Lady first came to me in late September of 2007. According to the person who adopted her to me, her old owners were going to put her down for incontinence issues. The vet instead offered to take Lady off their hands, and they agreed. Lady lived at Boyd Lake Veterinary Center for 3 months while waiting for her new home. A kind-hearted vet tech offered to foster her and attempt to find her a new home.I remember walking into his house in Loveland the evening I took her home. I was a bit apprehensive at first-I knew she was an older dog with “issues” and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle them appropriately with my busy lifestyle. When I heard her story, there was nothing to say but “yes”. I knew she was old, and I knew that I might not have a long time with her, but she deserved to end her life in a loving home, and that was something I did know I could give. My roommate and I packed her things into the back seat and off we went. Her stubby tail wagged slowly as we made the drive back to Greeley. The look in her eyes clearly said “I don’t know where I’m going, but it must be somewhere good”. After a few tense days, she and my cat Fievel came to an understanding, and always respected each other’s space. Imagine my surprise and relief when I realized that even off her medication, Lady had no problems holding her bladder while I was away from the house! There was no problem with incontinence for Lady, unlike what her former owners said. I suspect they wanted to let her go after their other dog had died of cancer a few weeks prior.When I started driving a taxi in Longmont, Lady came with, owing to the long hours of each shift. She stayed on her comfortable pillow in the office, and came with me more than a few times on runs to Denver and Boulder. She became a well-loved taxi dog, complete with her own tip jar. When I was told she could no longer come with me to work, I resigned and found something with shorter hours and closer to home. Now I could come home mid-shift and let her out to potty so she wouldn’t be dancing by the door waiting for me. All this time, she never had an accident.I first noticed a tumor on her leg in February of 2008 before going to the Fast and the Furriest race in Fort Collins. It was then that I knew something was not right. My vet had the mass tested and it seemed like nothing too bad. I was told that it was probably harmless and not to worry about it unless it seemed like it was bothering her. Time went on, and we went on walks to the big grassy field of UNC’s campus, where we played long games of catch in the sun (assuming Lady wasn’t distracted by another doggie friend!).I moved back to Fort Collins in the summer of 2008 to go to Colorado State University, and although I had a tough time finding anyone who would rent to a girl with a Rottweiler mix, I soon found a home where all of us (cat included) would be welcome. My roommate had lost her Rottweiler to cancer just a few months prior, and was happy to have another Rottie in the house. By this time the mass on Lady’s leg had doubled in size, and multiple tumors had emerged on her hind legs. These, I were told by my new vet, were not the good kind. However, Rotties have very short expiration dates, and we decided to leave things be, as we weren’t sure how much time a stressful treatment would have bought her. She was starting to show subtle signs of slowing down. Our mile long trail hikes had devolved to quick walks to the grocery store, and it became clear that we would never be able to hike Horsetooth as I was eagerly hoping we would. She still barked squirrels up trees and eagerly met doggie friends while roaming the green belt behind our condominium, and I contented myself with my decision, thinking that any time I had given her was more than she would have had otherwise.On Tuesday, 30 September, I took Lady in for a racking cough that had been slowly emerging. I was given antibiotics and cough suppressants to help her get over what I thought was a pulmonary infection. I was relieved to hear that it wasn’t her choking on a tumor in her throat, as I suspected. On Tuesday Lady had her first accident, the first since she had come to her furr-ever home with me. This was when I knew that something was wrong, something more than just an infection. It was the first of many for the next four days.By Friday, Lady had lost nearly all control over her bladder. She woke up in a puddle of her own urine, looked at me and told me with her eyes, “Mommy, it’s time.” I called Dr. Cooney to set an appointment for the next day. I went to a dinner party (I wish I hadn’t, but hindsight is 20/20) and spent the evening afterwards playing catch with her. I took many pictures of her and the smile on her face. I planned to take her for a final ride and get her a cheeseburger and fries, but decided to lay with her and wake up early in the morning to do it instead, so she could see the sights.
In the end, Lady neither got her cheeseburger and fries nor her final car ride. I woke her up gently and she jumped up. Something was horribly wrong. Through the night she had lost muscle tone in her hind legs, and though her tail wagged and she smiled and tried desperately to follow me downstairs, she could not. I picked her up and hauled her back to her favorite blanket, where she panted and heaved from the sheer effort of walking. Noon was no longer going to come so soon – I called Dr. Cooney at ten to seven and we moved the appointment up to nine.It was a waiting game – for two hours I fed Lady junk food and played a modified game of catch, and my friend Lisa came to help me through this difficult time. Both my roommates were at work. I was anxious, scared, and bored out of my mind. I had watched her downward spiral helplessly, and I could think of nothing but my own selfish desire to keep her with me for as much longer as I could manage.
When Dr. Cooney arrived, I asked for help taking Lady down the stairs so she could leave us outside in the morning sun. Surprisingly, Lady was able to get up and walk down the stairs, but I knew better than to let the hope that something miraculous had happened override my knowledge that Lady had already told me it was time for her to leave this world. We went through the paperwork and took Lady out the back door for what would be the last time.Lady did her business like she knew she should – she had enough energy to do that – and sniffed around her favorite tree looking for squirrels to chase. When Dr. Cooney and her assistant spread the towel out, it was like she knew exactly what to do. She came and stood patiently on the towel set out for her under her favorite tree. Dr. Cooney administered a sedative and Lady aimed straight for my lap as she fell slowly into her deep sleep. I held and petted her while the catheter was placed, and as she took her final, shuddering breaths, I whispered “I love you” so many times into her ear. Around 9:45am on 4 October, 2008, my beautiful Lady shuffled loose her mortal coil and crossed the veil to whatever lies beyond.
The word “euthanasia” means “a good or happy death”. Lady had a dignified, happy ending. Her final memories were of the shining sun, the cool, wet grass, and her favorite tree in the green belt behind my home. She left this world in my arms, unlike so many other options in which it would have been in a cold exam room behind closed doors, and without my calming presence to guide her from this life and to the next. I could not have asked for more than I received from Dr. Cooney. She is an absolute angel and without her, I could not have the precious memories that I now have of her last moments in this world.As of the day of her death, Lady had lived one year, three months, and fourteen days past the date she was slated for euthanasia by an owner who no longer cared for her.
She is survived by myself and her “smittens” Fievel and Sixpence. Her remains will be divided in half – half will be inserted in a Build – A – Bear puppy doll, where part of the proceeds will go to local animal shelters. The other half will go with me to Horsetooth Mountain , where we will both make the hike I had always promised us, and be scattered to the wind for the world to feel the presence of one of Creation’s finest and most amazing beings. Her legacy will live on in every dog in this world that is given a second chance, even if it only amounts to a year, three months, and fourteen days of extra time.
Meet me at the Bridge, Lady. Don’t be late .