The below was written after Rainier died. Not very coherent or complete. The whole event happened in one evening. See this post for more about Rainier.
We were heading out of town for the weekend so we dropped off Rainier at some good friend’s house. They have a couple of dogs that Rainier likes playing with. I was supposed to get home around 3p and we would leave shortly after that. But the day went long and I was coming home around 4p instead. As I pulled up to the house my phone rang. It was our friend telling me that Rainier wasn’t doing well and needed to go to the vet. As we hadn’t left town, I headed over. Rainier was clearly not himself. He didn’t get up when I walked in and just laid on his bed, panting, ears back. We tried to get him to stand up but he wouldn’t. They had already made arrangements to get into their vet so we headed over there. 5pm. I had to carry Rainier because we couldn’t walk. We got right in at the vet, but the news wasn’t good. We talked through the various options but the diagnosis was pretty obvious to the vet.
Hemangiosarcoma is a cancer that results in a tumor made of blood vessels – basically a big bag of blood that gets bigger and bigger over the years. It gradually gets more fragile and eventually bursts, causing death by internal bleeding. Common in older dogs. Sometimes, there would be a minor bleed that would heal itself. The dog would be out of it for a day or two but recover fine. This actually happened several time to Rainier, but we thought it was digestive and wondered what he ate.
I said “So either he will get better or die, in the next couple days” and she said “Yes”. I hadn’t really considered that this was a possibly fatal thing until that moment. Definitely wasn’t expecting that. Had trouble keeping it together at that point.
Dropped my friend off and took Rainier home. Got home around 6p. We put him in front of the fireplace and I laid on the floor with him. He kept panting, occasionally moving around to try to breath easier…never really succeeding. After a couple of hours, it was clear that things weren’t going to get better. His breathing got more strained. Every once and a while, he would try to sit up, panicky, trying to breath. He would usually collapse back down after a few seconds. He was so weak at that point.
About 9p, he rallied and stood up on his own. He weakly walked over to his water dish, sniffed, but didn’t drink. He stepped away and just stood there. It took a few seconds for us to realize that he was staring at the place where his bed normally was. We moved his bed back into his corner and he went right to it and laid down.
He tried to sit up once last time and collapsed back down, lying on his side. His breathing changed. Long pauses with short gasps. The gasps got shorter and the pauses longer. I didn’t realize when the last gasp happened, only that the pause was much longer. He was gone.
Joyce had the TV on because Rainier’s breathing reminded her too much of the last day of her brother’s life. He, too, essentially drowned due to complications from leukemia. Seconds later, Joyce turned off the TV and asked me how he was doing. The timing is one of those things that can’t really be explained because she wasn’t listen to his breathing and I hadn’t moved after he died.
Nissa was over at her boyfriend’s house and called a few minutes later. I told her Rainier died and she came straight home. She was pretty torn up about it.
In the morning we took him over to the vet’s to be cremated. It was hard to say goodbye. We got the ashes and a clay pawprint for Erik, Kelsey, and Nissa. Nissa wanted to get up early and come with us.
written January 2012