I wrote this to help me deal with my grief and to capture the memories of Hunter’s final days. I’m not afraid to share my feelings and to speak out about something that is important to me.
This is my tribute to my precious pup. My precious Hunter – it was the last week of July and you were not doing well. Your Degenerative Myelopathy was progressing; paralysis was starting to set in. Your arthritis was painful and it was more difficult for you to walk, lay down or stand up from a sitting position. I could see you losing muscle mass. Your hip bones were starting to show through and your back-right paw was dragging on the ground.
We went out on Friday morning, across the street so you could do your business. Do you remember how you had to lay down after that? You got up to do some more and you had to lie down on the grass again. This time, you did not want to get up. You laid down with your head on the grass and just looked at me. I tried to get you up, but nothing was working. After 5 minutes, I decided to leave you there to go and get Hub to help me bring you back home. You saw me starting to leave and got up to go with me.
We crossed the street and you dragged your precious back paw on the concrete, while your right hip tilted inward with every step. You struggled up the step onto the porch and then again into the house. You were relieved to be back home and flopped onto the front hallway floor. That was 7am.
You were not hungry. You did not eat. You rarely moved that day. You laid your head down with your paws on either side of your head. You looked so sad. I could not see the spark in your eyes. You moved maybe once or twice all day. I tried to get you to eat – raw chicken, cooked chicken, salmon – nothing seemed to appeal to you. You just lay still and very quiet.
About 6pm that night, you finally ate your dinner. You went outside for a very short walk and then you were in for the night. The next day – you could only make it to the end of the driveway before you had to lie down on the grass. Sometimes you didn’t even go to the bathroom. You loved to sit outside and feel the breeze on your face. So I sat with you until you wanted to come in.
You stopped going up and down the stairs. You stayed on the main floor. I thought that was the beginning of the end. It was so sad to see you like that.
Then the next day, you started to come back to life. You were able to walk around the block or to the mailbox or to the corner. You went up and down the stairs off the deck in to the backyard; you played with Chester and ate your food.
That lasted about two weeks. On Friday, August 16th, you were down in the basement and cried because you could not get up the stairs. I opened the basement glass doors so you could go out to the backyard and walk up the hill and enter the house from the side door. It took you a few minutes to navigate the step up in to the back hall. You stumbled a bit, but you made it. You went to sleep on your cozy new bed and could not get your back right leg up once you laid down, so I lifted it up for you. You fell asleep.
I thought about your life, how you have lived 11 1/2 years – it felt like you have been with us forever. I wanted a black and tan, male purebred German Shepherd and this was the first picture I ever saw of you and said yes – he’s the one!!
Do you remember your snow fort, or when your ears were taking turns going up until they were both finally ready to stand up on their own? That was a big day for you!
Your favourite place was to go to ‘the pond’ near our old house on Richland Crescent. I’d take off your leash and let you run free. Or you used to play hide and seek with me – you always found me – 100% of the time.
In my mind, I was hoping you would make it to your 12th birthday on January 8, 2020. Then I was hoping you would make it to Christmas – you loved that holiday. You loved being with us when we decorated the Christmas tree. Every year, for 11 years, you would sit right in the middle of the branches while Nattie and I laid them out on the floor to get them organized as we put up the tree. You let us put a light up necklace around your neck and antlers on your head! You were such a good sport.
You always sat next to the tree. I loved how, on Christmas morning, when there were 10 of us in the family room, opening up presents and there were boxes and ribbons and wrapping paper everywhere, you somehow found a small empty spot on the floor to sit and be with us. You would walk over everything to that spot and lay down right in the middle of everyone and everything. You would open your own presents and eat your dog bone while we continued to open our presents – every year without fail.
On Saturday, August 17th – we had a family rib fest. The kids and grandkids were here. You were so gentle with them. You didn’t use the stairs much that day. You were in your element – sitting outside with us, next to the fire pit while we roasted marshmallows.
That was one of your favourite moments – being outside, in the summer time, with all of your family. You were smiling and had the spark back in your eyes. That was your last good day.
On Sunday, you started to feel tired again and struggled to get up from a sitting position. Your stomach looked distended and was sore when I brushed you. You started drinking excessively and licking the floor non-stop. I could see you were not happy and definitely uncomfortable.
