This post is going to take me a long time to write. Bear with me. Hopefully, it will actually make sense. I will try, but there is no guarantee.
On Wednesday February 21, Trixie had to be put down. You’re probably all pretty shocked. Brad and I had some inklings, and a screaming warning the night before, but this was not something that was a long time coming that was a big old secret we were keeping from the world. We were all caught by surprise.
The sucky part, one of many, is we don’t know precisely what evil thing came to get her at the end. All we know is she was losing a lot of blood internally, and masses were pushing on organs, and there wasn’t anything they could do. Whatever these masses were, they came on suddenly and grew like crazy, so I don’t think we had a chance. I’m sure Brad will have more thoughts about her last days, but I know he said she was at least trying to have a sniffy walk on Family Day, and by the next night, walking anywhere was not an option, so the last part of the decline was super fast.
About that. Steve will tell you I’m an uber planner. If I can plan for something, I will try, even if it’s impossible because there is so much uncertainty. As Trix got older and began to slow down, I had mentally considered what I would want to do when the end came if I got to see her either right before, or when it was time. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to bring Tansy, but I started to think that Trix might not want her there because they had such a set of mixed feelings towards each other. Tansy always loved Trix, but Trix was a little less keen on the crazed Shmans. Plus, Tansy is very tuned into my emotions, so may not have responded well to whatever state of distress I might be in seeing Trix near her end. I tried to think out how I would get there, and be helpful without being too much of a burden on Brad both before and after. I even found an Uber driver who wasn’t an arsehole about dogs, and didn’t mind long drives. I scooped up his number and had it on standby. I had to keep in mind that said Uber driver needed some advance notice to do this since he had kids and a business, so he could only be used if I knew days out that this was happening. Of course, all of this would be contingent on Brad even being able to have me there for whatever reason, it happening in a planned manner and nature not just taking matters into its own hands, but I wanted to be all ready to go. Then I read about another person putting their dog to sleep at home, and thought that would be the way to do it if we could at all. Trix, in her younger days, was no fan of the vet, so I thought this would make it as comfortable as possible. I looked to see if you had to find a special service for this, and was relieved to see that Trix’s current vet offered this. I stuffed that nugget of info away in my back pocket, but was too cowardly to bring it up to Brad. What good is your back pocket full of nuggets if you just end up losing them in the laundry?
I tried to plan a little further back, hoping to let Trix’s raiser see Trix in video form at least one last time. I was contemplating asking her if she wanted to come up this way and then we could plan some kind of visit, but then life made that possibility next to impossible, so I thought at least I could do the video part. I was taking entirely too long to troubleshoot whether you could put 3 people on a Facebook Messenger video chat so Brad, the raiser and I could all chat together from different locations, since usually when Brad and I were together, it was at a family due. But I took too long, and the universe made completely sure that video contact would not happen. Perhaps this was for the best.
Then, that same universe boomed “I spit in the face of your planning, you measly human! Bow down to my power!” Some things, probably the important ones, worked out the way I wanted them to, but there was no measured and elaborate plan. Like I said, the night before, Brad said she needed help in and out to do duty, and was obviously not herself. The next day, she even needed help to her food. This dog did not need any help finding food. If there was food to be consumed, even unsanctioned food, this beasticus would find it.
So, off to the vet she went, where things continued to look bad for the poor thing. From what I understand, they basically said she was losing blood and she had masses inside her that were pushing on things but they didn’t know why, and her options weren’t good. Brad first planned that we would put her down on Friday, but it became clear that she was probably going that day. Thankfully, he discovered that they would do it at home, and decided to go that route.
He called me and told me the news. All my preparations of scenarios went right out the window. I must have made quite a scene, bawling my face off at my desk, zombifiedly shambling to heat up a lunch I was never going to eat, because an angel in coworker form said “Do you want a cookie? I think you need one!” When I explained to him what was happening, this guy offered to drive me there and back! Seriously! As much as I cursed the universe for taking my plans and smashing them into pretty little shards, I couldn’t have asked for a better gift than this. I will owe him forever.
