Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Home is the last place I want to be today. Home should be the place that offers security and happiness. Today, it's just empty, cold, and sad. My dog has died.

Maverick was just over 10 years old, which is the average life span for a rottweiler. That's the only thing that was average about him. He was goofy, friendly, obnoxious, moody, sloppy, flaky, smart, and loving. Most of all, loving. Even those at the vet's office (where Mav was a frequent guest) mentioned how much of a favorite he was. When he would be boarded, he didn't stay in a cage during the day. He stayed with the doctors in their office. No one else was granted such a status. I particularly remember our vet saying, "All dogs are great. This one's special". This is the story of Maverick's last day

Background: Mav was diagnosed with bone cancer on March 11th, 2012. The cancer had started to eat away bone in his right front leg. We had a choice of amputating the leg and easing his pain or taking him home and watch him struggle until the withered bone simply gave out. We chose amputation. The surgery was performed by Dr. Tyler Ley at South Valley Animal Hospital on March 15th, 2012 and was a success.

The surgery didn't mean that the cancer was gone. It was already in his bloodstream and the next stop would be his lungs. Because he was an older dog, he had the advantage of the cancer moving slower than it would've in a younger dog. Following the surgery, we were instructed to take him in for chest x-rays every two months. X-Rays in May showed that the cancer hadn't spread. X-rays in July showed that the cancer hadn't spread. Maverick learned how to move on just three legs, and life was as normal as we could've hoped.

The September x-rays brought bad news. The cancer had spread to a lung. A 2-centimeter tumor was found in his left lung. Dr. Ley really didn't want to give us a time frame for how long Maverick had, but after prodding from us he told us it could be anywhere from 1-6 months. Home we went. Maverick loved car rides even though it usually meant going to the vet. I guess he liked going. He liked anything that had other people involved. In turn, the vet staff loved him back. We heard a story of one tech who ate her lunch with Maverick every day when he was recuperating from his amputation. "This one's special."

When Maverick was first diagnosed, we had a goal for how long we wanted him to live. We wanted him to make it to our birthdays, and to have one last Christmas together. Like a good boy, he came through. In the period from September to mid-February, there were walks to the mailbox and back, chasing after the garbage trucks, and general goofiness. Only the leg was messing. The spirit was the same. Always the same.

The night of February 16th, my wife and I were watching TV, with Maverick at his customary place by the couch. Suddenly, Maverick sat up. The look on his face was odd. It wasn't what he'd usually look like if he had heard a strange noise. It was a look that something was wrong. I rushed to his side and had him lay back down. He haltingly did so (with kisses to me for the assist), and that was it for the night. Following that episode we noticed that it was getting increasingly hard for him to use his back legs. We surmised that it might be joint related. Only having one front leg made it tough to do normal stretches. There would be long periods of rest and we figured that the back wheels were getting rusty. He would even hesitate to come to bed for his normal afternoon nap with me. Oh, he'd make it, but only after maximum effort was given.

Sunday, February 24th. Shannon and I were getting ready to run some errands. Not knowing how long we'd be away, we decided that we better let Mav out to do his business. After a few minutes of rubbing his back legs it was time to get up and go out. Only his legs wouldn't work. He tried to get up and run, only to fall on his side. This wasn't sore joints. This was the beginning of what we'd been preparing for since March 11th, 2012.

Errands were scrapped. vet was called. Being Sunday, the office hadn't yet opened so we had an hour to wait. Maverick knows that shoes being out meant we were soon to leave. and he began to whine. And shake. Thinking back now, the whines sounded like "Please don't leave me. Please don't leave me!". We stayed by his side, and put the shoes away until it was time to go.

After my wife got her Jeep out of the garage, I went to get my shoes. Back came the whines and the shaking. He attempted to get up, but fell awkwardly on the kitchen floor. The floor is tile, and even a healthy dog will slip on tile trying to get up. There was no way he was going to get back up on all threes. I would have to scoop him up and take him to the Jeep. It was only with the help of Shannon that we were able to pick him up and take him out. It would be the last time Maverick would be in the house.

The vet informed us that Maverick's cancer had quintupled in size in one lung, and a new, smaller tumor had formed in the other. The mass was the biggest the vet had ever seen. The larger tumor had caused nerve damage that was affecting his ability to walk. His legs were almost numb. His quality of care was wonderful. His quality of life was awful. We made the decision to end his suffering. This was not going to get any better for him.

Upon entering the exam room, we found Maverick lying on a blanket, with a pink towel under his head (Pink! Oh, the indignity). He was thrilled to see us. From the neck up, everything was working. From the neck down, everything was shot. Our vet that day, Dr. Morgan Daigle, told us how the procedure was going to go. They were going to administer a massive shot of propofol, which would knock him out. Then a second shot of something else (you'll have to forgive me for not remembering. I'm surprised I remember as much as I do) that would stop his heart. We sat on the floor with him and fed him turkey, his favorite food. He gobbled it up and licked his chops. One last time, I whispered "kiss daddy". Then the shots were administered. Within a minute he was gone. The moment of Maverick's passing was the calmest moment in all of the time spent since his original diagnosis. I gave him one last kiss and we left the room. We'll pick up his ashes this weekend.

The hardest thing to do wasn't letting go. The hardest thing is coming home to an empty house. No happy face to greet me when I get home. No anything. Just silence. And memories, memories everywhere. This post is in no way cathartic to me. I don't feel better after writing this. If I did a decent job, neither do you