I laid down beside you and told you how much I loved you and thanked you for all the love and happiness you brought to our lives. I told you what a beautiful, handsome, loving, funny dog you are and reminisced about your ‘crazy dog run’ and playing with Natalie in the snow when you were little and we lived on Richland. Oh how you loved when the snow fell!
We talked about your girlfriend Princess and how you liked to look out my office window in the direction of her house, waiting for her to come over to play in the backyard with you. Do you remember when people would knock on our door and say that they found you wandering the streets and were bringing you back home, and you were already in the front hall? It was always Princess – coming over to visit you. They thought she was you. Whenever her family realized she was not home, they just came right to our house. You loved each other and played so well together.
Some of your happiest moments were when you went camping with Scott and his friends. You went hiking and canoeing and swimming. Even as you started to slow down in the past 2 years, you still went camping and when you got home you would sleep for 2 days!
I told you Sunday night that if you wanted to go to heaven it was ok and to just let me know when you were ready. I let you know it was ok if it was that night or the next day or the next week or the next year – it was completely up to you. We talked about the full life you have led and that heaven was waiting for you when you were ready.
On Monday, whenever we took you out for a walk – most times you made it to the end of the driveway or the corner and you had to lie down. You lost your appetite and your spark. Your stomach was getting bigger. We decided that we would wait a few days and if you didn’t start to feel better then we would help you get to heaven on Friday. I was planning to make my decision on Wednesday.
On Monday, Dawn your dog walker noticed the amount of muscle mass you had lost in the last three weeks, while she was away on vacation. She could not get you to go out for a walk. When you finally did, it was to the end of the driveway and you sat in the sun with her and watched the cars and people go by.
Tuesday, you were getting worse. You moved very little, your stomach was larger and your breathing seemed to be getting more difficult for you. I was getting really concerned for you – especially because of your breathing. I couldn’t wait until Wednesday – I wasn’t sure you were going to make it through the night.
I went to see the vet, without an appointment and waited 30 minutes for her. We had already discussed having her come to our house when it was time for you to go. I explained to her what your condition was and that we had planned for Friday but that seemed too far away.
She thought you could be experiencing heart failure and that your organs may be starting to shut down. She told me you could pass away naturally and to be prepared for that possibility. We arranged for you to go to heaven the next day at 3:00pm.
I was devastated. I knew the end was near, but I didn’t want it to happen. When I looked at your face, you were so handsome and had moments where you seemed ok. You had the slight paralysis of the left side of your mouth and your top lip hung down farther than your right side. You were still so very handsome. How could we do this?
But then I saw how difficult it was for you and I knew that you heard me on Sunday night and this was you letting me know it was time. Even the angels were shining their light on you to let you know they will be with you.
I contacted the people closest to you and let them know what was going to happen. I made arrangements for them to come and say goodbye to you.
Oh what a send off we had for you! You certainly seemed to enjoy yourself! We made your last night special. We had a hot dog roast on the fire pit for you in the backyard. You got your spark back – you were smiling!
You ate at least 6 hot dogs and had many handfuls of cheesies! Chester was running around you trying to eat your hot dogs and cheesies! We made sure he got some too. You had a small amount of energy – just enough to eat and to enjoy your family.
It was wonderful to see you happy. When we were done eating, you walked up the hill to get back in to the house through the back hall so you didn’t have to take the stairs. You stumbled a bit as you stepped in to the house. Later that night Derek and Maja came over to say goodbye to you and Morgan got home later to spend time with you too.
Scott slept with you that night and Katie also stayed by your side. After a while, you wanted to be alone and left to sleep in another room.
I came downstairs at 3:30am and sat with you. I patted your head and stroked the bridge of your nose – just the way you loved it. Your breathing was difficult and I could hear you wheezing. I left the room for a moment and when I came back in, you were lying down on your cozy bed with your head on the hardwood floor. I thought you were gone. I approached you gently and could barely see you breathing. You were still with us. I brought over another dog bed and placed your head on it.
I sat with you for 2 hours, talking softly to you, letting you know how much I loved you and that it was ok to just go to sleep. You hung on. You were fast asleep so at 5:30 am, I went back to sleep.
