Goodbye, Curtis – Please Be There For Your Pets at the End

Curtis had an iPawed but sometimes he used a computer.
Curtis may have been large but he wasn’t really in charge.

I was raised with dogs. Lots of people were, sure, but me, I was really raised with dogs. My parents were professional handlers (my dad showed my mom groomed) and bred their own dogs for showing purposes. I helped raise and train more dogs than I can remember. I helped bring dogs into the world, and when they were ill, I cared for them. I remember one puppy was what we called a swimmer. In some cases, this is something you can fix with patience. I put the puppy in a shoebox on his side. I kept him with me all the time and rotated him every few hours. This caused his ribs to properly form and saved his life. He ended up going to a lovely family and lived a long, happy life as someone’s pet. I have a lot of stories like that.

Having a Dog is a Big Deal

Getting a dog is a big investment of time and money. As a result, for many years, after I moved out of my parent’s home at 18, I had cats, but no dogs. Thirteen years ago, in June, I decided to change that. The best birthday present I ever gave myself was this lovable, wacky dog that I ended up naming Curtis.

When I went to meet Curtis he was passed out in his crate, having just played with some children. Fifteen pounds of adorable fluff. I never had a Labrador retriever before. I was used to herding dogs. Labs are definitely different from Belgian Sheepdogs and Pembroke Welsh Corgis. I didn’t really research labs, I made a decision and I took Curtis home. Maybe not the best way to adopt a pup, but it worked for me.

Curtis Was Allowed To Be Himself – He Was Quite Something

My pets are well trained, but they are trained with love and a lot of permissiveness. They are spoiled in some ways. I let them be who they are. As a result, their personalities come through. All of my pets have amazing personalities. Even among these characters, Curtis was different.

Curtis was hilarious. And anxious. And funny. And if a dog can be neurotic, he was neurotic. He had a huge fan club. I created a Facebook account for him and used it to teach seminars, including “The Case of the Big Yellow Dog” an explanation of social media and electronic discovery. Curtis, you see, sued Millie (my other dog) and Rami and Angelou (my cats).

When Curtis passed away, many people told me they felt as if they knew him from the posts I shared over the years. Those who actually had met him were devastated. Curtis left an impression. Some dogs are like that. All dogs are special, but some dogs are something more. Curtis was something more.

Big Dogs Are Challenging – Curtis was a Big Dog

At 115 lbs, Curtis didn’t just have a big personality, he was a big dog. My house was full because of him. Even though I have three pets left, my house feels empty. No one takes up space like Curtis. He made himself known to me all the time. He followed me around the house, even when he could barely walk.

The last time Curtis walked was when he struggled down the hallway to be by me after his surgery. Then, for whatever reason, he laid down and never got up again. I am sure his size played a role.

Big dogs are different, somehow. I will never forget when 6-month-old Curtis’ head touched the top of the crate that was supposed to be big enough for him to use as an adult. And then, he just kept growing. And growing. I shrugged, gave up on crates, and let him loose. He was a perfect gentleman. Except he did get into his dog food and eat so much that he regurgitated a solid ball of food. And he ate someone’s leather portfolio. And he chewed on a windowsill. And he chewed on a chair. Fortunately, he outgrew this and learned to only chew on edible things. Unfortunately, this included an entire chocolate cake and anything that was anywhere he could reach it that could conceivably be considered edible. I had many a night watching and waiting for peach pits and other inedible items to pass through him. Fortunately, he was so big, nothing ever caused much trouble.

At some point, Curtis decided he wasn’t going to get off the bed when I was making it.
Curtis loved bananas until he got older. He stole a whole bunch and ate them once. Surprisingly, he wasn’t sick.

What Happened To Curtis?

After Curtis had surgery and wasn’t getting up, I called the vet a few times, and finally, they had me bring him in. That is when I discovered that his hair had been hiding bedsores obtained from lying on the floor. He spent time at another vet, in hopes they would be able to help him, but it was too much, and he couldn’t be helped. So, on Saturday, May 15, a vet I didn’t know called me from the location where he was staying to tell me that she thought I should consider putting Curtis to sleep. She wanted me to know, it was ok to stop the treatment. It was a horrible phone call, but I am glad the vet made it. I appreciated her honesty. I knew it was ok to stop, but it was good to hear it. She helped me understand that even if Curtis survived he would never be Curtis again.

I spent about an hour thinking about what I should do. Then, I called the vet and asked how they were handling putting dogs to sleep during COVID-19. They said I could be with him. I asked if I could bring my other dog Millie, and they said absolutely. So, I made my decision. And the decision was to humanely end Curtis’ life.

What Was It Like to Euthanize Curtis?

When I went inside the building I was directed to a private room. Curtis was laying down, but he lifted up his head and was clearly happy to see me. He was also happy to see Millie, who walked over to him and sniffed him. She was happy to see him too but very subdued.

The vet gave me a device and told me to press it when I was ready. It rang a doorbell out in the office so they knew to come back. Here I am saying goodbye to Curtis before he got the shots. This video is sad, but safe to watch. There is no video of the injections or of Curtis passing. This video is raw and it may make you cry. And yes, I am crying during the video and I am crying now. Thirteen years is a long time to have a companion. Curtis was not a human child, but he was a lot like a child to me. Dogs really are a lot like children who never grow up. Completely reliant upon us, but giving much more than they take.

This is the last video of Curtis. Here I am saying goodbye before the drugs are administered.

After I rang the bell, the vet came back and explained what to expect. Then she gave Curtis a series of injections. I was there the whole time, petting him. Curtis went to sleep peacefully. And then he simply stopped. His breath came out in a gasp one last time. I could feel him go as my hand was on his neck, stroking him. The vet used a stethoscope and confirmed Curtis was gone.

Millie sniffed Curtis and walked away. I asked the vet, “does she know?” She responded, “I think she does.” I think she did too. Millie has not spent any time looking for Curtis. She hasn’t pressed the Curtis button to ask for him (something she did all the time when she wanted him). I think she knows he is gone and isn’t coming back. I also think she is grieving the loss. She isn’t eating her normal food and is spending a lot of time curled up in bed. She is eating other things though, don’t worry. I will give her almost anything she wants right now, as long as it is safe for her.

A Peaceful End is a Gift We Can Give Our Pets

Curtis was done. It was clear to me that I made the right choice to euthanize him. My only regret is that I had surgery performed on him in the first place. Not because he did not need the surgery, but because he had such discomfort at the end. I do not know how long he would have lived without the surgery. But I will always regret it. I have to live with that reality. What I will not regret though, is making the decision to let Curtis go in peace. And I will never regret that I went to him to be there when he needed me so he could leave as calmly as possible. You should know, I am disabled and quite ill right now. It is hard for me to travel even short distances. But never for a moment did I think that I would let Curtis leave without being by his side to comfort him. He deserved my presence. It was the least I could do after thirteen years.

One of the vets told me that euthanasia was a gift we can give our pets when they are suffering. I agree.

We Must Be There For Our Pets During the Difficult Times

When we bring pets into our lives we have a responsibility to them. That responsibility includes being there when it is time to say goodbye. Curtis had a peaceful end because he knew I was there with him. He suffered no anxiety during his passing because I was there for him. And Millie does not have to wonder where Curtis is, she knows he is gone. Bringing her turned out to be a good idea and I am glad I did it.

If you ever find yourself a situation where you need to say goodbye to your pet, please make sure you are there for them if at all possible. Our pets give us so much. The least we can do is be there for them during the difficult transition from life.

Goodbye, Curtis. You were the best of dogs. I am grateful to have had you in my life.

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