After I told Brad that I could make it that day, he started arranging things with the vet. we took off, and first dropped off Tansy at home with Steve. I felt bad that Steve didn’t get to see Trix one last time, but he offered to stay here. It’s a really good thing that I was traveling with someone who knew me because I soon discovered that I was not coherent. Never have I found the tasks of unplugging a charger or typing on my phone or finding the correct door in my apartment building or locating necessary items to be such a chore, but they were today.
Once Shmans was safely at home wondering what in god’s name was wrong with me, soon we discovered that the city where Brad lives was a freaking mess because of a nice flood situation. “Road closed” was a sign we saw frequently while trying to get to Brad. This caused us to take longer, which was making me very nervous. Maybe Trix wouldn’t even make it that long. Maybe the vet would have to hurry. Maybe all of this would be for nothing. But there was nothing I could do about it but hope and pray.
I arrived, and the vet and tech were sitting there, taking all the time in the world. They knew the scoop, and were completely understanding of the situation. I continued acting in a completely incoherent manner, barely remembering to hand Brad my coat and set things down. I just listened, heard Trix’s laboured breathing and headed straight for her, bonking into the coffee table as I went.
It was abundantly clear that Trix was at death’s door, knocking loudly. I could hear her breathing from across the room, and it was loud and difficult. Sometimes, it would be peppered with little whimpers that you could be fooled into thinking were dream barks. But these weren’t dream barks. As I approached, she didn’t move one muscle. I petted her and the head didn’t move. That lizard tongue did not reach out to give me a lick. She was in her own world.
As I petted her, I noticed these new and weird masses all over. Where there weren’t masses, she was bony and her back legs felt kind of caved in. This Trix was not the same Trix I saw at the end of December. Whatever this degeneration was, it happened in one heck of a hurry. I knew this, but seeing it solidified it…and started up the waterworks again.
I wondered what my last words would be to Trix. I would always read other people’s descriptions of what they said to their dogs at the end, and wonder if I could come up with something. I couldn’t. I can’t actually remember what I said. I know I passed on that her puppy raiser said that Pepper would be waiting for her at the bridge, and I think I said something like “Thanks for being an awesome dog.” I think I muttered something about being a trooper, no wait, that’s your brother, because some inside joke about Trix’s siblings would make a whole heap of sense to anyone but me. Anyway, when facing down the death of someone important, I was yet again rendered inarticulate.
The vet and tech were incredibly patient as I fought with my phone to get the video chat to work so I could talk to Trixie’s raiser. The weirdest thing was whenever I would open the window for her raiser, without fail, the app would crash. I could open anyone else’s window, but not that one. Closing the app didn’t help, rebooting the phone didn’t help. I only fixed it the next day when I reinstalled the app. So I gave up and called her.
It was at this moment when I realized that I had done a crappy job of helping to knit Trix’s life together. Sure, I had sent her raiser lots of pictures and updates on how she was doing while with Brad, and I had even given Brad her address so he could send her a calendar that had Trix’s picture on one page. But, not once had I brought them together to chat, not once! So, on the day when Trix was about to leave this world, Brad and Trix’s raiser finally met and had a conversation. For that, I will always be sorry that it wasn’t sooner.
After we had all sat around and talked a while, and it was clear that Trix had wormed her way into the hearts of her vet and tech, they gently moved in to do what they came for. Poor Trix had lost so much blood that they could not get the needle into a front leg, had to go for a back leg, and then they kind of had to prop her up a bit so they could get things to go where they had to be. Perhaps it took 10 seconds, and she was gone, just like that. There were no dramatic last breaths, there were thankfully no twitches or gasps or horrible messes on the floor, she was just gone. I don’t know how to explain it, but the room suddenly felt more empty than it had just seconds before.
We talked a little longer about logistics, they gave Brad her collar, wrapped Trix up in a blanket, scooped her up and left. And just like that, the end of an era had come. Trix, who has been a fixture in all of our lives was gone forever.
