Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dusty, 7/11/1997-9/2/2010

His ashes are in a box now, but he isn't really there. And it's a very nice box, some sort of reddish wood, and it's cool to the touch. But it's not my dog, not really, despite the certificate we got from the crematorium with it.

You can see from the dates above that it's taken me more than two weeks to write this. Two weeks of dealing with the pain and the anger and the utter sadness of having to put our dog to sleep. I haven't talked about Dusty as much as I have about Zoe, for a number of reasons.

He was the family dog, and when my brother and I moved out of the house, he stayed with my parents. I had grand hopes when I got a house of my own; I told Dusty that I was going to get him a puppy who he could be friends with. Dusty and the puppy would have playdates, since I only live fifteen minutes away from where I grew up.

I got him a cat instead.

He tried to kill my cat, several times. We tried bringing them together at my house and at my parents' house, but Dusty was having none of it and Zoe was not pleased about the 85 lb Labrador Retriever barking death threats. She hissed; he attempted to murder. They did not have a good relationship.

It was territory-based, of course. I was pack and Chris, my husband, was pack, too. Dusty had spent the night at our house before we got Zoe, and so he simply decided that it was an extension of his territory. I despaired of them ever meeting in peace, as long as they both lived. I had failed my brother (and yes, he was my brother, as much the third child as anything else in our family)--I hadn't gotten him a puppy.

But then, Dusty got sick. He had been aging for most of the last year as he approached his thirteenth birthday. He slowed down, and the arthritis in his hind legs bothered him much more than he liked to admit. He had been feeling unwell for months, but the vet couldn't figure it out exactly, and the specialty vet couldn't make a sure diagnosis without a needle biopsy, which my parents didn't want to put him through.

And then, when I was in Japan in May, he needed to have his spleen out because it had gotten to the point where it would rupture. He got his spleen out. And he got worse, even though the tumor in the spleen appeared benign. Suddenly, he couldn't walk. He was anemic. He was confined to a large dog bed on my parents' family room floor, and they did everything they could to get him better. I wasn't there then; I was halfway around the world and I got frequent updates. I don't know exactly how they fixed him because my brain blurs at that part.

But they got him better. Not well, not by any stretch of the imagination. But better. He went on and off prednisone and some other drug and at least one chemo drug. He got tests done, and the vet narrowed it down to multiple myeloma. It was a rare cancer, lodged in his very bones.

He hung on.

He was there when I came home in July from Japan. We had a family birthday party for him, the day before he turned 13. He had cake and got dog treats as presents. He was happy beyond belief. He could walk, slowly, with help. We used his tail as a mechanism to get him in and out the front door. He was alert and happy and as healthy as the doctors could make him. He was loved beyond belief.

And then, towards the end of the month of August, one of the chemo drugs started working better, and Dusty could walk again. Down the driveway to the curb, even, to sniff his outside. He was so, so, so happy. We even had to put a leash back on him, since he was able to go so far on his own.

Chris and I dogsat him the last weekend in August, when my parents were gone all day at a wedding. He hung out with us, and we fed him pizza crust. We made cookies together, Dusty and I, like I had done so many times as a teenager. He got to eat cookie dough, and then sit by the oven waiting for the cookies to come out. Food was everything. He ate some cookies, too.

(This is so long now.... thank you for bearing with me, if you're still reading.)

But on September 1st, he was in a car accident. Not a very big accident, but my parents were taking him for a checkup at the vet, and my dad needed to swerve around a car that was coming straight at them. He slammed on the brakes, and Dusty slid off the backseat. They were only going 20mph. But Dusty's bones were so weakened and literally moth-eaten from the cancer... the calcium in them was being leeched out by the disease...that his left hind femur broke.

And that was it.

The vets couldn't fix him. There was nothing in the bone to hang onto, to repair the compound fracture. They discussed amputation, but they said it wouldn't work because even if it did heal (not likely), his right hind leg would likely snap under the additional weight. There was nothing to do, but put him to sleep. They wouldn't even let us bring him home, with good reason, because the break was so close to his femoral artery.

So the entire family gathered at the vet's, late at night, and said goodbye. We cuddled him and hugged him and told him what a wonderful dog he was. We stuffed him full of treats: cottage cheese and Snausages and chips and dog treats. We cried and kissed him and talked to an incredibly nice vet named Dr. Nancy Vale, who explained things to us all. He was so incredibly alert, even with the painkillers in him, and it hurt so much to say goodbye. It still hurts now. I intended this to be a happy post about what a wonderful dog he was, but you can see that didn't quite turn out that way.

My brother and his fiancee, and Chris and I left the room; we didn't want to be there at the very end. So we went home and took Benadryl to fall asleep and woke up the next morning to hear from my parents.

That he slept at the end. That he was peaceful and just lay down and slept. That when the vet came in the room to put the drugs in his IV, he just lay down on his side, as good as could be. My mom was there and my dad was there, and he truly was my brother. He was the first dog my family ever had, and we love him beyond what you can imagine for a pet.

He barked and he was loud and he was completely untrained. He pulled your arm off, whenever you went on walks. He begged for food compulsively; he was a stomach on legs. But he was so damn smart; he knew how to work zippers, for pete's sake. And he was loving and friendly and when you were sad you could just hug him and cry on him and he knew that you needed it. He had the world's softest ears, like velvet. When he was younger, his paws smelled like corn chips from the corn in his dog food. He drooled on you all the time, when he begged for food. He was silly, patient, incredibly intelligent, loyal, and loving.

I miss him so much.


Izzy said...

Oh God, I'm so sorry. I started reading this and halfway through I began tearing up and by the end of the post I was crying, that's how powerful this was.

Dusty will live forever in your memory and your heart.

AstonWest said...

My sincerest condolences for your loss...I never got to say goodbye to our family dog who'd been with us many years. She was put to sleep while I was out of town (and I wasn't told until I came home). :-(

Deb Salisbury said...

Hugs. I send my deepest sympathies. It hurts so much to lose any furred brother.

Necia Phoenix said...

I am so sorry to hear this. Yes he was your fuzzy brother. He sounds like he was an awesome friend.

{{hugs to you and your entire family}}

Have you heard the rainbow bridge poem?

Thank you for sharing about Dusty.

Robert W. Leonard said...

A very sad tale, but you can tell that Dusty was greatly loved. I lost the pet I was closest to as well recently. Still haven't gotten over that. :(

Rachel said...

I'm so sorry :(

Kathryn said...

*hugs* so sorry for your loss.

Jodi Meadows said...


Kristin Laughtin said...

I'm so sorry. I lost my dog (the family dog, as well) a few years ago at about the same age, and it's nothing but devastating. Every time I go home and see her box, I feel the same way...she's not really there. Dusty was well-loved.

Jenny Rae Rappaport said...

Thank you, everyone.

danceluvr said...

So sorry about the end of your pet's life. He will remain alive in your memories.

I had to put my favorite dog down from paralysis and old age (blind, deaf). I cried on her beautiful coat before the final injection for her final sleep.

We burie her in our backyard. As a momento, I pulled out a tuft of her thick hair to keep.

Lisa said...

Oh my gosh I am so very sorry. (Am tearing up over here.) Losing your pup is so hard. My heart is with you.

Michael Winchell said...

Wow, Jenny. I just happened upon your blog (remembered it from when you were agenting) and, though I know it's belated, I send along my condolences. Your description of Dusty moved me, both smiling (thinking of my dog) and near weeping (thinking of my family dog who's no longer with us). It's a tough thing, losing a loved one, and those of us who've had dogs like Dusty know that "loved one" accurately describes a dog as it does a family member. They're one in the same. Again, my condolences to you.