Today is one of the saddest days I’ve ever had. We put to sleep our beloved friend Slim, who had been with us almost 13 years. My students were in kindergarten when he was born.
I posted on him a while back, but I wasn’t even as ready as I thought I’d be for his loss. He was such a good friend and a tolerant, happy guy.
I was grateful to be with him for his final breaths, which came at the hand of our old friend and vet Matt. Nice to be somewhere where they understand how hard it is. It was also nice that Matt’s dog Chloe has separation anxiety and was in the room too. Somehow that gave life to a death situation.
Slim had been fading for a while, but just the past couple weeks were much worse. For a while he’s had trouble knowing when he needs to go out, but lately he’d had more and more trouble getting up and lying down. Just couldn’t seem to find comfort. But because he was still eating (and having snacks on our way in this morning), we just didn’t see the clear signs. But he’d lost a lot of weight, and it was painful to watch him as his legs struggled to hold him up, but unable to let himself down.
So E drove and I sat and hugged him in the back seat of the car, on his dog bed. He’s always hated being in the car, so the shivering was par for the course, but somehow it seemed worse. We left Denali outside for the journey, just not knowing what he’d make of the situation. As usual, Slim had trouble getting out and stumbled a little going in.
We hoisted him onto the table in the exam room, where they’d put towels to make him comfortable and, I presume, to absorb any fluids he lost. Matt explained what would happen, and we stuck around. After a few whispers of love, Matt started injecting the tranquilizer, which put him to sleep-sleep. As he faded, I told him what a good boy he was and how much I would miss him. I couldn’t tell him enough. Then he was asleep, and Matt said that he wouldn’t know we were there, so if we wanted to leave for the next step, we could. E went to the car, but because he didn’t seem any different, I stuck around and continued to tell him how much I loved him. Crying the whole time. Matt injected the “euthanasia solution,” then listened for a heartbeat and declared it over.
For a minute, that felt a little peaceful. But then I had to leave him, and I just didn’t want to. I knew he was gone, but I also knew I’d never see him again. It was crushing. Eventually, I said a final goodbye, rubbed his ear one last time, and thanked Matt for his kind service.
E and I hugged in the car, and I drove us home. I felt one thing I didn’t expect; I would have given anything for one more night with him. Not that I didn’t have a lot of nights with him already, and he’d stopped enjoying our time together as much as he once had, but I just wasn’t ready to be done with him. But I also knew that tonight would have been just as painful, and the next day would have been just as regrettable. So now I’m trying to come to terms.
We didn’t take any of the options of cremating him, saving a lock of hair, or any of that stuff. I’d kinda like a physical piece of him, but I have a million photos of him, and I know I won’t forget him. Still, my life is much different just today than it was yesterday. Because of something I initiated. I hope it was a gift to him; that’s what I wanted it to be.
So it’s been a day of mourning. I cancelled both my classes. I intended to teach the 2nd, but I knew I just didn’t have anything to give to the class. Energy and enthusiasm are my greatest classroom assets, and they’re in short supply about now. So I hope to be a better worker tomorrow, when the pain is a bit duller.
For now, it’s wonderful to have Denali’s beautiful spirit. When Atticus died, Slim’s company was a great help. And now Denali is a consoling presence. Life goes on, but it’s always so hard, and I start to wonder why I put myself through this. But the period of anguish is worth it for the many many gifts Slim has given us over the years, from 1993 to 2006. Or so I hope to believe tomorrow.
Slim, thank you for all you’ve done, and all you are. I will miss you forever and think of you often. Rest well, my friend.