t prepared for, one thing that still upsets me a little as I think back to it now, it was his eyes and the fact that he never shut them. “Putting an animal to sleep” is a euphemism and, while it certainly may resemble a drifting off to deep slumber, there was no mistaking the difference. The vet left us to say our goodbyes and we did. I apologized to him, sorry i couldn’t have done more to help, sorry that, this time, I wouldn’t be bringing him back home. I left him, wrapped in that big, red blanket, as if taking it back would be a final, act of indignity. At least leave him the blanket.
I returned home, posted my blog entry, and finished packing. Then, I started receiving the messages The emails, the texts, the phone calls and posts. I can’t begin to tell you how much they meant to me and how much I appreciated each and every one, especially from those who have been there as well. I was so touched, in fact, that I had to wear my sunglasses in the airport whenever I’d check my phone or the blog.
On the flight, I had a hard time concentrating. Every time I closed my eyes, I’d see him – and every time I didn’t, I’d feel guilty for not thinking about him. I tried to watch something, attempted to do a a little reading, some work on the script, but I was unable to focus. In the end, I passed the time doing the only thing that felt right – scrolling through the last photos I took of Maximus on my iPhone and writing this blog entry.
I’ve arrived in Tokyo physically and emotionally exhausted. I leave you with this blog entry – dated February 27th because it’s already Friday night here – bookended the way I’d intended two days ago. With that photo of my hopeful Bubba to start, and these previews of Dark Matter’s second issue to finish.