Our beloved Hank the Cowdog was laid to rest on March 5, 2014.
Alyssa and Ron were with him to the very final heartbeat.
Hank’s health was deteriorating and just before Christmas, he was unable to walk and barely lift his head. He was out in the backyard near the fountain. He seemed to have gotten a drink of water and then just laid down. It was freezing cold outside and when we realized where he was, he was shivering. We wrapped him in a blanket and carried him back inside. We were all sure that this would be “it.” We laid with him by the fire, rubbed on him, offered him some wet dog food, and stayed with him through the night. Michael was still in Nicaragua and Katie was home for Christmas. It was 2 days before Christmas and I think Hank understood when I asked him not to die on Christmas Eve.
He rallied and, although he wasn’t back to his usual self, he was up running around, barking at the neighbors dogs through the fence – just like always.
We had a light snow – really just sleet – but Hank seemed to like it and was out in the yard playing with the other dogs. Still, he’d have moments when he just barked at the walls. We couldn’t tell if he was hearing something we couldn’t hear, or if he was going senile (like the rest of us!).
The tumors continued to grow on his body and his back legs grew weaker and weaker. Just before I left for California, he was barely able to lift himself up the one step from the patio to the deck. At night, he was most comfortable in our room. We have carpeting and his feet didn’t slip as badly. So Ron carried him up the stairs to sleep comfortably through the night.
On March 3rd, Ron came home from work and Hank seemed to have worsened again. He let him out to drink from the fountain, but he was unable to walk back in. Temperatures were dropping and once again, Hank was unable to bring himself inside. I wondered if he simply had too much joint pain because of the weather. Ron carried him upstairs to sleep that night. The next day, Hank took his medicine (Tramadol for pain) but didn’t eat his dog food. He was able to walk around and so Ron went on to work.
Josh came by in the afternoon to check on him. Hank seemed fine. Walking. Tail wagging. Shuffled out to get water. But when Ron got home a few hours later, Hank was unable to walk and had soaked himself and the room. We were never really able to tell what it was, sticky watery and difficult to mop up. Hank’s eyes were sad.
Alyssa and Josh came to the house to be with him. Over the phone – because I was in California with Katie, and Michael was in Dallas with Kathya – we all agreed it was time to let Hank go. Ron slept downstairs on the couch with him, rubbing his head whenever he barked. All night long.
Josh had to work, so Alyssa came by herself to the house at 7 a.m. Hank was still unable to walk. He wagged his tail when he saw Alyssa and barked whenever Ron left the room. The vet said they could take him at 10 a.m. Both Alyssa and Ron called me and we all cried over what we knew had to be done next. The vet appointment was changed to 8:30 a.m. and I stayed on the phone with them until it was time to load Hank into the car. He soaked the car.
The vet office let them come into a separate room away from the others through a side door. They placed him on the table where Alyssa and Ron could continue to rub his head. They started the IV and gave them a few minutes to say their goodbyes. Through their own sobbing, they told Hank he was a good dog and he loved hearing that. That’s all he ever wanted in all his 14 years was to please the family. They gave him a couple spoonfuls of cheese and agreed it was time. The vet was very patient and explained what would be happening. Once the medicine was started, he was gone immediately. He looked exactly the same, peaceful, but still.
As a mom, I was so heartbroken to not be there while my daughter had to go through such a horrendous life event. Her first dog. Her companion since she was seven. I wanted to be there to hold her and comfort her. But we don’t always get things the way we want and she rose to the occasion. Emotions aren’t something we hide in our family, so she and Ron cried together. But she was so strong and I am so proud of how she handled such a terrible painful situation.