As most of you know, OtherDogGeeding (Oreo), died on Wednesday morning. I happened to have the day off so the whole family made the trip to the vet. We didn’t necessarily go with the intention of having him put to sleep (nasty green stuff was draining from his nose), but with his poor health and age, we were unlike Han Solo and knew the odds.
That morning I called a family meeting so we could speak to the kids about the trip to the vet and the possibility that Oreo may not be coming back home with us. I reminded them that I would always be honest with them and I’d only be hurting them if I twisted the truth or lied just to make things appear to be okay even though it wasn’t. I also emphasized this is when we hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and this is something they should do often in life.
We live in south Lewisville and our vet is in Denton. It takes close to a half-hour to reach her but we really like her. And while this may sound sexist, I prefer a woman’s touch when it comes to care and compassion for certain things.
We arrived at the vet about twenty minutes early because we wanted to give Oreo a chance to roam the outdoors for a bit, free and unleashed. I guess I thought it would make him feel like he was about to be one with nature and to experience some freedom. Ironically, he roamed towards the side exit where I observed the animal crematorium transportation worker pick up a new load of dead frozen animals wrapped in white plastic bags.
When the vet walked in I first told her about the status of Oreo’s foul smelling ear infection we saw her for last week and the new green nasal draining which recently started as well as the lack of energy, eating, bowel movement, and loss of fur. I then followed it up with something I really didn’t have the strength to say directly, so I phrased it, “And we’d like to know your thoughts if it’s (gulp) his time.”
The vet was compassionate yet direct. She could extend his life and try to treat him and he may start eating more, but he’ll never get well or be the same. WifeGeeding and the kids were standing against the wall and I called them in for a huddle. Looking directly at the kids I told them this was going to be a family decision and let’s talk it out. The kids were great at expressing their thoughts and feelings as they shed tears and agreed it was best that he’d die in peace surrounded by family. We let the vet know we wanted to proceed and she left the room.
I was holding up pretty well. I started to prepare for his death for the last year or so, soaking in what I could and trying not to have any regrets once it was time for goodbye. I looked up at WifeGeeding, who told me maybe about a year and a half ago, she would have already put him down, and she was tearing up and asked, “Are we sure we want to do this?” The kids chimed in on how they could help if we brought him and then the vet walked in. I told her there may have been a change in mind and we’d need a few more moments to talk it over. Once again I told the kids how I’d always be honest with them, even if it wasn’t something they want to hear. We rationally reasoned things out and once again agreed as a family it would be best for him to die surrounded by family and in no pain, than to risk him continuing to suffer and possibly dying alone.
DaughterGeeding started to tear up a bit and frighteningly expressed she didn’t want to be in the room when he died. I sat her on my lap and told her it was important for her to be in the room as Oreo died and expressed how dying is part of nature and life and something we should be accepting of. I also told her that in life, we often want to do things that make us feel better but sometimes it’s best if we do something we don’t like and so we can let someone feel loved. In this case, she could leave the room which may make her feel better, or she could stay in the room and be there for Oreo, comforting him until the very end. I wasn’t trying to guilt-trip her but wanted her to think her actions through, understand the consequences, and what possible regrets she could have. She agreed to stay. BoyGeeding the whole time was gently tearing up and softly petting Oreo.
The vet assistant walked in and talked about payment, so we could simply leave after the event, and options for what to do with his remains.
The vet walked back in and we told her we decided “it was his time”. She described the process and took him back to put a catheter in his front leg. I only put down one other dog, DogGeeding, and I started to recall how awkward that moment felt. The moment when you know you are going to put your dog to sleep and they take him away for a few minutes for the catheter. It’s a weird moment, which almost feels like forever because you just want to get it all over with and you just want to be with your pet the entire time. And it’s weird seeing them come back into the room carrying your pet and catching yourself looking at the catheter and accepting how real the moment is.
I held Oreo in my arms again, this time as if he were a baby. I used to hold him like this often but in his later years, it seemed uncomfortable for him. But this time he seemed comfortable and accepting of the moment. He’s been blind for quite some time, and perhaps it was me just wanting to imagine things in a certain way, but he had this look of acceptance and peace. We all said our last words, the vet proceeded with the injections explaining what was happening, and we continued to tell him we loved him until the vet confirmed his heart had stopped. We proceeded to the car but I came back to personally thank the vet for her patience and compassion. We were her last patients for the day as she and her staff were only working a half-day before the Thanksgiving break and I apologized if we kept them longer than expected.
Only about five minutes of the car ride back to Lewisville was sad and filled with tears. We started to talk about our favorite Oreo related things. Like how he would snore and fart in his sleep. How he would often dream and make goofy noises and toss slightly about. How he could sit up on his back legs for over five minutes at a time when we had food. His unique bark. And how much he enjoyed licking people.
