God, even just typing that title required me to stop and take a minute to pull myself together. It’s been a really rough couple of weeks for me here and I’m not gonna lie, I’m still struggling.
When I wrote Quinn’s obituary here a couple weeks ago, I didn’t quite tell you guys the full situation. Partly because I didn’t want to distract from his story, and partly because (probably rather intentionally naively) I didn’t really want to face the reality of the situation.
See, the day after we had decided to call and make a euthanization appointment for Quinn, Stewie woke up with a major IVDD flare up. He had a wicked head tilt, his eye was twitching, and he could barely stay on his feet. He almost looked like he’d had a stroke. I got him in to the vet ASAP. Stewie was originally diagnosed with IVDD in January this year, after a similar incident where he woke up one day just looking absolutely crippled (although not to this degree). We knew then that this day would come eventually, where we could no longer keep him comfortable with pain meds. After all, he was 16, and a 16yo dog isn’t exactly a candidate for major spinal surgery.
It took him a few weeks to recover from that January incident, but in the time since then he’s looked pretty great for a 16yo dog. He tired easily, sure, he was a bit unsteady on his feet sometimes, sure, but he bounced around happily and enthusiastically and was as perky as ever. He was always a very happy dog, and he remained so. At least, right up until that day a few weeks ago when he woke up looking so terrible.
The vet found that the IVDD had progressed, of course, and there really wasn’t anything they could do aside from send me home with more meds and hope that this was just another flare up that would improve with strict rest. At first, it didn’t. That second day was bad enough to where when I emailed to make Quinn’s euthanasia appointment, I told the vet that we might actually have two dogs needing their services. It was a horrible thing to have to even consider, much less write.
But then Stewie did start to improve a bit, after a couple days. The eye twitch went away and he got a bit steadier on his feet. The head tilt lessened, and he seemed to be more comfortable. He wouldn’t eat his regular food, but he’d eat the fancy wet food I bought him. We strung several good days together before I had to leave for Chatt, and I was really hoping we were on the right path. Leaving for Chatt was hard, but I left him with my SO with strict instructions, and honestly I thought it might actually do Stewie some good. Whenever I left he tended to just lay around and sulk, staying much quieter and less active than when I was around. Keeping him quiet was key, so I was hoping I’d come home to a dog that had more or less just laid in his bed all week.
The SO had a very hard time getting meds in him and getting him to eat, but they managed. When I got home he didn’t look great, but ate A LOT as soon as I got home and then actually looked a lot better for the following two days. Enough to where I was having to basically barricade him into his bed to prevent him from trying to wander around the house. I really thought we’d turned a corner and he’d be back to normal Stewie in another week or two.
And then Wednesday night he was constantly up and down, seeming anxious and uncomfortable. Thursday he woke up looking pretty terrible again, almost as bad as the first day. I couldn’t get him to eat. He had an anxiety attack (he was a very anxiety-prone dog even at the best of times) pretty much all day and none of my usual tricks or his meds worked to get him out of it. Getting his meds into him at all was a monumental task in and of itself. I was up with him basically all that night trying to get him comfortable and calmed down, with very little luck. By the time Friday morning came there had been no improvement, he still wouldn’t eat or drink, and although I did get his pain meds into him, they seemed to do absolutely nothing. He couldn’t stand without me holding him up. Worst of all, his eyes just looked checked out. He looked done, and exhausted. I knew at that point that I had no other choice left. He couldn’t, and didn’t want to, live another day like that, and I knew then that if I kept him alive any longer it was purely for my sake, not for his. As soon as the reality of the situation hit home, the tears started, and they’ve been coming in waves ever since.
On Friday morning I called the vet office here in town that I’d taken him to before, to see if they would come do an at-home euthanasia. Car rides made Stewie’s anxiety even worse, and I didn’t want that to be the last thing he endured. They didn’t have anyone available to come for a few days, so I texted my horse vet (who also does some small animal stuff on the side) to see if he would come out. Bless him, he rearranged his schedule to fit us in for a late morning appointment. It meant a lot to me to be able to let Stewie go at home, where he was happiest, and surrounded by people he knew and people that cared for him. Rejan and Justin (the farm owners) let me bury him here (I put his very dapper bowtie collar and two of his favorite toys in with him), and they even went and got a beautiful tree to plant on his grave. Stewie loved this farm, and I know he would have greatly approved of his place of rest and his tree. That day was without a doubt one of the hardest days of my life, right up there after the day my mom died, but our friends helped make it sting a bit less.
I don’t even have strong enough words for how devastated I’ve felt the past few days. I got Stewie as a 12 week old puppy, and he’s been my constant companion for the past 16 years. For pretty much my entire adult life he’s been right alongside me, going everywhere and doing everything with me. Even though I knew this day was coming, and I’ve spent years watching him grow old and gray, losing him feels like losing a limb, he’s been such an integral part of my life for so long. The hole he left in my heart feels like a physical one, as if an elephant has been parked on my chest for days that makes it hard to even breathe sometimes. All I could think that first night is that I don’t even know how to do life without him. I feel so lucky to have gotten as much time with him as I did, but we all know that it’s still never enough.
Before my mom got sick she used to babysit him some days, and for some reason losing him feels like losing another part of her all over again, which might be another reason why it’s hitting me so hard. Stewie was one of the few dogs she ever liked or allowed in her house… he was always so cheerful and energetic, and so well-behaved, it was hard not to love him. I have so many memories of them together, and it’s hard to think about neither of them being here anymore. She was the first one I wanted to call after he passed, but I couldn’t.
There will never be another quite like Stewie. I hope he knew how deeply loved he was (and always will be) and most of all I hope I made his life even a fraction as wonderful as he made mine. How lucky was I, to have been loved by such an amazing dog.