Don't get me wrong. I didn't want our beloved older dog, ZuZu, to die. But she did last night, put out of her misery by a dose of morphine at Salem's emergency vet clinic.
What made it a good day -- and now the tears are coming, as I figured they would when I set out to compose this blog post -- was how ZuZu and I got to have a pleasant day together yesterday, since she went downhill really fast, as I'll describe later on.
Monday ZuZu and I had come back from central Oregon a day before my wife and other dog, Mooka. So on Tuesday I didn't want to leave her alone when I went to exercise at the River Road Courthouse athletic club.
In the morning we'd had our usual walk through our rural property, across a creek, and along a community trail here in Spring Lake Estates. ZuZu seemed pretty normal at that point.
She was walking a bit less energetically than usual, which likely was a sign of what was to come. But when she spotted a squirrel, the old ZuZu came to life. Zoom! She raced ahead and excitedly stared into the branches of a tree the squirrel had escaped to.
I'm so happy that ZuZu was able to chase a squirrel on her last day alive. It was one of her favorite things to do. We also ran into some neighbors walking their dogs, so she got to greet them a final time. Nice.
What I'm most glad about is deciding to take ZuZu to the Minto Brown Dog Park after exercising. It was starting to drizzle. I thought about going straight home. But I thought, "ZuZu enjoys the dog park. I've got time. Let's do it."
Yeah, it's a cliche. Live every day as if it were your last. And usually it isn't practical, since we need to plan for future days.
However, it's also true that we never know. When we will die. When a loved one will die. When a pet will die. I had no idea when I drove the short distance from our athletic club to the dog park that ZuZu would be dead in less than eight hours.
We had a good time at the dog park. ZuZu didn't play with any dogs, but she did a lot of sniffing and tail wagging. Some people patted her. She peed several times. ZuZu wasn't super energetic, and wandered a bit more than usual, but she seemed fairly normal.
I did talk to her as we walked through the large grassy field. ZuZu had been diagnosed with late stage liver disease. Back in June our vet thought she only had days or at most weeks to live. After I took her to the 2019 WillaMutt Strut event I wrote, "Our dog likely is dying, but we had a good time today."
Same was true yesterday. Except the likely turned to certainly a few hours later.
At the dog park I patted ZuZu and told her what a great dog she was, how happy I was that she'd come into our life after our previous dog, Serena, had to be put to sleep. (Another way of saying euthanized.) My wife and I had six good years with ZuZu, for which I'm deeply grateful.
It felt good at the time to tell her this, even not knowing what would happen later that day.
I'm also really happy about last weekend during a visit to our co-owned house in Black Butte Ranch. Laurel and I went to the Sisters Harvest Faire on Saturday without ZuZu and our other dog Mooka, figuring it would be distracting and difficult to enjoy the booths with two dogs in tow.
Sunday, Laurel took Mooka for a walk in the early afternoon. I decided to return to Sisters, browse some shops I didn't enter on Saturday, and take ZuZu for a stroll around the Harvest Faire.
I parked by Paulina Springs Books. We walked to an outdoor store, where I tied ZuZu up outside and she got to be admired by passers-by. Then we had a pleasant time strolling around the artsy booths. There were lots of dogs at the Harvest Faire. ZuZu got to greet them and enjoy the many smells.
ZuZu sat next to a chair I tied her to while a woman selling flowers at the adjacent booth patted her as I tried on a fleece jacket that I ended up buying. ZuZu loved attention from strangers. At dog parks she ran up to people as much as dogs.
It's wonderful, really, that ZuZu went downhill so rapidly. We were able to have some very good days with her just before her death, which wasn't unexpected given her liver disease, but shocked us by the suddenness of ZuZu's decline.
Yesterday around noon she threw up her breakfast. I was worried this was related to her disease, but hoped it wasn't. After we went to the dog park I gave her some white rice and canned chicken. She ate a few bites, the last food she'd ever eat.
Then ZuZu started pacing and panting in an agitated fashion. She'd sit for a minute or so, then walk aimlessly around the house, as if looking for some comfort she couldn't find. I noticed she was stumbling at times. By the time Laurel got home with Mooka around 7 pm, it was clear that ZuZu was in bad shape.
She would press her head against a wall, or against my leg. The emergency vet we took her to said ZuZu probably was having severe headaches caused by a build-up of toxins. The vet thought that the last few months was a rally from her end-stage liver disease.
ZuZu had been on antibiotics, cortisone, a diuretic, milk thistle, and CBD. Thankfully, we had about four good months with her before yesterday.
Our previous dog, Serena, declined gradually before she had to be put to sleep. That made the decision to euthanize tougher, until it became clear how much Serena was suffering. With ZuZu, there was no doubt. She was in extreme distress, though she didn't utter a sound.
The emergency vet said the fluid build-up could be drained, but it would come back right away. We didn't want to put ZuZu through more misery, so last night the morphine was administered.
I'm sad. I'll probably be sad for quite a while.
Yet I'm also glad. ZuZu and I had some good days together, including her last day. Death sucks. But it sucks less when the end comes fast, and pleasant recent memories balance out the pain of losing a beloved pet.
And it's good to have our new Husky mix, Mooka, to pat and talk to. She can't speak in words, but I get a sense that Mooka is missing ZuZu also.