Warning. This entry will include discussions of a pet’s death. I feel it’s necessary as part of my grieving process.
I’m starting this with links to videos and pictures of my dog:
There are some great videos on my FB feed, but apparently, you can’t save or link to them because...reasons? Fuck you, FB.
Wolfenstein died at around 11:55 pm on Friday 9/17/21. He was about 13 years old. I say “about” because I’m not sure. My ex and I got him from a humane society in Janesville, WI in May of 2008, and we weren’t sure of his age. He was young, and while I don’t believe he got taller, he did fill out some more over the next year or so. I therefore believe he was around a year old. He was our 5th dog, and very much mine.
I know, I know. Five dogs is way too many. I agree, especially in hindsight. But, we did live out in the country with an acre’s worth of a backyard, so we had the space. I wouldn’t do it again, but live and learn.
When my marriage ended in 2019, he was the only dog I took with me. We euthanized one two days before I left, and my ex has since euthanized two more. Only Sawyer is left, and initially, we thought I might wind up with him too, but it didn’t work out that way, and likely for the best. Wolfenstein and Sawyer didn’t get along that well. Being in a house with a giant backyard was one thing. Living in a two bedroom apartment and having to be walked together, and taken to dog parks? I don’t think that would’ve been great. But I digress.
Wolf was healthy for most of his life. Around September of 2020, he developed what I thought may have been an ear infection or irritation from an insect bite. I noticed his scratching the inside of his ear more than normal, and when I checked on it, found some blood. He’d scratched himself bloody. Over the next few days, he stopped and his ear healed. Now I suspect it was the start of what eventually killed him.
The ear issue came back maybe three or four months later. I could check vet records, but that’s not the point. I took him in to have it looked at, and the vet thought Wolf had a tumor of some kind because he couldn’t see into the ear canal the way he expected, plus there was some swelling and redness. He also said the only way to be sure would be a diagnostic image, which would require a trip to someplace that could do it, and at least $1000. This was at a time when I didn’t have that much to my name. Plus, they’d probably have to sedate Wolf to keep him still, and sedating a dog that age can be tricky. I asked the vet to treat him as best he could, which he did. Wolfenstein was on antibiotics, and eventually steroids, for the rest of his life, and vet appointments roughly every two weeks. Sometimes every week. While he kept his appetite, getting him to take the pills wasn’t difficult. I’d wrap them in ham, or stick them in a piece of a hot dog. But eventually, getting him to eat wasn’t easy.
Around four months ago, the tumor started to swell. At its worst, he looked like he had a small ball inside his skull. But, Wolfenstein had an appointment the day it really looked terrible, so I waited. Well, it turned out the swelling was an abscess, likely caused by the tumor, and it ruptured. That was actually good because the swelling vanished as it drained, and the vet cleaned it out. The abscess would remain until he died, which prevented me from taking him to the dog park. Until then, I’d take him six days a week. Once he had a seeping wound, taking him was problematic. Inevitably, a dog would pay too much attention to it. Wolf would get annoyed and snap at the offending animal. It never caused a fight, but that was my fear. It got close a couple of times, so I stopped taking him. I’d walk him around the neighborhood myself, or let him wander around my apartment’s grassy area.
Until he started having hind end issues.
Looking back, he began having trouble getting up on tile in late 2020. It became much worse over the last three months. I asked the vet about it; he attributed it to a nerve issue that was untreatable. It apparently happens regularly to big dogs, and Wolf was around 76 pounds for most of his life. The last month or so, I put rugs in place to try and keep him from sleeping/laying down on bare tile, but he’d often find a bare spot, presumably because it was cooler. I also began seriously thinking it was time to put him down, particularly when he had a bad day, and refused to eat.
He stopped eating dry food three or four months ago, so I began mixing it with protein I’d make for myself - chicken, pork, ground turkey or ground beef. He stopped eating twice a day and refused any dry food maybe three weeks ago, but he’d eat meat I cooked at least once a day. He had a really bad time a couple of days before his last vet appointment, but the day after that and the day of the appointment, he was better. I discussed euthanization with the vet, mainly because I felt forced to consider it, but we both agreed then wasn’t the time. Yes, he had trouble getting up and was eating less, but he was also old. Hell, I have good and bad days.
The last two weeks were not good. Getting up became increasingly difficult, especially when he was on bare tile. I took him just about everywhere I went, and he could no longer hop into the back seat of my Honda Accord on his own. I had to help him a little. He’d still eat, but only once a day, at best. He slept much more. But, he was never in any pain. At least not that he expressed. He didn’t whine. He wasn’t sensitive to being touched anywhere, including his bad ear. And, most of the time, he still had a spark in his eye. If you’ve ever had an intelligent dog, you understand what I mean. There were maybe two days where it seemed to be gone; those were the ones where I wondered if it was time. But the spark would return, and he’d be what I considered his new normal.
