Friday, December 11, 2009

Saying good-bye to Baxter

I've never been good at saying good-byes, and the one on December 8th this week was probably the hardest I've ever had to do. I know several of you have been following Baxter's updates, and I don't feel like it would be complete without this post.

Sadly, I had to make the decision to let Baxter go. As my previous post said, he was not doing well. I visited him on Saturday night, and there was no change in his demeanor--still comatose, despite high dose steroids and mannitol, a drug to reduce cerebral edema often used with trauma patients. The next afternoon, I made my final decision to release him to the Rainbow Bridge.

His passing could not be a spur of the moment thing, however, as I really wanted things done a certain way. I had been in touch with the UMN vet the entire time, and she finally realized Baxter's grave condition and agreed with my assessments. We both decided that a necropsy would be very helpful, not only for research purposes (she was very gracious that I even allowed this as many owners would not have gone to that trouble), but also to hopefully shed light on answers and causes. His death was untimely, unpredictable, and we were all kind of stunned, honestly.

Through much arrangement, the emergency vet center agreed to send his body (unfortunately it had to be in two shipments--yes gross I know), and then, I could proceed with his final days here on earth. I took Hank and Daphne on Monday night to see Baxter one last time. I knew they would understand. This was probably more for me in the long run, but I felt like they needed to say good-bye. They both did well, remained calm, and seemed sad too. There was a moment when Hank had water droplets on his nose. I like to think those were his tears.

I took Tovah the next day with me. Some people argue about this, but I really wanted her to understand. I took precautions as I did not want to upset her terribly. She did very well, sniffing him before and afterwards. The friend I had with me said that when the medications were administered, she came to her and buried her head in her legs. I knew she understood and was able to say her good-bye. Afterwards, she was able to play with her new buddy, Betty, a standard poodle whom my friend and I are taking care of for our vet who recently got married and is on her honeymoon. Since they met last week, they are like two peas in a pod!

Baxter's passing was quick. With two long snores, he was gone. I knew in a sense he was not completely there, but at the same time, I think his body held on long enough for me to release him. By this time, I knew it was time as he had some swelling in his paws. I stroked his head, cried, talked to him, told him how much I loved him, how he had been such a strong fighter, how I would be okay eventually, how he would be a in a place that was pain-free, how he was such a good boy, how I'd miss him so much, how I could have never asked for anything more from him.

Though this is all so sad and difficult for me, I have to give much credit to the emergency vets, to the UMN vet, my personal vet and substitute vet who worked really hard to save him.. I think each of them were affected by his passing and are very interested to hear what the necropsy results are. I feel closest to the UMN vet, because I know she had a lot of stake in this. I know she is just as confused and saddened as I am. I feel grateful knowing that she did not treat Baxter just as "dog number 14," but as Baxter, a dog trying to get better from brain cancer, a dog who was someone's constant companion. I'm also quite grateful I was here in this location at the time, as I know where I had been living, they would not have been equipped to handle Baxter's care.

This week has been filled with many many tears. One reason why this has been so difficult for me is because Baxter was my first dog on my own. I obtained him in college at a point when I was severely depressed and lonely. He helped in so many ways with filling such an empty void. Baxter did other things for me as well. It was because of him I got into dog training. It was because of him I got into natural diets and wanting to provide the best nutrition possible for him. He taught me so many things about life and was there to weather the storm on all my bad days and become the ray of sunshine I needed. In essence, he was "the dog," as my friend says. He was "the dog" that changed my life.

The one consolation for me in all of this is in hoping that a good outcome is possible. I hope that by learning from Baxter, he can help other dogs and humans in the future. In that, I like to think of this as Baxter's greatest attribute to service.

I know I have all the memories of him from puppyhood to adulthood that will always remain with me forever, but still, sometimes, I think I am waiting for some sign from him just to know he made it safely to the Rainbow Bridge. If you're there Baxter, drop a dog bowl on the ground so I can hear it or hit the doggie doorbells. Then, I will know you are where you need to be.



Telstaar said...

Hey sweetheart,

I'm so sorry to hear this. I guess I'm not overly surprised given that things had been so bad but I had still hoped for a positive outcome.

I will be thinking of you as you adjust over time to life in new ways.

Please take care of yourself hunni and I'm so very glad that you had Baxter in your life in such a special way.

*hugs* xox

Sarah said...

I just read this and I am BAWLING. I am SO, SO sorry. I know he was such a special dog. Sweetie, I am just so sorry. This blog post was a beautiful tribute to your friend Baxter.

Tiptoe said...

Telstarr and Sarah,

Thank you for your kind thoughts. I miss him so much, but it is getting a little easier. I know he has crossed over, and I hope in that, he is now living a wonderful life there.

Kyla said...

I don't have time to do much reading now, but I look forward to later - at the moment I just want to say that I'm very, very sorry for your loss.

700stories said...

wow I just bawled my eyes out. I think it's wonderful you took the others to see him, I agree that's so important. It sounds like he was a really great dog. *hugs*