I was afraid to leave you. I didn’t want you take your last breath alone.
In the morning, Nattie sat with you and we made sure you were not alone the rest of the day. We took turns. Eduardo came to see you to say goodbye and you guys spent 2 hours reminiscing about your time together. He was so so sad to say goodbye.
You were tired most of the day and we did our best to make you comfortable.
All day, I played the music you grew up with from the first few years of your life, to help you feel comfortable. Yeah, we spoiled you with bacon and eggs for breakfast, Katie got you McDonald’s cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets, I gave you a can of sockeye salmon, you had a huge wooden spoon full of peanut butter and at least 10 doggie treats. You seemed to enjoy all of it!
Dawn, your very loving dog walker came to say goodbye. She was sad too. We gave her some flowers, a gift card and a thank you card for all of the love and care she gave to you. Her love was genuine. It was hard for her to say goodbye to you and hard for us to say goodbye to Dawn.
You spent your last hour with Scott, Katie, Morgan, Chester, Nattie, Hub and I.
We all took turns saying goodbye to you. We tried really hard to keep our sadness to a minimum so that we didn’t cause you too much stress.
You sat at the front door, looking out at the people and four legged friends as you always did, with your buddy Scott by your side. You two were an inseparable team. Nattie snuggled up to you and held your paw and Hub rubbed your ears, just the way you liked it.
We waited for the call and it came at 3:18pm. Dr. Waters and a vet technician were on their way. We all got a huge lump in our throats and our hearts were breaking.
Dr. Waters was wonderful. She was kind and gentle and compassionate and she took her time. She got everything ready that she would need. She explained in detail what was about to happen and what to expect.
That first needle she gave you was to sedate you and help you stay calm. Then she shaved a section of your forearm so she could put in a catheter. You didn’t like that part and got up.
Dr. Waters suggested that we leave for a few minutes so we all went outside. I watched through the window. When you were ready, you had a little terrycloth band that was blue with a little heart on it. When we came back in, you were calm, looking a little sleepy and prepped to go to heaven.
Oh my Hunter, that was such a hard moment. From your neck up – you looked just fine. When I looked at your stomach – filling with fluid, and listened to your breathing – I knew it was time. I didn’t want you to go. None of us did.
You were, and always will be, such an important part of our family – how could we lose you? But we all knew you were suffering and your body was tired and starting to shut down. We didn’t want you to have cardiac arrest or kidney failure and experience any more pain and your health was deteriorating rapidly. We couldn’t put you through that.
With Dr. Waters help, we were able to have you go to sleep in a gentle and painless way. She offered to leave the house while we said our goodbyes, but we all agreed that we had just done that and none of us wanted to see you suffer any longer.
We hugged you and kissed you and patted you and stroked you and held your paws and told you how much we loved you. We encouraged you to run free as we said goodbye to you. You were surrounded by your family’s love. You were not alone.
Dr. Waters inserted the first solution that was a sedative and then the euthanasia medication that helped you to become unconscious and shortly thereafter your heart stopped.
I knew at that moment, your beautiful soul had already gone up to heaven. Dr. Waters used her stethoscope to confirm that your heart had stopped at which point she told us you were gone. That was 3:50pm.
You were so peaceful. Your beautiful ears were still strong and standing up. Your face was so handsome. You looked like you were sleeping. We all kissed you again and again and said goodbye.
Dr. Waters covered you in a red blanket and they placed you on a doggie stretcher and took you back to the vet with them where they made sure you were handled with love and dignity.
I’m sure you saw all of that from heaven and I know, that you know, how much we all love you. We will never stop.
Our house feels so empty without you, yet, you are everywhere.
This is what Dawn posted on Instagram for you:
Thank you for being such a magnificent pup. Thank you for so many wonderful memories. Thank you for keeping us safe and bringing so much joy to our lives.
Although we are sad and will likely grieve for some time, we are truly happy knowing you are no longer uncomfortable or in pain.
We know you are running free, you are healthy and happy and chasing lots of heavenly squirrels!
January 8, 2008 – August 21, 2019
Goodbye my beautiful boy
I will love you forever