The obvious answer

One of the things I've (infrequently) written about in the last few weeks is our eldest dog, Smokey. He's been in Fluffy's life for fourteen years and in mine for almost as long. But, he was hitting the twilight of his live and his nights were turning into a hell despite the good times he had during the day.

But we weren't sure what to do about it. He would be fine during the day, even cheerful and perky, but the nights had become a hell for him. He would cry for hours, even when Fluffy slept out in the living room to be near him. Well, tried to sleep, I don't think she got much sleep judging from the dark shadows and exhaustion I felt when I went to Illinois on Thursday.

And during this time, we struggled with the thought of putting him to sleep. Was it too soon? Was it too late? My mother always puts animals to sleep when they are inconvenient, but one of our friends waited way too long as her dog suffered from it. But, Smokey's days were great, but his nights were bad. If he was in pain all the time, it was an obvious answer. If it was only because of the weather or general aches, it would have been just as obvious. But, he just stayed on that horrible line of good and bad simply separated by darkness. We even tried leaving the lights on, to see if that would help, but it didn't. She bribed him with peanut butter and bones, then greenies, then anything he could eat. And through that time, he was taking more and more medication just to make it through the hours.

Last Tuesday, Fluffy made the decision: it was time for Smokey to move on. It was probably the most painful decision she had to make and one that hurt even me. And it wasn't an obvious answer at that point; it was a decision made on not wanting to see him suffer, despite his days being so good.

Elkhounds have such strength, did you know that? When Dante had cancer, he didn't cry out or suffer until we all realized what had happened. Then, he finally let himself cry. For Smokey, I think he held back the pain during the day for his mommy (Fluffy) until she made that decision. And, in the few days that followed, it no longer became a question if we were doing the right thing.

It became an obvious answer.

It also became the only answer.

From Tuesday to Thursday, he was from good days to bad days. Falling down, unable to walk, struggling to move forward. I don't think Fluffy really slept either--we put her up in a hotel just so she would get one good night of sleep before Friday.

On Friday morning, with the doctor who talked just a bit too much and a good friend, Fightertype, I watched as Smokey was put to sleep and listened to Fluffy's sobs echo in the room. It hurt to see that and hear it. It hurt to realize that we just killed our dog, but I also felt relief that he wouldn't be suffering anymore.

I've been with this dog for nearly thirteen years (Fluffy and him spent a year away from me), from the time he was going to be put to sleep the first time at the age of two. Fluffy rescued him and they fell in love; and he got a fourteen year extension to his life. And it was a good life and he was Fluffy's baby. Its a long time with memories and while I didn't cry, I didn't grieve from the loss. Actually, I internalized it just a bit too much since I got very sick in the following days.

I'm going to miss him. He didn't worm his way into my heart like Dante did, but he was still a companion for such a long time. It will also hurt to watch Fluffy morn for him, probably more than that my own grief, her pain feels like a knife. I know that time will dull that blade, but right now, it just hurts.