Last August I found this 11-year-old, half blind, partially deaf, malnourished, heartworm positive dog covered with fleas and ticks with singed fur in the middle of a busy street during rush hour on my way to work. I almost got hit twice trying to save him as he was trying to bite me and escape my well-meaning yet necessary grip on him.
I got him in my car and we both just stared at each other for a few minutes. He was wondering what the hell was going on and I was thinking about how full the shelters were and he didn’t have a chance in hell of surviving it.
I called my boss and told him I was going to be late. I took said dog to the vet and dropped him off for shots and an evaluation and picked him up on my way home.
I first named him Mr. Magoo when I filled out his paperwork. I thought about that all day and how it really didn’t suit him. He had spunk and he seemed to have lived a hard life and he deserved to be called something way cooler, not comical.
His name was changed to Ray Charles when I picked him up and he was from then on my dog.
It took him all of 2 days to acclimate to his new home with 2 other dogs and 6 cats. He went from a snappy scared creature to such a sweet little soul. He enjoyed being clean and comfortable and well fed. He enjoyed the company of the other 2 dogs and 1 of the cats and the company of me and my Mom.
When I would come home, he would jump up and come and see me with the rest of them. He would sleep in the big bed with me at night and he became quite the snuggler.
For 2 months his health improved. He was gaining weight, his fur became soft and lush. He was alert, social and aimed to please.
Then he got a lump on his stomach.
I knew what it was. I also knew the treatment would kill him faster than the disease, so I made the decision then to keep him comfortable and most of all feel loved for the rest of his life.
The last four months he suffered from diarrhea – I thought he had cholera – he got weaker and thinner and his bones were showing.
One vet visit showed he was having trouble digesting protein. I tried feeding him cheese, peanut butter, plant-based proteins, baby food to no avail.
Last Friday, I took him in to discuss a new approach to his diet with goat’s milk, baby food and whatever else he needed. I also asked for a blood test.
His test came back so grim. His cancer had grown so much in the last 4 months, the vet said she could feel it going into his intestines. He protein count was basically nonexistent and he was anemic.
This was the best health he would be in from that point on.
The vet started discussing what we could do to help him live a little longer. I stopped her and asked her if he was suffering. She said he was not suffering, but he hurt.
I did not want to give up on him because I feel he was given up on a lot in his life. But I had tried everything there was to do.
I told her I never ever want it to get to the point of him suffering and let’s end his pain.
You know how dogs shake at the vet from nervousness? As soon as I said that, he stopped shaking for the rest of the time he was there. He also licked my hand which he never did.
I held him in my arms in his favorite softest blanket when he went to sleep. I swear to you when they injected the sedative, I felt a cool calm travel through my body, as it was his. He looked so calm and content. He was smiling a bit. He was tired. So tired.
I knew I would be sad. I had only had this dog 6 months. But we had a special bond.
I felt destroyed.
I know I did the right thing. The outcome would have been the same no matter what option I chose. He went out pain-free with dignity and to me, that is the 2nd greatest thing I could have done for him other than making him part of the family.
It has been less than a week, and he will come back home Friday in a little box with his name engraved on it. It will go beside the other pets we have so loved and lost. And then when I am gone, my cremated remains will be mixed with all of theirs before being cast into the wind to fly free and dance and sparkle – there will glitter in there too.
Ray Charles, you are forever my little boy. I love you, I miss you, and I promise I will find you again someday.