|2 years ago|
I had to have Lilli (AKA "Desert Dawg") put to sleep (humanely euthanized) this weekend. She was 18 years old and died the same month of her birth. I didn't expect to have to do it. I thought that like many visits to the vet before, they would give her something and she would recover. Obviously, I was in denial.
Lilli, a Malte-Poo, was a gift from a Kuwaiti friend in 1997. He knew I was looking for a pet companion and brought her to me in a wooden pet carrier, hand painted with leopard print (the prettiest carrier I have ever seen). I had helped Abdullah with resources in the US after his sister was diagnosed with cancer and had to go there for treatment. Lilli was brought from Egypt and when I got her, only 2 months old and could fit in the palm of my hand. She was a wiggly little powder puff. The first several nights, she slept on the corner of my bed facing the door and barked at my neighbor across the hall coming home late at night. She has always been very protective and has taken care of me (and my friends) when we were sick or sad; putting her little paw to my face or laying her head on my chest. My 18 years with my 4-legged daughter lasted through relationships, exploring places together (she loved being on boats and had a pink life preserver), visiting friends. Through a war and scud attacks on Kuwait. Through a bad car accident. Several jobs. Seeing friends come and go. She was with me for almost the entire time I have been in Kuwait.
Through the recent months of my housing drama, I finally got her back from my friend, Hair Girl/S, who is like her second mother. HG/S has known and cared for Lilli throughout Lilli's life. HG is a gentle soul who went to great lengths to take care of Lilli while I was trying to find us all a new place to live.
For the past 2 years, I have been on "death watch". It started with doggy dementia: She didn't recognize me and would often intentionally bite me (something which she had never done before as a docile little creature). Then, Lilli suffered from a stroke and I only realized what had happened after doing research on aging dogs - with the specific behaviors she was displaying. (I write about this partially for readers information. If you have an elderly dog, chances are at some point they will have similar issues.) Lilli was "pressing" - a posture where a dog will press it's forehead to the wall. Then, she started tilting her head to one side and pacing in circles (HG/S bought her a soft-sided playpen so she could pace without banging her head on the wall.) The circuit-pace has never stopped. For the past year, it has gotten much worse. Since I've had her back this week, , instead of pacing, she began fast "spinning" in smaller circles until she would fall down.
Writing this, I realize that it sounds like these were indications enough that I should have had her put to sleep a while back, but vets (and I consulted lots of them) and people who knew her said that as long as she was comfortable and not in pain that I should probably let nature take it's course.
I only had her back home with me for a week. It was as if she had been waiting to see me again; maybe to say goodbye before letting go. The night before I had her put down was the worst. She was too old/frail to bark. When she got in trouble (usually stuck somewhere/anywhere in a corner, under a dresser, in a blanket) she would wail. It was a terrible sound like a baby. That night, she wailed constantly. Every few minutes. When I went to check on her, she was having seizures (stiff with her legs straight out and her head turned to one side with tongue out). I found her several times on her back this way. I picked her up all night to comfort her, but it wasn't working and I could feel her seizures.
I took her to International Veterinary Hospital (IVH). As I waited for the vet, I looked over at the brochures on euthanasia and I lost it. The receptionist brought me a box of tissues. Lilli continued to wail. The vet came out and looked apologetic as if he knew it wouldn't be good.
After a thorough examination, the vet said that she could have had another stroke or perhaps a brain tumor. Lilli wasn't walking and he agreed that she was in pain. He said, "She's had a long life. I could give her some pain killers and some cortizone, but until when?" He handed me a paper for my consent to have her put to sleep. I don't remember signing it or even speaking.
I called BFF from the exam room and asked her what I should do. No one can make the decision for you. She just said that if Lilli was in pain, it was probably time.
I had a few minutes with her as the sedative started. Her eyes met mine. They follow the sedative with another injection that would end her life. It is painless and with the sedative, she was already asleep. I didn't stay for the second injection.
I told her that my dad would be waiting for her on the other side to take care of her. I thanked her for taking such good care of me. The vet and the staff were incredibly compassionate.
One of my biggest worries being here in Kuwait was what to do with her body once she was gone. I have read stories about foreigners being arrested for burying their pets here. I couldn't conceive of throwing her body in the trash. Years ago, one of my compassionate Kuwaiti friends offered to bury her on his property (and that has always been my plan). Fortunately, I didn't have to do that.
Recently (and I don't know how recently), IVH has started to offer pet cremation services. I didn't know this when I decided to have Lilli euthanized. I thought I would be walking out with a plastic bag containing her body. Just the thought of that had me traumatized. Having the peace of mind that she would be cremated was priceless to me. IVH offers 2 different types of services: Standard (which your pet is cremated with other pets) and Exclusive (your pet is cremated alone and you are given the ashes). Standard is 10KD, Exclusive is 23KD. IVH has urns/boxes you can select from - or you can bring them your own. I am SO thankful that they offered that service. I picked a simple, small pine box for her ashes.
I immediately felt guilty. Did I do enough? Should I have waited to let her die by herself? I don't think so. She was in pain. She couldn't stand at the end. Her wailing sounded to me like when she used to say "mama" (in dog speak) when she was young (clip below because no one believes me). I kind of felt like she was asking for my help.
I spent the entire day in tears. I called my mom first from the car. Moral support. She reassured me that I did the right thing. (Don't we all call our mom's first in an emergency?) Then I let Hair Girl know because she was Lilli's second mom. I think she felt worse than I did. She lost it equal to my losing it at the news. I have spent several days worried about S because she lost her beloved cat (about the same age as Lilli) a while back and I know this second blow can't be good for her.
I let Lilli's human friends know that she has passed. I had so many calls and messages from people and it has been extremely comforting. Some friends had only met Lilli once or twice, but adored her and were upset by her passing. I don't think there was ever anyone who met that little dog who she didn't win over. She was so affectionate.
My sister called me. She's been through this several times with pets - recently with Bo, her 12-year-old retriever. This is my second time (the first, having to put a 30-year-old pony down when I was 13 years old). My sister empathized and cried with me.
I started remembering happy things about Lilli that I had forgotten. It was kind of like messages that she's okay now and free from illness - happy where she is. She used to love Polo candies and every morning while I was getting dressed, she would bop me with her paw until I gave her one. When she was really excited, she did the "doggy dance" (and because she was originally from Cairo, I called her, "Fifi Abdou"). She used to sit by the door and wait for me when she heard my car. She used to run around the house at high speed. These are the things that started coming back to me like small signs that she's ok.
And then, like when my dad passed away, I started seeing her out of the corner of my eye. I know her little spirit is still around.