We take a break in the Sweet Summer Funtimes for the Love of George. Warning – this post is about our beloved dog who probably doesn’t have too much time left with us. But boy, is he loved.
Last week was a frenzy. I was gearing up for the BlogHer Conference, a dream trip that I much needed, and the prep was near Doomsday level. That’s how it works when a mom leaves home for a few days. I needed to leave early-ish Thursday morning, so Wednesday was a blur of cooking, cleaning, and strategic packing. Wednesday night, I went into the city to see a rough cut of the short film I wrote (more on that in a future post).
I came home inspired and happy, carrying an external drive with the culmination of a year’s worth of work on it, excited to share with my husband. I hadn’t even turned the car off before I realized something was terribly wrong.
My two boys stood on the front porch well past their bedtime, distraught. I opened the car door, and before I could say anything, my husband, visibly upset, pointed to the front steps which were slicked with water.
“George had an accident,” he said. I wasn’t sure why this merited a three-man report. Due to decreased mobility from a tumor on his leg, our dog has been having more accidents these days, mostly inside the house. I was happy he’d made it outside.
Middle Child unleashed a tearful explanation.
“Georgie couldn’t walk. He collapsed in the backyard. And he was running, and he was fine because we were all looking at the sunset and he came out with all of us and then he just stopped running and then he fell over and he’s been whimpering and crying. He can’t walk. He can’t move.”
It all came out in a jumble. He is the animal lover, the child closest to our dog. When we told the kids the other week that George’s tumor had grown back again, this time so entwined with the tissue and muscle that removal would be nearly impossible, that at best we could de-bulk the tumor and give him an extra three months, it was Middle Child who took it hardest.
This latest development was a little more real and happened sooner than we’d imagined. The dog’s tumor is complicated by the fact that he has arthritis. He’s been compensating for the tumor putting more and more weight on his front paws, but it seemed that he just could not handle both ailments anymore.
I went inside. They had moved the dog’s pillow from our bedroom out into the main room so that he didn’t have as far to go when he needed to go outside. George was panting hard and yet refusing the water we offered him. He was shaking. He tried to adjust his position when I came in, and he whimpered and yelped in pain.
That sorrowful noise told me everything, especially that there was little I could do make it better. It will forever be the sound of my heart breaking.
I sat down next to his dog bed, and he leaned up against me the way he does during a thunderstorm. Eventually, his breathing calmed, and we nuzzled one another. He rested with his head against my chest the way he did when I was pregnant and on bed rest. The boys sat on either side of us and gently stroked his back.
The kids began yawning, so we told them to go brush their teeth and hit the sack. Once they were out of earshot, I asked my husband if he wanted to take the dog to the emergency clinic right then. He shook his head, then asked me to take a taxi to the airport the next morning for my trip because he was going to take the dog as soon as we dropped the kids off at camp.
He looked at me steadily. “Just make sure you say goodbye to George before you go.”
Middle Son ran back in the room and asked if I still had all the pictures I’d taken of him and the dog (Of course.) He then asked if we would be burying George in the backyard. Then sweet Middle Child dissolved.
It was that moment I decided I would not be going on my trip. My husband started to argue, but Middle Child just said, quietly, “George is more important than a trip.”
I canceled my plans and informed those who needed to know.
We cried a lot.
My husband took the overnight shift with my dog, letting our crying, limping dog out at about 1AM. Then George came back to the bedroom. I think if he were able, he’d have been up on the bed with me. I just couldn’t lift him. My son asked if he could stay home from camp the next day, and I said yes.
It was tense as we waited. The dog jumped into the back of the car as soon as we said the magic words “Doggie Road Trip” and instantly knew he shouldn’t have done it. Both because it was a painful thing for him to do, and also because he remembered that most of our recent “doggie road trips” have been to the vet.
It was an excruciating wait for the update. Son and I sat and poorly distracted ourselves. I kept checking social media to see what was going on at the conference I was missing. My heart felt as though it had been shot with a thousand arrows and that all of them were being pulled simultaneously. Finally at 9:35 am: “All good. Rimadyl for arthritis and we’ll keep an eye on him.”
And that was that. Within half a day, George put weight back on his front leg. Within 24 hours, he was back to the dog he was 6 months ago. Middle Child spends lots of time checking in on George, who spends most of his day sleeping. They have long conversations, and it’s pretty hard to not peek in to see, but I want to respect the sanctity of that relationship. A boy and his dog. A dog and his boy.
We’re day-by-day now, keeping an eye on him. He’s certainly no puppy, but when he’s outside, he runs a bit, he’s happy, and during meals he begs for table scraps again (in a gentlemanly fashion, as is his way). When it’s time, it will be time. We love this dog too much to keep him in pain and misery just to make us feel better.
George will be 11 on July 4. It’s a holiday he detests due to all of the fireworks, but it is one we are glad he’ll be around for.