May 11, 2003

Saying Good Bye to Blitz

It was a lifetime ago when my sister got her 8-week old hound-mix puppy Blitz, at least nearly 13 years seems long. I was in my 20s. Yep. That was a lifetime ago. I helped her pick him out from the litter of mutts tucked away behind a neighbor's refrigerator, helped her get him to the vet when at three months old he fell down the stairs and broke his leg. He raised her son, now 21. And it's time for him to go.

Among other things this weekend, Blitz has decided he's tired; his dying has begun in earnest.

Yesterday was not walking. Today not eating, still drinking. Too big at 80 pounds to get along on what I've always called his "little bird legs," my sister is checking into mobile vets this evening to see if one can come to the house to help "BoBo," as Jenna has always called him, on his way. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe the next day. Maybe tonight. It's not my decision; it's hers. She's getting ready. She's crying. She said he let her know he's tired. And I get to explain to Jenna, sometime very soon, that her good buddy's gone. I hope she's well enough to stop over to my sister's tomorrow. I'd like her to give him a pat or two. For him, and for her.

A year before my sister fell in love with tiny Blitz, I held her 17-year-old dog Mack's head for the vet who came to put him to sleep. She couldn't do it. We all handle death in our own way. We've got a lot of family baggage in that area, as you all know. When my sister went upstairs to start her grieving, I sat with Mack, petting his head, telling him, "Good boy. You're such a good good boy," holding his gaze, eye to eye, then gently laying his head down when it got heavy enough to know it was over, the vet nodding to me. Done.

A piece of the world stops breathing. If you know the sound, you can feel silence rush in 100 times a day.

I've sat with more animals than I care to count as they let go of life. Some with George, some by myself. Sometimes it seems like we've seen too many animals in and out of this world. But I never miss an opportunity to be with them when they go. The least I can do for a fine and loyal friend.

Often afterward, usually sitting in a car or a living room, I think about the moment, the single second where they release life and life releases them. How peaceful euthenasia is. How much better it is than pain, terror, sickness. How when they call it being "put to sleep," it really is just that. Sleep for the last time.

So today, tomorrow, the next day, soon, I hope she calls me. I hope I can help BoBo let go.

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