Wednesday, June 16, 2010

RIP Wally Pierre Green Oct. 12, 1995—June 5, 2010

Pierre was Wally's given name, lest you think he was merely a frou-frou, poo-poo lap dog. We didn't find that out until after we'd picked the name Walter, while thumbing through our temple directory. He was an old soul; the name seemed to fit.

Wally passed June 5. I hardly got out of bed for a week. It has been the most gut-wrenching, painful experience of my life. No joke.

Here's how it went down. I was in NY the week of May 17 for a Norton checkup. (A-okay, in significant remission. Now in second round of chemo with two more treatments, then another CT scan.) Wally came with me to NYC, and Mom took him home to Jacksonville to keep while I was away in Los Angeles the following week. He hadn't had much of an appetite for anything but turkey and chicken, which I attributed to age/tummy troubles. He'd been up-to-date with vet checkups and they'd pronounced him healthy. I never thought to run preventative blood work to see what was going on with his organs.

I left for L.A. the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Where was my first stop? A marijuana dispensary. More on that later. On the 5th day of my vacay, Mom told me that Wally's health seemed to be declining.

"Why the fuck didn't you tell me?" I demanded, sitting in front of the Pacific Ocean with my friends. I felt my world caving in. It was Tuesday; I would get back to Miami Thursday morning. I had chemo on Friday. I will cancel chemo and come home, I told Mom. Realistically, I couldn't do that. I'd already had a nearly three-week break between the last round and Friday's treatment was the first of this new cycle.

He was listless, depressed, slow, with little appetite and little desire to go out. Oh God, I knew this wasn't good. Mom promised to take him to the vet Wednesday morning, have blood work done, put him on IV fluids if necessary and keep him at the vet overnight, do whatever the vet said. (We've been using this vet in Jax for about 20 years. He's great.)

By Wednesday, when I was set to fly out on the red-eye, he hadn't improved. Mom and I thought that she'd drive him down Friday so he could be with me here. In my gut, I knew that this was probably The End. He was almost 15 after all. I spoke to the vet, who confirmed my worst fears, saying if the fluids didn't jump-start his kidneys, he had maybe seven to 10 days. I barely left the hotel room that day and flew home in a daze. I cradled his photo and spoke to him, telling him to hang on and that Mommy would be there soon to take care of him. Thursday night he came to me in my dreams and let me know that he needed me; that he was waiting. I bolted out of sleep and spoke to mom, who had already been looking into flights for me to take directly after chemo. I repacked, Hemley shuttled me to chemo, and I was booked on the 8:45 p.m. flight to Jax. After having to switch planes—losing precious hours—I arrived home at midnight. I was terrified and heartbroken at his condition. He was lying on a towel on my Mom's lap, and barely lifted his head at the sight of me. He was so weak. When I put him in my lap and kissed him, he snuffled and sighed, as if to say, "Finally."

I knew it was the end. So did he. Within a couple of days, he'd become incontinent and barely able to walk. I had to hold him up to pee. That night, I placed him next to me in bed and talked to him. I held him until I fell asleep. He was on his blankie next to me. Around 8 a.m. I woke up to him screaming in pain. I was beyond horrified to see him experienciencing a grand mal seizure, covered in feces and urine. His tongue was bleeding. I rolled him on his side and put my finger in his mouth for him to bite down on. Too painful. My brain kicked into Mommy mode and within moments I had shoved a chicken strip in his mouth for him to bite down on. That worked like a charm. And at least his last taste was of his favorite treat—organic chicken strips from Whole Foods. I had his feces all over my arms and didn't care. I ran with him downstairs panicking, waking up Mom and Dad.

"Call the vet!"

"Honey, I think it's time," Mom said.

"I know, call the vet!"

We cleaned him up with a towel, cleaned myself, and were off to the vet. I held him and soothed him and talked to him during the five minute ride. Told him it was okay to let go. He'd held on for me as long as he could. Hell, he'd even psychically communicated to me that it was time. Even though I was sobbing, I tried to soothe him and kiss him and squeeze in every last thing in his last moments.

We went in with the vet and he explained the euthenizing process. First he would get some kind of injection a la twilight—I'm still a little confused what that was—and then the poison that stops his heart. No pain. We were all in the room. I was holding his little paws and my mug was the last thing he saw.

"He's gone," Dr. Nash said.

I kept trying to close his eyes, like they do on TV.

"They won't close," the doctor said.

"Let's give her a moment," the doc said.

I don't really remember exactly what I said. After they took his body away, Mom and I picked out an urn. Retail therapy.

Three guesses what we did next. TJ Maxx. I wanted to buy something to honor his memory. (Fucking insane, I know.)

So Mom and I were wandering around TJ's looking at the pet stuff.

"What if we got a bed for Stella and Tessie to lay on instead of that rug?"

Nah, we knew they wouldn't use that. Then we saw some nice dog bowls.

"Ooh look, that one matches the urn!" Mom said excitedly.

"Oh-kay, Mom. Let's get a water bowl too. And then we saw a lovely white water bowl depicting the New York skyline with a dog prancing through the city. It was made for Wally the sophisticated, city-dwelling, world traveler. And his last trip was to New York as well.

I went home, got in bed and stayed there till Tuesday, when I flew back to Miami. In three weeks I'd finished chemo, been to NYC and L.A., started chemo again and put my beloved companion to sleep. Pretty rough three weeks, even by my standards. I was gutted. I hibernated here last week as well, and still have not returned most phone calls.

"There is no set period of grieving for something like this," Dr. Laura said. She also happens to have her degree in veterinary medicine and teaches a course at the L.A. Zoo. She spoke with me for 20 minutes out of session, affirming that Wally was more than a mere "dog accessory," that he was my man, my companion, my comfort and a huge part of my mental health. Only people who have been through this experience can fully appreciate how utterly devastating this is. I finally ventured out of the apartment this week, got back to the gym and booked a massage with Chad today.

I cannot imagine getting another dog at this moment, but I am going to look into fostering.

Wally, I love you beyond words. You were my soul mate, my caretaker, my main man, my best friend, my sounding board, my fierce protector, my savior, my life. There will never be another you. I hope you are up there somewhere romping with Betsy and Lou Lou, and I hope when you are reincarnated we will meet again. I miss you each and every second of every day. I wish you were sitting here on the patio with me now, giving me the "Mommy, it's too fucking hot out here," look.

You are remembered fondly by so many people who will never forget you. Thank you for waiting for me.

Wally's last moments below.
The night before.

The morning of, after he'd stopped seizing and we were about to leave for the vet.

At the vet.
In the room.
Mom and I trying to comfort.

One last good-bye.

And in recent happier times.

This one I'm having blown up, mounted and hanging on the wall above where his food and water was.