Baboo passed away the other day. He got sick. We took him to the vet. He had pulmonary edema and some sort of sizeable mass putting pressure on his lungs. The veterinary suspected it was cancer, and said she could “treat the symptoms”, hook him to an IV, keep him for observation while they do a series of tests to determine what exactly was wrong with him. But he could barely sit through the Xray, and I wasn’t about to start torturing my beautiful old dog for an extra few days or weeks of that kind of life.
I say he passed away, but to be more accurate, we had to put him to sleep. I have had a half-dozen dogs in my life, and I have never had one die of natural causes. We always jokingly said it’s because the dogs loved us so much and were so loved that they just did not want to leave. I regularly joked that I hoped Baboo would pass away naturally in his sleep. But he was stubborn. And even though I know it had to be done, and even though I had done it too many times before, it is a genuinely traumatizing experience every time, in every sense of the word.
We adopted Baboo late in his life. He was a great dog. He may have outlived his useful life by a year or two, but we would keep him so long as he wasn’t in pain. Even after he went blind, pretty much only slept and ate, and basically used our house like his own giant toilet, we were committed to keeping him so long as he was happy and comfortable. In the last few days, he was no longer happy or comfortable. And so it goes. Baboo’s time had come.
As I lay on the floor of the vet’s office for close to 90 minutes, just me, Baboo and a disintegrating Kleenex, I had the same thoughts and emotions I had the last 5 times I went through this torture. Why do I do this to myself? It’s not worth it. 6 years of joy with this beautiful dog and all I can feel is the grief of this moment. I’m never doing this again. That’s it… It’s better to have never loved than to have loved and lost.
And then I start thinking “just one more”. Just one more day. One more meal. One more walk. One more kiss. I’ll even take one more time stepping in his poo on the kitchen floor. Barefoot. I’ll even do it again barefoot, Baboo. Just one more. But that’s life. At some point, for everyone and everything, the “one more” becomes “the last one”. And this was it. One last kiss. One last moment together.
From sorrow to doubt. Had I done everything I could with Baboo? Did I make the most of his life? And then, inevitably, from doubt to regret… I shouldn’t have pulled him away from that tree he was smelling so intensely. I should have given him those scraps, even if it meant a little extra mess for us to clean up. We should have taken him to the beach. The mountains. But it’s all just the mind-game we play with ourselves at the end of the trip. What’s done is done. That’s it. Treasure this last moment, just the two of you. Know that he loves you more than you can imagine, and know that he knows you love him.
I stayed at the vet’s office until his body started to cool. Just to be sure. Oddly enough, after the injection, he looked 5 years younger. His wrinkles relaxed. His weathered old body became soft. He no longer struggled to breathe. That was it. Whatever was in the flesh and bone that was Baboo had evaporated into the cosmos.
It was only in putting together the montage for him that I came to terms with my self-doubt. Looking over the photos, the videos, the last 6 years of our lives together. Baboo didn’t just have a life. He had the life. He had it all. Muscles. Good looks. Beautiful women adoring him (i.e. my wife and kids). They couldn’t keep their hands off him! He loved, and was deeply loved. That is all that anyone can hope for in life. Of course I’m going to do it again. For myself. For my kids. And for the next luckiest dog in the world who doesn’t even know it now, but is soon going to make his or her way into the heaven on earth that is a loving family. The only cure to sorrow is happiness.
(and a few of my favourite Baboo photos for the road)