His favorite spots were his dog beds in the office, under my desk, the living room by the bookshelf, the sofa or the window, and the bedroom upstairs. He’d just learned to get up on the couch, earning him the new nickname Mister Couch. Prior to that he’d pull this hysterical move where he’d jump up with front legs only, back legs firmly on the ground. Once he jumped into the back of the mini-van – he was so worried we were going to leave him home – slammed into the back of the rear seat and collapsed into a boneless heap on top of a cooler, tail wagging feebly to reassure us that he was okay. Indy dog made me smile each and every day, and laugh out loud in delight more times than I can count. There will never be another Indy.
When his end came, it came FAST. We’d expected to have years with him, you see. He was only 8, we took great care of him, and we loved him beyond all reason. But he got cancer, a horrible, ugly, malignant sarcoma that took him from us so fast that it’s almost a blur.
I don’t like to think about how long he might’ve lived with symptoms that we couldn’t see. He was the bravest dog, and so courageous that it wouldn’t surprise me to know that it was for longer than I can even imagine. And that breaks my heart.
This is a dog, mind you, who once shredded the skin off the top of his own nose trying to get outside to go to the bathroom one day when we were at work. He ALWAYS wanted to be a good dog, and you know what? He was. He was the best dog.
We took him to the vet’s two weeks ago because he’d been throwing up. Our vet gave us medicine to help his digestion and relax his tummy, and it worked for a few days. That Thursday I took him back in because he’d thrown up twice the night before, and gave the vet permission to do exploratory surgery because the x-rays still looked strange. The vet found telescoping bowels, and in the section he was forced to remove, he found a gigantic, tennis ball sized mass. He told us how lucky we were – the mass was contained, there were no tumors in the area, and the mass had sealed his bowel, so waiting even a short time would’ve meant necrotic death for his bowels and thus death for him. Our vet sent it to be biopsied.
Indy looked like he was completely on the mend, all the way up until Tuesday, when he didn’t want to eat again. I figured maybe it was a little set-back – I mean, up until then he’d been doing amazingly well, even bouncing around a little (although we tried to limit that because we were afraid of him messing up his stitches).
Wednesday morning I woke up to find him staring at me in bed. It would be the last time he was able to be on the bed.
I fussed over him – I was always fussing over him, calling him a Silly Old Man, or Mister Bounce, or Indy Dog, or Littlest Man and petting him or hugging him or giving him kisses. You have no idea how thankful I am for that, although, of course, you always feel like you could have done more.
How could I possibly know that we had to fit that much love into such a short time?
I let him out back, and he tried to go to the bathroom then staggered to the side, collapsing in his favorite spot in the yard, right in the middle of three trees. He lay there, head high, a thousand yard stare gazing into the forest behind the house. I thought he was dying – it turned out he was dying – and somehow I managed to get him into the car and to the vet’s.
They opened him up a second time. You see, sometimes when they remove a mass that large – one that we discovered on that day was so incredibly malignant – it opens the floodgates and let’s the cancer take off. My husband and I made the difficult decision that if the vet found Indy riddled with cancer when he went back in, we didn’t want to wake poor Indy back up. We spent every second in that room with him – from the time we got there until they took him into surgery again – telling him want a good dog he was, how much we loved him, and that if it was his time to go, he should go and not worry about us.
He made it through this second surgery. It turned out the sutures had torn and a small amount of toxins had been seeping out. What great news! We could recover from this, although it wouldn’t be easy. We were over the moon! No sign of cancer.
Indy looked tired but happy when we picked him up Wednesday night. His tail was wagging, he went into his favorite bed in the office and slept peacefully. He wouldn’t eat, though.
I slept downstairs with him, me on the couch, him on the floor next to the couch. My hand was resting on his back each time I woke up.
I took him into the vet on Thursday for monitoring, and we were told we could pick him up at 7. He didn’t look as great, but I thought, you know, he’s been through a LOT, poor little guy. You’ve gotta be patient.
I don’t want to write much about Thursday night, except to say that even though it was sheerest torment to see what my poor dog was enduring, his ears were alert and he wagged his tail every time he saw one of us.
He wagged his tail. Do you have any idea what kind of unconditional love makes you wag your tail when you are going through that kind of pain? It was like he knew the end was racing towards him, and he was happy just to be spending his final moments with us.
He couldn’t walk, in the end. We had to carry him on a folding table to the van to get him back to the vet’s. They could barely stabilize him long enough for us to say goodbye. The cancer had gotten him, you see. It was killing him from the inside out. His systems were failing. When the vet told us – and I’d been hoping against hope that there was something he could do, anything – I felt like someone had reached into my chest and ripped out my heart. Then they’d crushed it, and set it on fire and scattered the ashes into a strong, cold wind.
Saying goodbye to my littlest guy, holding him and hugging him and kissing him and petting him while he slipped away, was agonizing, but something we had to do. We HAD to be there with him at the end.
He was a loyal dog, a sweet dog, a gentle dog. Indy was full of love – he was overflowing with unconditional love, no strings attached. He existed to be near you, and to love you, and to be happy.
We could all learn a lot from Indy dog. Keep wagging until the very end. Be happy. Live in the moment. Give love with no strings attached. Be optimistic. Try new things. Have fun. Race around the yard. Be open to love, because you never know where you’re going to find it.
I had a hard time dealing with losing him. I know that life isn’t fair – I’ve known this for a long time – but watching a sweet, innocent, loving dog meet such a fast and nasty end shook me to my core. We were so unbelievably lucky to have him in our lives – far, far luckier than I ever deserved – but I can’t help but feel that we were robbed. That we should’ve had more time with him – that we deserved it and he deserved it.
I look around this home and I realize how empty it feels without Indy here. I look for him in his favorite places. I think that he’s just out of sight, that if I call his name, he’ll come racing to my side to cheer me or comfort me or just be there. I see his muddy pawprints on the folding table we used as a ramp for him to get into the car without straining his stitches. I see the padded basket that we used just once to raise him into the car. I see his soccer ball sitting, abandoned, in the middle of the backyard and it makes me cry, every single time. I stumble on his favorite toy, or glimpse his empty bowls. I look up at dinner time, straining to see his one eye peeking at me from the other side of my husband’s chair. I walk out of the bathroom and swear that I see him, just for a moment, laying on the bed, patiently waiting for a look, or a word, or a pat. I refuse to wash a sweater covered with his hair. I carefully listen, hoping to hear his tail thumping against the wall just outside the kitchen doorway, waiting for a gummy bear.
It took about a day for Sophie to realize that her little brother wasn’t coming home. They were never really peas and carrots, but I can tell that Sophie misses the hell out of him. She has far too much yard to patrol now, and the squirrels are getting bold. There’s no back up to help remind us that it’s food time. There’s no one to bark at during playtime. She’s stuck trying to cheer us up all alone.
I don’t know that I’ll ever entirely get over the loss, but then I think, you know what? That’s okay. He deserves to be remembered, and you have to take the good with the bad, right? There’s one thing I do know. There are so many dogs out there – sad, lonely, abandoned, scared – that need a forever home, just like our Indy dog did. I also know that I’m going to miss out big time if I let this stop me from getting another dog. It would be the worst insult to Indy’s memory that I can think of if I didn’t share my life and love with another dog in need. It will take time, though, for the pain to pass and the healing to start.
There will never be another Indy, Adventure Dog.
But we have to keep on wagging, just the same.