And this is what bothers me the most as I type this. Should I have put him down? When I think about it as objectively as I’m able, I say “no.” If he’d been hurting, if he’d looked at me in a way that conveyed pain and/or a desire to just be done, I believe I would’ve known and acted accordingly. I have before. It’s difficult, yes, but it’s part of being a pet owner. I will admit there may have been a time or two when I thought I saw that look, but if I did, it didn’t stay long. Two weeks before he died, he even talked and played some. Not like you’ll see in his videos, but some of his sass was there, and I welcomed it. The last week? No, but he’d still go outside, walk around, want some affection, and eat. The bar was lower, but again, he was old. He also had an appointment scheduled this Thursday. I thought that might be the time, depending on how he was in the days to come. I told him we’d go sooner if he let me know he was ready.
The night he died, he wouldn’t walk when I took him outside. He just lay down on the front patio. I got him to get up and walk briefly in the grass, but he just lay down again. So we went back inside. He lay on the tile in my bedroom. I remember thinking if he was this bad in the morning, I’d probably put him down. A few minutes before he died, I smelled what I thought was his passing gas. I got up to take him out again, and noticed he’d crapped without getting up. Just a little. I encouraged him to get up so I could take him out, figuring he probably needed to go more. He tried to get up, and I helped him. Then he went limp. When it happened, I thought he had some kind of stroke or something, and couldn’t support himself. I think - THINK - he was still breathing.
My first thought was “it’s time. I need to take him somewhere and let him go.” My phone was in the living room. I picked it up and found a 24/7 emergency vet clinic close by. I called my best friend, Andrew Wilson, because I wasn’t capable of carrying Wolfenstein to my car by myself.
Yes, I realize that sounds pathetic, and it bothers me. But I’m 52, obese, I have asthma issues, back problems, and have had a heart issue that should - SHOULD - be resolved. Carrying 70 pounds from my apartment to my car isn’t going to happen. So I needed help. I did try to pick him up, and knew immediately that the best I could hope for was throwing my back out. Then I’d still need help, and I’d be in serious pain for a week or two, depending on how badly I hurt myself and how I reacted to treatment.
My call went to Andrew’s voice mail, so I texted him. Bear in mind it’s almost midnight on Friday. I felt bad enough needing help at all, much less at this time of night. After my text, I checked on my dog. That’s when I noticed he wasn’t breathing. He was gone. Looking back, my guess is the strain of getting up that last time did cause some kind of stroke, probably because of the tumor in his head, and he died. I didn’t come to this conclusion until later.
Andrew called me back. He agreed to come help me get my dog to the car, now for cremation. I couldn’t just leave the corpse in my bedroom, nor did dragging him outside until the next day seem appropriate. Andrew has been a big help in my life at least twice recently. When my marriage ended and I moved back to AZ, I rented a room in his house until I found a job and my own place. This is true friendship, and I’m forever grateful.
Andrew decided it would be easiest for him to simply carry Wolfenstein himself. By the time he got to my place, I’d wrapped the dog in a sheet and cleaned up the slight mess. Andrew accompanied me to the clinic. I filled out some paperwork, they brought a gurney out to the car, rolled my dog inside, I paid their fee, and then I went home.
I didn’t sleep much that night, maybe 3-4 hours. I slept well enough last night, and should be ok tonight. I cried some the night Wolfenstein died, and again yesterday. It sort of sneaks up on me and overwhelms me. I still find myself thinking of things I need to do for him, and then remember I don’t. That will pass soon enough. I also feel the need to say my memories of that night may not be the best. I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly, but I’ve done my best to be honest.
I don’t anticipate getting another dog soon, if at all. My ex and I had pets nearly the whole time we were together - almost 20 years - and it was the same growing up. Honestly, I welcome not having the responsibility for a while. It’s one thing when you have a partner willing to help; it’s another when one lives alone, and has an eye towards playing gigs again within the next year or two.
Wolfenstein was a wonderful dog, and I miss him. I will for a long time, probably the rest of my days. I sometimes thought he may have been better off with a different owner; someone more active. He enjoyed running; I don’t run. I did play with him in his youth, and when he had a huge excess of energy, I would literally take him for a trot down country roads while I drove my riding lawn mower. But he had a pretty good life, and I believe he was well cared for. He was clearly my dog, and I’m fairly sure anyone who saw us together knew that. It seemed pretty obvious.
I also question whether or not I should have euthanized him, but I keep coming back to the fact that, while he had mobility issues and was on medications, he didn’t seem to be in pain. Could I have been wrong? Yes. But had it been clear to me, I would’ve taken care of him. I owed him that, and more.
On a lighter note, work continues on a new batch of songs and a new book. Both should be released sometime next year, hopefully before June, possibly sooner.