We spent part of Sunday sitting on the floor with Oliver, petting him and showering him with love, knowing that it wouldn’t be much time before he would be gone. We didn’t think he’d decline so rapidly. We hoped we would have a few months left with him after his cancer diagnosis but the medicine wasn’t helping. He wasn’t himself- he could barely get up on his own and his breathing was labored, more like puffs of air than breaths and my mom had made the appointment for the vet to come out and help him pass. It was a tearful time with the family as we remembered good times with Ollie- all his romps at the beach and games of fetch, how he’d often show up from the bedroom with one of my mom’s slippers in his mouth, the way he would happily greet everyone with a tail wag and sometimes with his nose directly into your crotch, and how all humans and dogs were happy in his company. He looked like a big Muppet when he ran and, man, he loved to run. So seeing him lying there unable to barely walk was so heartbreaking.
We gave him final kisses and hugged my mom. As we were all standing around outside in the driveway- Finn and Dokey playing a game of chase before they got into the car, and Darcy and I hugging my mom and sharing a laugh through tears- my mom said, “Shhh, I hear something!” It was the clop of Oliver’s feet through the kitchen as he came out to join us. How he got up on his own, we don’t know but we greeted him merrily and with great affection, “Oliver! What a good boy!” and he wagged his tail like the good ol’ days when he’d stand by my mom’s side and watch us all drive away after a family dinner. We got into our separate cars and I watched my mom and Oliver painstakingly walk into the backyard for what I knew would be the last time. I felt so sad for my mom, knowing these were her final hours with her best friend. In the car on the way to park, Finn composed a song about losing his best “furry friend” as he tried to make sense of his grief. He’s known Oliver, or “Olls” as he calls him, his whole life and losing him is confusing and hard for a six and a half-year old.
I really thought that at some point in the night Oliver would pass on his own. But when I checked my phone at 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, my mom had not contacted me. I got up, went to my dance class shift, and headed over to her house to sit with her and Oliver while we waited for the vet to arrive. We circled through the feelings as we petted him. He couldn’t get up. He hadn’t really eaten in a day and barely drank any water. He could barely lift his head and his breathing was worse. It was painful to see him in that state and as much as I didn’t want him to go, I was anxious for the vet to arrive to help him end his suffering. I do believe he was hanging on for my mom. He was incredibly loyal and such a sweet love of a dog. He needed someone to help him let go because he’d never leave her given the choice.
I’ve never bore witness to a pet’s passing. I’ve lost pets but I’ve never been strong enough to take them through their final moments. As scared as I was to be there, I knew I needed to do it for my mom and for Oliver. It was as peaceful as it could be given the circumstances. They gave him the first shot right there in my mom’s house on the floor he’d spent countless hours sleeping on. My mom and I petted him and cried as we told him we loved him, that he was a good boy, that we were so sorry he had to go. Then they gave him the second shot and it was pretty quick before he stopped his labored breathing and rested his head on his paws.
My poor mom, lying there on the floor crying into his big head, just broke my heart. He was her first dog she got all on her own. He was with her all the time and everywhere she looks, there is a memory of him. She lives alone now and the emptiness left from his passing is tangible in that house. I spent the afternoon with her there after they took him out on a stretcher, just talking or crying or laughing when we could. It was the hardest thing for me to leave her there, knowing she’s in pain and feeling that hollowness of loss.
Where there is love, there is heartbreak. But the love part is so worth the pain of loss, isn’t it? We were so lucky to have Oliver as part of our family. We will miss his big sweetness and boisterous affection. We will miss the way he kept my mom company and ran out to greet us whenever we’d come over. We’ll miss him and love him, always.
I hope he and my sweet Lou are playing in the ocean together like the good old days, wherever they are.