Sunday, August 19, 2018

Saying Goodbye to Our Darling Clementine

Last Wednesday, I woke up early and went to let the dogs out.

I immediately noticed Clementine's right eye was swollen. 

"That darn eye of yours," I told her. 

This was not an unusual event for our little Clementine. She'd been plagued with optical issues since we adopted her a little over three years ago, and we'd since accumulated a dependable bag of medications that always fixed her up. 

I gave Clem a few eye drops and continued with my workday, not at all worried. I was sure that in four hours or so, her eye would already be improving. By the next morning, she would be good as new. That's how it always worked.

Except when I checked on her that afternoon and later that evening, her eye looked very much the same.

Maybe even worse.

I went to bed Wednesday night with a sick feeling in my stomach. 

When we woke up Thursday, Clementine's eye had truly taken a turn for the worse. Never before had I seen it so swollen and aggravated. She wasn't moving from her bed, and when we carried her outside, she'd simply collapse. She was eating and drinking when we brought her bowls to her bedside, but she wasn't going to the bathroom. 

Adam took the day off work and was able to get her a mid-day appointment with the vet. Our vet took one look at Clem and immediately sent Adam to the Animal Eye Institute. 

Clementine's prognosis was scary. The doctors believed she had a tumor behind her eye. They also discovered glaucoma. 

Their recommendation was enucleation. They wanted to remove Clementine's eye. 

"Can we try a medication route first?" Adam asked, knowing Clem wasn't a good candidate for surgery because of her age and health. "That's always worked in the past."

Armed with five different medications and a complex dosage schedule, we were prepared to nurse our Golden Girl back to health. 

I was confident Clementine would be okay. She always bounced back. Just last August, her right eye had actually been gushing blood, and she survived that. And in July, her back legs had randomly started to give out... And still, she recovered.

That was our Clem. She was tenacious. 

I went home during the lunch hour on Friday to give Clementine a few different eye drops. I started to cry when I saw her. 

Her eye had somehow swollen to an even larger size, despite a few rounds of medication, and it was now beginning to bleed. She still wasn't moving from her bed. 

I cleaned her eye the best that I could. And then I called Adam.

He drove home immediately, and we headed straight to the Animal Eye Institute. 

But when we arrived in the parking lot, I suddenly felt paralyzed. I couldn't get out of Adam's truck.

I started to cry.

"What's wrong? They're going to help her," Adam said, his voice optimistic, hopeful. 

I shook my head, "I don't want her to have the surgery. It isn't fair to her. We have to let her go."

It was a horrible, heartbreaking conclusion I had reached, but I knew it was the right one. Our vets believe Clem was somewhere between 16 and 18 years old. Maybe even older. She had a collapsing trachea and a heart murmur in addition to being completely deaf and mostly blind. 

Sure, there was a chance she could survive the eye removal surgery. But I kept focusing on the more likely scenario, of Clem dying on the operating table, surrounded by strangers in a strange place. Or even worse, that she would be so panicked, so anxious leading up to the surgery, she'd pass before they could even begin the operation.

Clem lifted her head with a sudden strength and set it on my arm. She looked up at me with her cloudy eyes and seemed to say that it was okay. She was ready to go. She then moved her head to Adam's arm and did the same to him.

We drove home and called Angel Paws. 

The next four hours were a blur. We sat on the floor beside Clementine's bed, petting her and telling her our favorite memories together. We pulled up our favorite photos and videos. Most of all, we told Clementine how much we loved her, and how much she was going to enjoy heaven.

"You're going to be back with your original owner," I said, the realization bringing a strange mix of happiness and heartbreak. I looked to Adam. "What if Clem likes her original owner more than us?"

"I'm sure she loves us all the same," he assured me.

It was the strangest afternoon. As Clementine quickly deteriorated, I felt myself praying for Angel Paws to arrive sooner, to relieve her of this pain. And yet, I didn't want them to ever arrive. I didn't want to let my sweet girl go. 

We gave Clementine a McDonald's cheeseburger at 5 o'clock, and the woman from Angel Paws arrived at 6:10. 

She sat with us a while and explained how everything would work. She asked us questions about Clementine and what she liked to do.

"Sleep," we both immediately replied, starting to laugh.

We sat on the floor in front of the fireplace. I held Clementine, and Adam sat in front of her, petting her face and saying it would all be okay. Gus was there, too, lying beside her. 

Clementine was first given a shot of anesthesia that put her to sleep within minutes. She was snoring and so, so peaceful when she received the euthanasia. 

The woman gently held a stethoscope against Clementine's chest.

"Clementine has crossed the Rainbow Bridge," she told us. 

She went outside to give us some time alone with Clementine's body. We kept her collar, but we wanted Clem to leave with her beloved, lavender-patterned bed. I lifted each of her ears, kissing the spots that smelled vaguely like corn chips. I said goodbye, and Adam carried her to the car. 

I know it will be a while before my heart stops hurting, and my tears stop falling. Every dog brings something special to your life, and Clementine brought so much comfort, humor, and love to ours. She was so weird and wonderful, and my gosh, she had so much spunk.

She was just the best.

I love thinking about Clementine in heaven. When she would scamper through the yard, she looked like a bunny rabbit, almost hopping instead of jogging. She must be so happy to be able to see and hear again, to be able to move so freely and painlessly. And I hope heaven has an endless amount of soft, fluffy dog beds. Clementine loved hoarding all the dog beds in our house.

Thank you for being ours, even if it was for a short while. We'll love you forever, Clementine.