I'm recording the following story here both to share it with you and to make sure it's written down so I'll never forget it.
As Kim and I sat with Butch in the vet's office yesterday, knowing those moments with him would be our last, he did one thing so typical of him, one fleeting, triumphant action that made me want to stand up, raise my hands in the air, and sing the theme song from the first "Rocky" movie.
Euthanasia is a two-part process. First, the doctor gives the animal an injection of a sedative meant to calm its fears and put it into a state of semi-consciousness in which it is supposedly able to hear what its family members are saying and feel their love. Later, when the family is ready, the drug that ends life peacefully is administered through an IV apparatus.
Before the first injection was administered, Butch was lying on a soft blanket on the floor. He was on his stomach, propped up on his elbows with his head between his paws. The doctor gave him the sedative and quickly popped one treat in his mouth and a second one right in front of his nose. He spat out the first one and ignored them both. The doctor left us alone with him to say our goodbyes, telling us she'd check on him again in about five minutes.
Butch's breathing relaxed immediately after receiving that shot, but he didn't lose consciousness right away. As we sat and stroked him, telling him what a good boy he was and how much we loved him--all the things we felt deeply and thought might be reassuring to him--we could tell by the occasional twitch of an ear or a paw that he was still with us. In fact, after nearly five minutes' worth of such twitches, we became concerned that the sedative wasn't going to work. Suddenly, in a motion so quick it startled us, Butch raised his head and stretched his neck, grabbed both treats and gulped them down, then promptly dropped his head and fell over onto his side.
He was out, but by golly he didn't leave anything undone. I loved that big heart of his.