It was interesting hearing the kids talk about their grief. Yes, they did attend their great-grandmother’s funeral but it was a closed-casket service and it wasn’t “real” to them. DaughterGeeding expressed how she thought she would be sad for the entire day and just cry and thought it was strange how she could be happy later in the day. We told her it was normal and that grief could make you sad again later, hours, days, months later.
When we arrived home, DogGeedingII greeted us with less energy and enthusiasm as usual. His tail was wagging until he sniffed us and it was almost as if he knew. We usually let both dogs out at the same time, but now since it’s only him, he steps out and looks back as if he doesn’t want to be lonely. Also, he never got on the bed when we go to sleep, though when we wake up we find him laying with us. Now, he starts the night off sleeping in bed with us.
The house does feel a bit emptier. It does feel strange when that time of the day comes when I usually give Oreo his medicine or when I physically carried him to the middle of the yard since he could no longer find his way, and now I can’t do. I’m used to calling both the dogs at the same time and have caught myself calling for him out of habit. Since I work from home, I’m used to the little fella keeping me company. He used to walk up the stairs into my office, jump onto a chair, and fall asleep next to me for the workday. When he couldn’t make it up the stairs he would bark for me to come down and pick him up.
One Oreo story I’d like to share is the Thanksgiving dinner we had just a week after my MomGeeding died. We left the turkey on the table and started to watch the Cowboys game planning on putting it away for later. Sometime during the first quarter, WifeGeeding got up and as she walked by the dinner table yelled, “OREO GEEDING!” Since I didn’t push my chair in, he used it to jump on the table and he was eating the turkey carcass which was as big as him. It was quite the picture.
One more Oreo story. Back in 2008, Oreo swallowed a sewing needle. We had no idea why he was acting so strange and not eating, and two vets said nothing was wrong with him. I finally took him to the ER and asked for an x-ray and they found a sewing needle which looked like it could have punctured his spinal cord quite easily. The vet wasn’t sure if it could be removed and what type of surgery would be involved. Luckily, as I do with all sewing needles, I thread them. It was something MomGeeding taught me to do. In case one is dropped, they are easier to find. The vet was able to pull the needed out using the thread. If you are interested, a high-res full body x-ray can be viewed here.
As sad of an experience it was, and awkward as it is to say, it was a great family bonding experience.
Finally, a very grateful thank you to all of you who were kind of enough to express your condolences. Yes, he was simply a dog and the world still goes around, but he was part of the family and it was the first time the kids experienced something they loved dying.
In other death-related Geeding adventures, we visited my parent’s grave at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery Saturday morning. I take the kids there during Christmas to place poinsettias on their grave (well, Dad’s grave, half of Mom’s ashes were spread over it with the other half spread in Vietnam). My hope is they actually realize there are another set of grandparents they have other than WifeGeeding’s parents and they still play an important role in their lives through me.
BoyGeeding was amazed at the uniformity of the rows, how viewed from one perspective as perfectly straight columns and from another as perfectly diagonal rows.
On the way there, BoyGeeding was “bragging” to DaughterGeeding that his name is on the gravestone. He and my father share the same first and last name. DaughterGeeding shot back saying her middle and last name is on the back. My mother’s name is on the back of the headstone.
When we park near the section of my father’s grave, I like to have the kids try to find it all by themselves. It’s neat watching them wander around. They know the general location, and it’s neat watching them actually discovering it.
The Chargers/Cowboys Thanksgiving day broadcast started with a tribute to Tex Schramm as an innovator of the game, detailing such things as getting the Cowboys to share in the tradition of hosting a Thanksgiving game along with the Lions. They also included other tidbits like putting a mic on the referee, moving goalposts from the front of the end zone to the back, and adding cheerleaders. Schramm also broke with NFL tradition by having the Cowboys wear white jerseys for all their home games. Other teams wore solid colors for home games and white for away game. That little move allowed the Cowboys to basically wear the white jerseys for every game and lead the way for the iconic jersey. So I found it funny seeing the Cowboys wear their bad luck blue jerseys for a home game and buck tradition, one created by the person I just saw a tribute about.
One observation (for the lack of a better word) about the fiasco of Rep. Joe Barton’s nude picture. His statements have been coming from Sarah Dodd. That name may ring a bell for some. She was the CBS11 City Hall reporter who married Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, becoming his fifth wife. She is 23 years his junior.
When DogGeeding died, I a made a cheesy dedication video which explains why we decided to get Oreo. I also took some time off of blogging and then made a “comeback” video with Oreo and a special appearance by WifeGeeding and BabyGeeding.