These are the words in the notebook I kept by my side during Rhys' vigil. So many thoughts came to me during that time, and when I wasn't actively tending to him I was writing or folding paper.
5 February 2018
Rhys died today.
It wasn't an easy or painless death, and yet it was full of peace.
I didn't want him to have to die the hard way. I didn't want his heart to race and slow throughout the day. I didn't want him to struggle to breathe. I didn't want him to be painfully dehydrated. I didn't want him to lose his ability to walk, then stand, over four hours. I didn't want him to feel confused or disoriented. I didn't want him to try so hard, successfully, to avoid peeing in the house.
When he could no longer stand I told him it would be an honor for me to clean up after him. One last time. I asked him to pee on his bed when he needed to go.
Witnessing his death was similar to watching labor. It's excruciating and necessary. It delivers a beautiful outcome. It is natural.
We are in such a rush. In the past year I have assured Rhys countless times that there is no hurry. In the past four days that has been our mantra.
Do what you need. Do what feels right. Consider your needs first, for a change.
I am here. I will not leave you.
Rhys' last meal was Thursday night. That was his last normal day. He died on Monday.
His last walk was Saturday. He was slow. He vomited. Seven times, I think. That was when I knew.
His last car ride was last week, or was it the week before? He went to his favorite park.
His last bark was Sunday when his doctor delivered anti-nausea medication.
Now come the firsts.
The first day I don't wipe his drool from the floor.
The first time I come home to an empty window.
The first time I pick up my keys without hearing him lumber toward me.
Thank you, Rhys. Being with you was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
I'm Shannon, and I love and am loved by four Great Danes, four cats, and one horse (four Danes, one cat, and one horse are no longer walking this earth). Here I'll share stories of my adventures in grief photography for companion animals, my own grief journey, and thoughts on caregiving.