This morning, I made the most difficult call of my life. I made an appointment to have Yuki — my Yuki — put to sleep.
As many of you know, she’s been having some difficulties — running into walls, panting nonstop and circling, circling, circling — and as it turned out, it was from a tumor or some other form of swelling on her left forebrain. Yesterday, we took her to the neurology department at UF, and, short of putting her through radiation therapy (which would have cleared out our savings and given us no guarantee that it would help or make her less miserable), we had just one option: Put her on a steroid to see if it reduced the swelling. We knew it would be borrowed time, even if it worked, but if we could make her comfortable for a few days, we felt like we owed it to her.
After coming out of the light sedation they gave her yesterday in order to do the x-rays and ultrasounds on the rest of her body, she was worse than ever. Jared and I spent the whole night holding her and trying to keep her from running (well, trotting) straight into walls and corners. She didn’t know us and didn’t seem to be aware of where she was. The decision was obvious to us — get her in to the vet as early as possible in the morning and put her out of her misery.
Still, it was the hardest decision either of us has ever made. The entire ride to the vet, I held her in the back of the car, and tried to memorize every bit of her. I love the way the white spot on her chest wasn’t symmetrical, and the way her black fur was actually kind of brown. Three paws had bits of white on the toes, while one was all black. And her tail had a slight upward curl that made her look so happy.
It was hard to walk in, harder to listen as the vet explained how the process went, and almost impossible to hold her and try to calm her as the medicine took effect and she slowly sank to the ground. By the time she took her last breath, her coat was wet with our tears — the vet’s included.
That’s part of what makes this so damn hard. I know, everyone thinks their dog is special (and of course, they are). But man, Yuki was something. She touched the lives of so very many people, and I can’t imagine how many tears have been shed today. Without any training, she was a wonderful companion when I took her to my grandmother’s nursing home and visited with the Alzheimer’s patients. She was calm and gentle and let them pet her at their own pace. But, she was also a fantastic running buddy, and immensely entertaining at the dog park and at home.
Above all, god, was she ever a good girl. All she wanted was to please us, and she brought us such joy, such happiness. She loved wearing bandanas — I think she liked the extra attention people paid, and she would just prance around like a show pony (although maybe this took it a little too far).
As a puppy, she was absolutely fearless. She would run full speed and jump off of docks or dunes or anything. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. She played so hard, as puppies are wont to do. Shortly after we got her, we took her to a friend’s get-together where she played for hours with people and pets. I had to carry her tired little body to the car and put her on my lap, and she was so worn out that she peed in her sleep. All over me.
Her first birthday party was attended by tons of people — it didn’t take her long to worm her way into anyone’s heart. We held it at the dog park so the dogs could play and the people could eat. She might not have appreciated effort that went into making the homemade dog treats, but she ate them with gusto, just the same.
And she loved the water. When we took her to Canada, to my parents’ old cabin, we were wondering how to get her down to the lake — the house was on the lake, but there was basically a small cliff leading down to it. Within moments of arriving, Yuki found some way to climb down and was happily splashing in the water. Fortunately, she found a way up again, too.
For seven years, almost to the date, she’s been by my side. She was in our wedding, she attended my graduation (which consisted of me, my family and friends sitting outside at The Swamp after my last final), she moved from apartment to condo to our house with a yard.
I had planned on another seven years of her chasing tennis balls and sticks and squirrels, barking at the UPS guy, and licking our faces endlessly (particularly when sweaty). She should have had another chance to climb in the chair with my dad and clean out his ears, and there were supposed to be more trips to the dog park. I wanted more walks and treats and time to cuddle. And even though I held her as the last bit of breath escaped from her mouth, I just can’t believe she’ll never be here again.
To Yuki: The dog who taught me so much, brought smiles to so many faces, and asked for so little in return. You’ll be missed more than you can possibly imagine. Your circling has stopped, but my broken heart is just getting started.
If any of you have a favorite story about Yuki, or any dog for that matter, I’d sure love to hear it about now.