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 Posting this for Fats - the story of the day we put Pua down in 2004

Friday was one of those impossibly beautiful Bay Area days where you can’t imagine that people really choose to live anywhere else.  When you turn your head as you leave the house and you see the sun on the bay, and the mountains framing it and even after years of that view as the background for all your dry-cleaning errands and groggy coffee-stained commutes it still takes your breath away.  The thing that kills me is that when she woke up on Friday morning, Pua was feeling so much better.  It’s deceptive because with kidney disease some days are good and most days are bad.  It has to do with the level of toxins in her blood. 


We spent the morning cuddling and petting her and crying and telling her how much we loved her.  We sat in the back yard and finished the roll of film in the camera remembering her.  How little she was when Fiona first bright her home and how even then there was something wrong with her back end.  How the first time I was left alone with her she tried to pull the gutters off the house and I ran outside to stop her and she was so wild and uncontrollable she jumped all over me.  How quickly she learned what we expected of her and how she kept getting bigger and bigger and how proud we always were of how well-behaved and sweet she was.  How the three of us used to go running together up in the hills behind our house.  And how she got slower and slower until the last time I went for a walk with her in the park we had to come home after only a little while.  She was with us the weekend we got engaged – we walked all over Santa Cruz, and she ran all over the beach.  She used to sit in the back seat of the Mustang, wearing her seatbelt, her ears flapping in the breeze and her eyes squinted up in pleasure.  The night that she ate the snail bait and we rushed her to the hospital sure that she would die that night.  Her deep sigh as she completed her last turn and settled into a ball for the night.  The night that we lay awake in each others arms and Pita kept saying words she knew aloud to hear her tail thump on the floor in recognition.  Out, Ball, Pua, Good girl, Toy, Good girl, Yes, Breakfast, Walk, Good girl, Bone.  Her little huffing woofs to let us know that someone was walking in front of the house.  And her louder barks when it was either another dog – the biggest threat to our safety according to Pua – or the mailman – who keeps coming back again and again despite having been warned.  And Pita, god how much Pita loved her.  It breaks my heart how much he loved her.  They used to roll around wrestling on the floor, and they played in the yard and ran all over the hills. 


How can we have so many memories from a scant three years of Pua? 


Mazzy is confused that Pua is gone.  She walks around calling her – a plaintive questioning meow.  I’m trying to give her a lot more attention and to explain to her what is going on.  I know that she doesn’t understand me, but I think that my voice sounds reassuring and I think that I smell like grief to her.  So maybe she can put it all together in her little cat world.  She’s been on a killing spree this past week.  I’ve been finding dead birds outside almost every day.  Maybe she was trying to feed Pua, or just to do her part to sustain us all.


Inevitably it was time to go to the vet way too soon.  We cried all the way there, and when we walked in the door the nice man waiting to pay for his dog’s treatment fed her dog biscuits.  She wagged her tail nicely for everyone and munched on doggie biscuits in the exam room.  We talked to Dr. R, an older man with a gentle voice, big solid surgeon’s hands and a long white handlebar mustache, for a while.  Pua was feeling perkier, but the truth is that with advanced kidney disease what would likely happen is that by the time we got home she would be totally worn out from her little trip to the vet.  She’d sleep all day and most of the next day and then feel terrible again.  Dogs just can’t live without their kidneys.  With a smaller dog or a cat you can give subcutaneous fluids but with a dog Pua’s size the sheer quantity of fluids required to flush her kidneys makes it hard to even give her relief with subcutaneous fluids.  We went over the realistic options one last time even though we knew what they were – a 3-day full fluid flush, (which would rob us of three days with her and likely wouldn’t help her much at this stage) kidney dialysis, and a kidney transplant.  We couldn’t afford the last two even if we had the time to drive her back and forth to Davis for the rest of her life.


By this point both of us were bawling into our handkerchiefs which I remembered to bring.  Dr. R said that with his own pets he knew that there came a time when he was really keeping them there because he couldn’t bear to be parted with them and we were doing the right thing, and so we decided to put her down.  He gave her a sedative and then he left us alone with her.  We sat on the floor with her in between our thighs and we stroked her back and ears as the sedative took effect.  Pita put his hand near her nose so that she could smell him and she licked him a few times.  Her head sank slowly to her paws and she sighed and peed on the floor one last time.  Good old Pua.  When she was really asleep Dr. R came back and we went outside.  We sat on a bench outside the vet clinic holding hands and noticed again that it was a beautiful day.  And Pita turned to me and smiled and said, “That b-tch broke my heart.”  And I laughed because I love him so much and we’re still here and we loved her and everyone dies.


Good girl, Pua, good dog.


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