Despite all of our prayers and hopes for his recovery, our beloved Grady made his way across the Rainbow Bridge today at 12:12pm while wrapped in the loving arms of his Mama and Auntie Anne. His little heart just couldn’t hold up anymore and it was his time to go. Needless to say, we are the ones left behind who are now heartbroken.
Grady has a very interesting story as to how he entered the world and how he made his way into our lives. He was rescued from a puppy mill by a group called Small Paws Rescue and after undergoing open heart surgery for a grade 5/6 heart murmur for a PDA (which is essentially a hole in his heart) he was flown to us where he spent the next 12 years with multiple health problems that took all of our efforts to keep him alive and well. You can read about his initial journey at this link: http://www.smallpawsrescue.org/page.aspx?id=137
During his lifetime, Grady also suffered from a seizure disorder, had a knee surgery to repair torn ligaments, he survived an incident where he aspirated a bone that required an endoscopy to retrieve it from deep down in his esophagus, he ended up on heart medications for a return of a heart murmur due to a valve problem and over the past year he was struggling with canine cognitive dysfunction (better known as “doggie dementia”). Throughout all of his issues, he always remained a happy-go-lucky dog who woke up every day with pep in his step, a wagging tail, a zest for life and a walk that people described as hippity-hopping.
Grady brought so much happiness to everyone that he encountered and he was such a cheerful dog. He was never suffering and we always swore that the minute we ever saw him in any pain, we would not hesitate to assist him across the Rainbow Bridge. We are not the type of pet owners to keep our pets around just for our well-being. We ALWAYS put their needs first and if the time ever came where we thought that he was suffering, then we would make the decision that it was time for him to go. Our vet worked closely with us to achieve this goal and we cannot say enough positive things about what a compassionate man we had for a vet. He was our guiding force over these past seven years.
Two days ago, Grady seemed a little tired and just not “himself.” He was dragging around the house and not following on the heels of Mom like he always does. You have to understand that this is a dog that was ALWAYS right behind you wherever you were. If you got up from the couch to go into the kitchen to get a drink, he had to go with you. If you went into the bathroom, he went with you to supervise. If you were going to take a shower, he waited for you on the bathmat and wanted a kiss on the nose the minute that you opened the shower curtain, even if you got him wet! All he wanted in life was to be right next to his Mama, or whomever was babysitting him if Mom happened to step out for a few moments. This made for many close calls in regards to tripping over the dog but we managed 12 years without anyone breaking a hip so it was all good.
Yesterday, he rallied and returned to his normal self so we thought the incident was short-lived. Today, he woke up as his normal self, ate his breakfast and took his collection of morning medications like he always did. He followed Mom over to the couch and had laid down at her feet for a nap which was part of the normal routine. Around 10:30am, Mom told me that he threw up some water and food without even picking up his head which was not a good sign. I came out to investigate and he did not look good. He had literally no muscle tone when I picked up his head to pet him and look into his eyes. I noticed that his breathing was a little bit shallow and he seemed to be using his abdominal muscles to take each breath. He wasn’t struggling, but it wasn’t normal.
I suggested that maybe a trip to the vet was in order so she headed off to get dressed while I laid with him. When she was ready, she picked him up and cuddled with him in a chair while I got ready. Now, normally, he would fight you to get put down on the ground but this morning he just laid there quietly in her arms and let her cuddle him so we knew that something was desperately wrong. After I was dressed, I took a few quick pictures of him, knowing that this may be the last time that he was ever going to be in our apartment.
As we walked down the hallway to the car, Mom asked me the question that I dreaded answering, “Do you think that this is it?” I had to sadly look into her eyes and say, “Yes Mom, I think that this may be it.” Her tears increased and my heart simply split in two. I didn’t have any other way to explain it but I didn’t want to lie to her. Grady’s tongue had turned from pink to white by now and I knew that his heart was failing. He wasn’t circulating blood the way that he should anymore and his breathing was getting more labored as each hour had passed. I didn’t know how to comfort her so I just did everything that I could to get her seated in the car while she held on to her beloved baby.
The drive to the vet seemed to take an eternity. I had called ahead to tell them that we were coming and relayed to them the severity of the situation. I asked them to please tell Dr. Chick that we were coming and that we were going to need his help, more so for my Mother than for the actual act of assisting Grady across the Bridge. We had put our faith in this man for so many years that we wanted no one else to touch our beloved boy except him. When we got there, the vet had put off his lunch hour to await our arrival.
