Goodbye, Graham…

It was the last time I’d make his breakfast.

I knew it didn’t really matter anymore, but I still gave him his AM dose of the Clavamox he’d been taking for the last week. He’d developed a UTI from wearing diapers after the last ditch attempt to try one last thing (prednisone) to see if we could get his hind legs to be stable and support his weight any better than they’d been able to for the last year.

Graham, our 13-½ year old Weimaraner, had been diagnosed with degenerative disk disease nearly a year earlier, when his gait first began to become unsteady.

He was a lean, mean specimen of a dog for years; he’d run with us for hours on the trails and despite a myriad of injuries (some rather silly, in retrospect, like coming out of the woods with an entire toenail missing, which never grew back), he always bounced back and he, along with his sister, Daisy, were the best training partners we could have ever asked for.

When we moved from California to a remote, equestrian area near Seattle, he and Daisy made me feel safe alone in our big, glass house in the woods, any time Chris would travel.

We had our moments along the way, like the time we had an altercation over a squirrel that he killed and wanted to bring home in the car (we didn’t speak for days after that), or the time he leaned so high up on the counter top that he was able to pull the freshly prepared Thanksgiving side dishes to the edge and eat them, while I was in the shower…

When he started to slip and lose his footing, the first thing the vet did was take an X-ray.  She remarked she’d never seen an 11-year-old Weim with no signs of arthritis (thanks to being a life long Paleo athlete, no doubt), and suggested he might benefit from some physical therapy.

Graham began a course of three times/week rehab including, acupuncture, running on the underwater tread and some homeopathic remedies, like garlic & turmeric for their anti inflammatory properties, five blueberries with his dinner, mega doses of fish oil and vitamins E and B.

His decline over the course of the year was slow but steady, to the point that it became the norm to have to help him ambulate now and then and rather than being shocked when he’d have an accident inside, it was a surprise not to wake in the morning to a little ‘something special’ left by Graham near his bedside.

He continued to have a voracious appetite; yet the signs that an impending, horribly challenging decision was on the horizon were becoming more and more difficult to ignore.

On Wednesday, we went out for our morning ‘walk’ (if that’s what you could still call it, given that he needed so much assistance via his little ‘help ‘em up harness’) and he only made it as far as two houses before making it quite clear he wanted to go home.

Not atypical, we turned around and I helped him onto one of his beds (yes, each of our dogs have three), assuming that later in the day, after a nap, he’d be back to his norm.

That was not the case.

A few hours later, I picked his harness handle up to escort him out into the yard and to my horror, his hind legs were like jelly.

Panicked, I rushed to the vet and, being that she didn’t find anything alarming, advised we could go home, keep an eye on him, and bring him back first thing in the morning to get some X-rays and diagnostics to see if there was anything that could be done.

The blood panel and X-rays done the following day showed nothing and the looming dark cloud we’d been thinking was still at least a few months away burst open upon us and the sky began to cry.

The guy couldn’t walk.  At all.  He couldn’t even raise his head to eat dinner from his bed; I scooped up bites at a time and fed him from my hand.

One final visit to his physical therapy/rehab vet was in order; I needed to hear from her that it was time, that it was actually inhumane to keep him with us in this state.

Her findings in the final exam were all the proof she needed.  Not only would he be very unlikely to walk again, it would also be quite possible that he could suddenly lose the loss of all limbs.

It had been horrible enough to see him try to pedal his front legs from the side lying position he had to be stuck in, trying so hard, in vain, to lean up into a sitting position.  Although he was able to do it a couple of times, most of his effort resulted in him rubbing his paws against the floor so much they ended up bleeding.

No quality of life seemed to remain.

On his last night, we brought him up into our bedroom like in the old days when he could still get upstairs and placed him between us to sleep.

While we didn’t say so out loud, we both prayed he would just go to sleep and not wake up.  At one point, around 2 AM, his heart began pounding so hard and so arrhythmically, we both thought that was it.

He stayed with us through the night, though and there was an indescribable stillness in the air on Saturday, which made it feel like time was standing still.

We scheduled a visit with an in home vet for 4pm.

The minutes passed by at an agonizingly slow pace.

At 3pm, I cooked him a rare filet mignon and he ate it with gusto.

His last hour was spent resting while we sat with him, stroking him and reminding him of how much we will always love him.

He died peacefully in my lap, in his own bed, surrounded by love.

Goodbye, my sweet boy.  I will always love you.