Charlie died at 4.15 on Tuesday. The decision to put him down was incredibly difficult to make. It was very quick and very peaceful, I stayed with him the whole time. He wasn’t stressed or upset and was happy gobbling treats from my hand. An overdose of anaesthetic stopped his heart. I miss him terribly.
The last week we spent together was very precious to me. We spent a lot of time in the sunshine down at the local parks, going for walks, or snuggled on the couch watching movies. I knew at the outset that once I’d decided I could no longer leave him at home alone and needed to put him down that I wanted to spend a last week with him. I often waver on those kind of gut instincts, I feel pretty strongly about following through on things I’ve said I’ll do. I’m so glad I didn’t this time.
I wanted to get him groomed and cleaned before the end, it took quite a bit to find someone who could fit him in and checks back and forth with the vet about his health and making sure it wouldn’t stress him. In the end the lovely people at Doghouse Daycare bent over backwards to look after him and treat him gently. I stayed with him as he was washed and trimmed. This made it easier for me to keep him clean and dry over the last few days.
He was such a funny little chap. I got him when he was 3 years old, as his owners were moving overseas and couldn’t take him. I took him off to the vet worried about his eyesight because he was running into things – trees, walls, posts. They had a look into his eyes and did some tests and said they were working just fine. As they were telling me this, he tried to walk straight off the examination table! The conclusion was that he was just a bit daft.
He had a tendency to explore life with his face, stuffing his nose into everything. Because he’s a schnauzer cross, he has lovely long whiskers and eyebrows, which he would constantly fill up with prickles and burrs.
After a bath when his coat was long, he looked a bit like a sheep with a static charge. The first time I got him clipped they did a very short cut all over and I didn’t even recognise him afterwards! He has a very fine pointed terrier nose under all that fuzz!
It’s been a very disrupted relationship, with the chronic homelessness I’ve experienced I’ve had and lost him many times. I gave up on ever seeing him again last year and was surprised to suddenly have the opportunity to get him back last December, and then horrified at the terrible condition he (and Loki) were in. It’s been really strange and stressful. I love him to bits but the bond between us got jammed. Mostly I felt overwhelmed by guilt and stress and wished I’d been able to give him a better life. I’ve known for the last several months that I’m kind of numb about him but I didn’t know how to fix it. This last week was very precious because it finally clicked. I haven’t been handling him very much, between pain, arthritis, incontinence and infection I’ve been fairly hands off. I mean, I’d scratch his ears and give him baths, but he wasn’t allowed on the couch because I’d have to keep washing the cushions, as it was I’ve been doing a couple of loads of laundry a week, most of them old soiled towels. He didn’t get a lot of cuddles and I don’t spend much time on the floor because my joints hurt. This week I threw all that out of the window. He got wrapped in towels and cuddled on the couch for hours. He went everywhere I went in the car. I sat on the grass in the park and played with him. I discovered he could still ‘dance’ when you played with him, pushing him over to rub his tummy. The extra affection really made him happy. He’d lie on the lawn in the backyard in the sun, chewing a bone and radiating contentment. When he was anxious he wouldn’t just come and find me, he’d learn against my leg and beg to sit on my lap. When I gave him a cuddle he’d snuggle his face against mine. It was like the difference between a baby who snuggles into your arms and one with autism who lies stiff against your hold. He felt loved and he snuggled, and when he snuggled all my numbness disappeared and I finally felt bonded. Too brief! But I’m so glad it happened.
Somewhere in the mess and pain of the last few years I seemed to have turned off the attachment part of me to stop being overwhelmed. But that’s not how I want to live, it’s eerie and painful to feel like there’s a layer of thick glass between you and those you love. I’m glad I accidentally stumbled onto what I needed to connect, even though I now feel heartbroken at losing him, at having so little time with him. I’m also so grateful. I’m going to dig back through the books and information I have on attachment. I need this back.
I dug (with help) a grave for him in my backyard. We filled it with autumn leaves and then covered him with flowers and buried him. I’m going to plant my bay tree there.
I wish we’d had longer, more years in the sun. Less pain and confusion. His life was harder than it should have been, but it still had value. He was loved, he is missed. RIP xxx