Normally, I have found it quite easy and quick to prepare entries to this blogsite, but it wasn’t easy doing this particular piece. The first version took more than a couple of days to do, and yet that version got lost before I could upload it on the blogsite. As I’m working on this version, I practically have forgotten much of what I wrote in the first version. This is a very brief (not even half as good as the first version) story of my last few days with Buddy, our Labrador that has gotten too old. He passed away on 31 May 2012, while his real pet owner and master, King, my son, is on a couple of weeks honeymoon in Europe.
Buddy has been sick of old age over the last year. He was suffering from arthritis, but was generally healthy. He lived a good life, constantly cheerful and certainly playfull all the time. He was very large (at one point he was 50Kg) and when he barked the house would practically shake. He had a very cheerful disposition and pleasant facial expression and would frequently meet us by the door of the car, then accompany us to the door of the house (just a few steps away), every time we came home from work.
On May 5th, Jegs and I moved to an apartment, leaving the house with King, who got married on May 19th. He inherited the house from his Mom (my first wife) and me, so Jegs and I had to move out. Buddy must have wondered why we moved out, even if not abruptly. Then, of course King and Vanni left for Delft in The Netherlands for the first leg of their European honeymoon. Buddy must have wondered why he was left alone in the house. Jegs was in the house daily because she had to fix things. They had been good friends the last few years, but those few days must have been good bonding for them because Jegs was feeding him everyday. Then on the 27th Jegs observed that Buddy didn’t touch his food for the previous day (26th). He also didn’t eat on the 27th and 28th. We were worried so Jegs called his high school classmate who’s now a veterinarian (faculty member in the College of Veterinary Medicine at UPLB) to pay Buddy a visit. He came the following day and we were surprised with his prognosis. He observed that Buddy was very old, has become very thin, and might even be suffering from parasitic infestation. Buddy has become very weak even if Jegs was practically force-feeding him with water because he didn’t like solid food anymore. The Vet said he didn’t expect Buddy to last beyond a couple more weeks. I thought that was quick deterioration in health for a dog. Indeed, it was, but the Vet was explaining that his health condition was made much more complicated by his age.
Trying to establish what might have happened, I recall that Buddy has had wounds on his feet and rear shank. Perhaps when he got weaker he couldn’t drive the flies away. Even if there were only very few flies, at least one laid its eggs on Buddy’s wounds and the eggs may have hatched there and the larvae just barrowed into Buddy’s flesh. The Vet, in his first visit, said he saw one larva wriggling out of the wound, an indication the damage was already extensive and critical. “Even if we could remove all those larvae,” the Vet said, “it would take a long time for Buddy to recover from the wounds if he could.” Well, those wounds are internal and the flesh would continue decaying as long as there are larvae in there. Clearly, the situation was at an advanced stage.
I didn’t like seeing Buddy in the condition he was in. As I had my discussion with the Vet, I asked him if there was any thing that we could do to relieve Buddy from his suffering and he simply smiled wryly and said there’s little that we could do. So I opened up the idea, “what about euthanasia?” The Vet replied, “such would be a last resort but, indeed, the most humane way of treating Buddy given his condition.” I told the Vet, “I can’t make that decision yet because I have to consult my son.” I emailed King that evening and explained what Buddy was going through. King’s explanation hit me squarely. He said, “it probably didn’t help that we were gone and he was left alone.” Anyway, he agreed that euthanasia might be the best thing for Buddy at that time. So I asked Jegs to text Dr. Andrew Barnardo. We arranged that he would be injecting Buddy on May 31st as I didn’t like doing the thing on the 30th which was my birthday.
When Jegs and I visited Buddy in the afternoon of the 30th, he was very weak. I find it hard to forget the way he looked at us. He had the lonely look, as if pleading for help. He looked completely depressed, as well. He was really too old, weak, and sick. Still, he was trying to wag his tail and raise his head, indications he was trying very hard to get well, or at least trying to greet us as he used to. He probably didn’t like to leave us, too. That’s when I told him, “Buddy, I’m very sorry but we’re unable to help you much except to see you take your rest.” He looked at me, as if he understood perfectly what I meant. I could only shake my head and stroke softly his head.
The following day, the Vet was supposed to come back at 1:30 pm, but I went to see Buddy earlier, about 11 am. He was weaker, but I did offer him water and he took some. He could still wag his tail, but a bit weaker than the previous days. He has grown much thinner. I tried to talk to him. I said, “I’m very sorry Buddy, but we’ll have to put you to a long sleep when the Doc comes. This is the most humane way of relieving you of your misery. I’m sorry that Al and Vanni won’t see you before you go for a long sleep, and this is going to be the last time we’ll see each other, but King knows we’ll put you to sleep. So let’s make you as comfortable as you can. Bye, Buddy.”
Dr. Andrew Bernardo arrived on time and then spent a few minutes stroking Buddy in the head. Then he injected the sedative so Buddy could go for temporary sleep. When Buddy was limp and just breathing (he was already asleep) the Vet began looking for Buddy’s veins. Buddy has not changed position in the last 48 hours and his legs got swollen making it very difficult to locate his veins. The Vet tried several times, but failed each time to hit a vein and hence failed to inject. All the while, I was stroking Buddy’s head and shoulders. Then Dr. Bernardo told me, “I’d like to go straight for the heart but I need your permission,” to which I replied casually, “sure, go ahead.” A couple of seconds after the injection, Buddy took his last two gasps for air, his chest heaved then subsided slowly. As this was going on, the Vet was supporting Buddy’s head. Slowly, Buddy’s head turned upwards and the Vet let go. A few seconds after, the Vet moved Buddy’s head downwards again to assume a normal position. Then, with his stethoscope, Dr. Bernardo listened to Buddy’s heart beat, and said “OK” at about 2pm.
Everything turned very serene. Then I called Danny to come help me dig Buddy’s grave. Buddy’s grave is beside the Phoneix Palm (Phoenix loureiroi var loureiroi, previously known as Phoenix hanceana var philippinensis) in our yard. We buried Buddy at about 4 pm.