Saying goodbye: Our beloved P-dog

Tonight at 8:03 pm, we said goodbye to our beloved family member Penelope, aka P-dog, or, as my brother always called her, ‘nelps.’ It was so fast. I went from arguing with Roger at 3:30 about whether or not to take her in, to putting her down five hours later.

Since my blog on the subject a few days ago, she stopped barking when I came home, her loud, booming hellos strong enough to be heard from the street, quite a distance off. Rog noticed it first; I thought she was asleep. It was only after we left the vets that Rog apologized.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, through agonized bursts of tears. “I knew the truth and I couldn’t face it.”

At 5 pm, I’d been dealing with four and a half hours of my youngest daughter being sick on the toilet. Between crying, agonized fits of pain and the subsequent horrid aftermath, I was ready (and willing) to take Penelope to the vet. Rog fought with me, then insisted. When he called, around 5 pm, he said the vet confirmed I’d been right for the last few weeks. Something was indeed wrong– her spleen was swollen, and that wasn’t good news. She’d come in on her day off to take a look, and would do the x-rays in the morning, along with the exploratory surgery.

When he returned, I left. I’d been crying, and wanted to be alone. Crying is best done by oneself. After two hours of driving aimlessly, I got the impression to call Jane.

“Jane, if you are going to do surgery, and it’s bad…I guess what I’m saying is…do we need to come over to say our goodbyes.”

A hesitation. “Sarah, it’s not looking good.”

In all the years I’ve been going to Dr. Jane (the vet) for one dog, two cats and a myriad of stray animals, she’s never used those words. It was always “we can do X or Y.” Then she gave me the news.

Enlarged liver. Tumors in both lungs. Enlarged kidney- actually, it had stopped functioning entirely. Her spleen was non-functioning. Her stomach, instead of being empty, was completely full of blood. In short, opening her up would do no good. On top of all that, the blood work came back and showed that the bad cells had taken over the good cells (don’t ask me to recall the medical jargon). In a matter of days, or hours even, one or more of her organs were going to stop functioning.

I tried to keep focused on the road. Rog had made me promise to drive careful, not get distracted or injure myself.

“Can we come tonight?”

“That would be best,” she said, telling me she’d wait for us at the back door.

That last picture set with Penelope: family photos
a month ago in prep for our christmas card.
She was already dying, but we didn’t know.

By 7:30, my two daughters, already in their pajamas, were giving Penelope loves from the large, blanket-covered kennel. She was slightly sedated, her eyes trying to come alive, her tail wagging- but just. She could barely lift up her head, but did so as I approached her to cradle her muscular jowels in my hands, rubbing either side of her jaws in the way she so enjoyed. The girls stroked her. When it was Rog’s turn, he took her head in both hands and murmured to her, words of appreciation for keeping his family safe, for the trips, the runs, for chasing the frogs by the pond. She was our first kid, he told her, before we had the girls. He asked that if there was a God, that he would take care of her.

He carefully, lovingly placed her head back on the blanket as she looked up at the four of us. I couldn’t help it. I went back one more time and kissed her forehead. Her tail wagged three times then stopped. Her head was on her paws, her eyes dark and tired. Rog left first, out the door and to the car. I could hear his sobs on the way out. I carried the girls.

Tomorrow morning, she’ll be sedated, then injected with a serum that will stop her vital functions. We’ve spent the last few hours recalling memories, laughing and crying. Rog being Rog, he already went online to the shelters, seeking out a new dog. He found a three month old with similar facial features and a darker coat.

“The house already seems empty,” he said. “She would want us to be protected and love another animal.” I did little more than nod my head, my throat still too choked to talk, my head hurting from hours of crying.