Unfortunately, I had to head back too. My wonderful coworker had agreed to hang around the city, and since the city was under a state of emergency because of the flood, and Brad was near an evacuation zone, we thought it would be best if I left in case he did have to get the heck out of dodge. So, I was not able to stay around, maybe get him some dinner, talk a while. I felt bad for descending on him and flitting off just as quickly, even though it was what I had to do.
I knew this would be hard. I knew I would be a wreck for a long time. I knew these things in a logical, clinical sense. What I didn’t know was how it would feel, and what creative methods of punishment my mind would devise to make me wonder what I might have done along the way to screw things up. When I got home, in a moment of clarity, I called the school to give them the scoop. That was a rather jumbled conversation. “Hello, support center? Who do I talk to about…erm…it’s Carin Headrick calling…what’s the process for notifying people…my retired guide dog passed away.” They were really good, and took down the info as best I could give it. There was a lot of I don’t know, and then they asked me if Trix had had any ongoing medical issues. It was at this point that I realized I never told them about the lupoid onychodystrophy, or the toe that had to be removed in November, or the thing she was doing where she was drinking way too much water. We just took care of them, and in the case of the toe and the lupoid thing, we thought they were under control. In the case of the water thing, the vet had run a bunch of tests and they had all come up normal. We had put it down to some weird old dog quirk, maybe a bit of dementia, and decided to keep an eye on her water intake. Suddenly, I wondered maybe if I had asked for their advice, maybe they could have asked for different tests and we could have discovered the fast-growing masses before they jumped out from behind the proverbial tree to say “Boo!” But I am starting to realize that all that might have done was hasten the inevitable, since these things meant business, and she could not have survived surgeries the way she was at the end. She was nearly 13, and dogs don’t live forever. But in those moments when I was on the phone with GDB, I suddenly began to be afraid that I hadn’t told them information they needed for the dog’s health, and because of this, Trix had paid the price. Yes, my mind is an evil, evil thing.
It amazes me how many people know Trixie. Each time I tell the story, it gets a little easier, and I can wrap my mind around it a little more. But I think I will be finding people for months that I will have to tell. Trix has a massive fan club.
I am so happy that I have so much of Trix’s life documented. Those memories will live on for years to come, and give me so many laughs, and that is what matters.
Trix, you were a great dog. You put up with this clueless human and learned with me, because I was pretty much a newb to guide dog life when I got you. You melted my dad’s heart, and my dad is not a dog-lover! You took away my one friend’s fear of black dogs. You showed me that I wasn’t the reason that Babs and I failed, and made it so I wasn’t afraid that all dogs pulled like freight trains. You amazed me with your steel-trap memory. You helped me solve the problem of what to do to protect dogs’ paws in the winter. Thanks for traveling with me on all our crazy adventures, including but not limited to new jobs, funerals, weddings, family events, long bus trips, flights, boat rides, helping take care of friends’ babies, the examples are endless. I know some of those things stressed you out but you did them anyway. You really are a trooper.
Not only did you do all of that, but you gave Brad so many memories too. You did things with him that I didn’t think you would ever do! You rediscovered your love of swimming and decided you loved snow! You decided that barking at people who came to the house was a great idea. You really became a dog, pure and simple. I remember one day, we got a voicemail from Brad that said something like “Trix rolled in some dead thing! It stenches!” My parents were there and could hardly believe that you would do such a thing! I’m so happy that once you retired and your stress lifted, all your health problems evapourated. Poor Brad got a laundry list of your needs and things to watch out for. I think I traumatized him, but he still bravely agreed to go ahead. I’m so glad he did, he gave you the life I would have wanted for you.
How on earth do I end this? I guess I could end it by explaining the beginning. That song fits perfectly with this post, but there’s an even better reason to put it here. One night, our friend who we call the shoe thief was at our place, hanging out. For some reason, this song started randomly playing, and Steve and Shoe decided they had to dance to it, because they’re goofs. Trix absolutely loved Shoe, and I guess she decided to get in on it. There she was, standing on her hind legs, perching her front legs on their arms, trying to dance with them. She had never done that before and she never did it again. I really wish I’d gotten a video.
Trix will never be forgotten. Wherever she was, she always made life interesting. We will all miss her.