I Couldn’t Wish for Better

March 10, 2016

 We put my sister’s beloved old basset hound, Maizy, down this weekend.

I never really understood Sally’s love for Maizy, who padded noisily at Sally’s house, ears flapping, howling mournfully, stopping to gnaw on her bones. Maizy was very old, had pharyngeal paralysis, her breathing labored. She wasn’t fragrant, couldn’t hear or see well, and could no longer climb steps up to her bedroom. Her long body was awkward to carry. Sally’s vet had prescribed steroids and Prozac to help her breathe easier and to quell the angst she felt every time Sally left her sight, but the pills weren’t working their magic anymore.

Maizy’s time had come. We had an appointment with the vet at 11:00 on Saturday morning. When it came time to leave, my nephew Peter gently wrapped the old girl in her favorite flowery bathrobe and held her up softly for one last look around the house--and to bid farewell to Henry the dachshund she had grown up with. The 4 adults who walked with Peter as he carried her to the car already had red eyes. We all squeezed in, buoyed by each other’s presence, as Maizy struggled for air.

Sally knew just what was coming. A life-long dog lover, she’d already watched 3 other of her beloved pets put “to sleep.”

In one of the examination rooms at the vet’s, Peter, Sally, and I watched as Maizy slowly wheezed and waddled her way across the small lobby to join us. We encouraged her on her final journey with our smiles. She looked so trusting as she worked her way slowly toward us! She was greeted with much petting and patting, and with aerosolized Cheese Whiz that Peter squirted on his hands and which Maizy licked enthusiastically.

A vet tech quickly appeared. She watched Maizy for a few minutes and sympathetically affirmed that the timing of Sally’s decision to end the dog’s life was right. But you didn’t need to be an expert to see how hard Maizy was laboring to breathe.

The woman soon reappeared with a vial of Valium. She injected its contents into Maizy’s hind leg. The dog was so busy eating Cheese Whiz and being petted she didn’t seem to notice. The sedative was supposed to take effect in about 10 minutes, but it couldn’t have been more than 2 before Maizy suddenly lay down on her side, her head on Sally’s lap, her breathing calmed.

A very young doctor materialized. (I swear he was 18 years old.) He looked at our tear stained faces, told us how sorry he was (and I do believe he was!), and asked us if we were ready. Sally nodded. I sat behind her, gently stroking her head as she stroked Maizy’s. Peter (behind his sunglasses) stroked the dog’s relaxed warm body. The vet kneeled down, took an electric razor and shaved a small spot near one of Maizy’s feet to find a vein. The syringe with the killing fluid then found its target.

The old girl took more 2 breaths. And she was gone.

The vet softly confirmed that her heart had stopped beating. He whispered “I’m so sorry.”

Sally and Peter sat very still for a while after the vet left, Maizy still warm in their arms.

And then we all walked out together, hearts ripped out.

I doubt our good old hound ever worried about dying, and her death was painless, merciful, dignified, and timely. She died in the arms of two people who really loved her.

When my time comes, I couldn’t hope for better.