Sunday April 7 marked the end of an era in Tom's life. His faithful canine companion of 7 years, Moose, died after a sudden deterioration during the night. He would have been 12 years old sometime this month.
Moose had been treated repeatedly in the past 8 months for bladder and prostate infections (although the latter "shouldn't happen" to a neutered dog) and and was in fact at the veterinarian's again on Saturday morning. Lowering and raising himself was noticeably more difficult; arthritis in his rear legs had resulted in severe muscle wasting - something we hadn't been aware of till the Vet pointed it out - despite walks 2 or 3 times per day which included climbing the stairs to our second floor apartment. Moose's appetite was almost non-existent for the previous 3 days despite our frequent urgings with favorite foods. He drank frequently and just as frequently needed to urinate; our balcony was frequently used out of necessity, but often was "not close enough" even though the quantity was relatively small. A couple of hours after the second dose of antibiotic, at 1 AM Sunday morning, Moose lost the use of his right rear leg and then couldn't even raise himself. Tom carried him out to the balcony and we helped him stand, with reassurances that "it's OK".
Moose appeared to sleep peacefully much of the time while periodically opening an eye at the sound of our voices. Other times he'd raise his head and chest and initially attempt to rise but didn't pursue any struggle. He seemed resigned. His exuberance and vitality had actually begun to diminish soon after I joined Tom in August of 2000. We discussed many times whether it was actually a result of his being demoted to second place in Tom's life. Moose was a very perceptive dog and despite Tom and me both actively including him in almost all activities, this Husky-Rottweiller-Laborador mix knew that he just didn't hold the same importance any more. But Tom was always first in Moose's life; he would wait outside the apartment building for Tom - who might have scurried back for a forgotten item or down to the garage to get the car - never wandering off.
The past year Tom really missed the Moose of old who used to fast walk with him here on the Toronto streets, or in Southern California would do his own wandering but quickly catch up to Tom. Everything had become a saunter and when put on the leash he would sometimes balk at even a moderately fast pace. And the past couple of weeks seemed to be even less enjoyable to Moose. An inveterate scrounger of pizza crusts from the sidewalks outside the local shops, Moose could no longer tolerate more than two or three scraps. His once cast-iron stomach had several months ago lost its ability to well digest bones and he no longer received relished table leavings or was allowed to munch much of the almost perfectly good "street food" he loved discovering. It was sad to deny him the pleasure, but we knew that he'd just have diarrhea and maybe vomit.
So in the wee hours of Sunday (we normally arise at 2400), Tom and I discussed what we should do. Moose was getting progressively worse - accepting only dog biscuit pieces and water, and yelped in pain when Tom tried once to move his hindquarters independent of his front end. Tom watched over him, soothing and petting him while I rested or worked; then we'd switch places. With me holding the balcony door, Tom would carry Moose out every couple of hours.
When 10:30 am came we took Moose to the local humane society which Tom had called about 5:30 am questioning about euthanasia (they don't even mention it on their website!). It was a very sad trip - Moose's last in the car in which he and Tom had made so many trips between Toronto and Southern California. Tom picked Moose up out of our Integra Hatchback and carried him into the building as I parked the car. When I located them, Moose was on the floor of the empty clinic waiting room; I sat and stroked him as Tom filled out necessary papers. Tom joined us and sat on the floor next to Moose. A few minutes later, an attendent brought a gurney and for the last time, Tom picked Moose up and gently laid him down - on the cold metal surface. I'll readily admit to using up my tissues fast at this point as I suggested to Tom that he take Moose's collar. We'd already said all the goodbyes we could manage, so declined the attendent's offer for "a few minutes". As he wheeled Moose through the door of "the other side" (where owners are not allowed during euthanasia), I called out, "His name is Moose"; I could hear the attendant gently coo "Ok, Moose".
The following is part of an email exchange Tom had with a close friend today about Moose:
> You might recall that I like cats more than dogs.
> However, Moose won me over at first sight.
> It's weird, but when I first saw Moose in the back of your car about five
> years ago, I had the distinct feeling that he was not a dog, but an
> intelligent personality wrapped in fur.
Funny that you should say that because that is always how I viewed him, as a person who just happened to look and function largely as a dog.
> This past year, however, I'd agree with you - Moose seemed like a shadow of
> his former self; more like a nice dog and less like a person.
Again, I agree. The old Moose was still there, but very subdued and in the background. In hindsight, again this may because of constant arthritis pain and the inability to function as he was used to and about which he was so joyful and which was the basis of his wonderful sense of life.
Yes, Moose is gone in body but memories of him are extremely strong as I write this, very much aware that he's not behind my desk chair where he often parked himself when not on his bearskin rug.
Moose - His Mooseness - 4/?/1990 to 4/7/2002
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