Mom’s only request was that she wanted to be holding Grady the ENTIRE time. She would not let him go. She didn’t want him to by lying on a cold, sterile, metallic table when he finally took his last breath and I could understand that feeling. I had brought my cat only a year ago to the hospital for the same reason and I brought him in one of his favorite beds for precisely the same reason. There was no way that my baby was going to leave this earth with his painful arthritic bones lying against that hard sterilized table as he left this world. I was determined to give my Mother whatever she wanted to make the passing of her beloved as comforting as I could make it for her.
The vet had some trouble finding a blood vessel to do the injection because Grady’s heart was just not pumping blood around very well. He tried numerous sites and was still having a very hard time. He managed to get some sedation mediation into Grady so at least he was a bit more relaxed but the vessels kept “blowing” (infiltrating) so he couldn’t get enough medication into him to actually put him to sleep. Unfortunately, the time came where Grady had to be placed on the table afterall, in order to get him in the proper positioning to access a vein in his neck. By then, Mom was resigned to the fact that in order to end his suffering in a timely manner, the table was going to have to be a necessity.
Dr. Chick was so kind to Mom. He explained everything that he was doing. He never rushed Mom. He gave her all the time that she needed and allowed her enough time to say all the goodbyes that she needed before he did the final push of medication. Grady was wrapped up in his favorite Red Sox towel and Mom was holding his head. I was standing behind him with my hands on his back, telling him how much we loved him and that he was not alone. We reassured him how much he had meant to us throughout his life and that he wouldn’t be suffering anymore soon. We promised him that he would be playing with all of our past beloved pets who would meet him at the Bridge and that they would show him the way once he got there. I had my other hand on his belly and as soon as the medicine went in, I felt his breathing stop. I knew the moment it was over.
Dr. Chick informed Mom that Grady had passed and after telling us how sorry he was, he left the room to give us a chance to be alone with him. His assistant said that she would just be outside the room but we could take all the time that we needed. I quietly slipped out of the room and let Mom have some private time with Grady. As I stood in the hallway, I couldn’t stop the tears from coursing down my cheeks.
I thought about all of the memories with our beloved dog. I couldn’t believe that the day had finally come. All of the close calls, the seizures, the aspirated bone with the emergency drive at excessive speeds to the hospital when he was choking and the numerous pills every day. I recalled the day that we picked him up at the airport when he was flown to us after open heart surgery, when he weighed less than 2 pounds and had a large incision down the entire side of his body. How we had to take him to the vet every week to make sure that he was gaining weight. The first time he ever had a bath which was given to him by me when we got home from the airport that day. The night that I slept on the floor with him after knee surgery because they hadn’t given him enough pain medicine and he was suffering, The joyous time when we took him to the beach and he got to run off a leash for the first time ever. All the memories came flooding back to me as I stood in that hallway crying.
Then I looked into that room and saw my Mother hunched over the exam table with her face burrowed in the fur of her beloved dog who had just passed away and I wondered how I was going to ease her sorrow. I knew that there was simply nothing that I was going to be able to do to make this any easier for her. It was going to be her journey to travel and all I could do was walk it with her. I quietly eased my way back into the room and put my hand on her back, I listened to whatever she wanted to talk about and I laid my hand on the dog that I had loved so much. I gave him kisses on the nose that I had loved so much and I started to say my goodbyes.
The staff was wonderful about giving us all the time that we needed. We never felt rushed to leave the hospital and a few of the long-time staff members who knew us so well even came in to give us their condolences. We somehow managed to do the necessary paperwork and eventually came to terms with the fact that we had to leave there without the baby that we walked in with. Time had stood still for us and I was amazed to realize that as we were leaving, that not much time had really passed. Our lives had changed in an instant but the clock had barely moved at all. It was a somber drive home and as we walked into the house, that’s when the gravity of the situation really hit us.
The first thing we saw on the floor that opened up the floodgates was his favorite toy, a squeaky dumbbell by the sliding glass doors to the balcony. The sun was hitting it with just the right amount of reflective light and we were faced with reality. We wouldn’t hear that squeak again as he threw it around the room with reckless abandon. Over the next few days, we will have to learn how to navigate the minefield of toys, medicines, dog beds, routines, dishes, foods, and memorabilia that was the life of Grady in our home. We will be faced with the emptiness in our hearts as we try to figure out a new way to live without our little white furball following our every step. We will learn to cope with how it feels to be completely heartbroken.