Friday, February 10, 2012

Going for the Gusto

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.


  1. Oh, my! That brought tears to my eyes.

  2. I LOVE that! Maggie did something similar in her final moments! It made me think they were packing for a long trip!

  3. Thanks, ladies. That moment perfectly represented the strength and determination that defined Butch's whole life. At an incredibly sad moment, it lifted our spirits and made us smile.

  4. I'm glad his last moments were like that. I've heard that about animals and people before, that sometimes just before they pass, they're often animated and seem well. Honestly in the grand scheme of things, I wonder if that's more for us than for them. Like it helps us let go more easily. When I read of his passing, I thought immediately of your post on old dogs and children. Almost like it was a tribute to Butch.

  5. Having to put down several dogs of my own due to old age or illness, I cried when I read this. It is never easy but you did the right thing for your baby. We never forget them, they make our lives so much better.
    Teresa Wilson Rogers

  6. SDC, you might be right that Butch's last burst of liveliness was for us instead of him. It was a glimpse of what he had been and could be again, as if his spirit was just waiting to burst free. It was quite a special moment.

    Teresa, they do make our lives better. I lost Butch's "big sister," Kadi, 11 months ago and knew then that I wouldn't have Butch much longer. As much as I miss both of them, I'm so glad to have Levi. He's young and goofy and makes me laugh even when I don't think I want to.


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