Vegas's Last Day
Anyway one afternoon a few weeks back, I was walking
down the street with Roscoe minding my own business when my cellphone
rang. A friend of mine, let's call her "Liz", was calling and she sounded
hysterical and girl gaspy and stuff. She said Vegas (her dog) was sick and that
she was at the 24-hour emergency vet center down the street. I headed right
I've been friends with this chick for a bunch of years. We became friends at dog park and she's like the founding member of a dog park morning crew which Roscoe and me are a part of. Usually around 9-ish there's a bunch of us that hang out in dog park with coffee and we talk about nothing in particular-- as do the dogs. So I've known Vegas for years and we've hung out a bunch-- of course it was all upsetting to hear she was sick.
Anyway, I walk into the vet center (a pretty big place) with Roscoe and ask for Vegas. They receptionist lady directs me to one of the exam rooms in the back. Liz is in there by herself looking like she's been crying non-stop. All raccoon faced. Apparently Vegas collapsed in the street and refused to get up. With help, she got Vegas into her car and they drove to the vet center. The vet guy discovered that Vegas had a tumor on her spleen-- and the tumor burst. Totally random. Vegas was in like critical condition. Bad news all around.
The vet explained that they were trying to stabilize the dog so they can operate and clean out the tumor stuff-- but he told us that it most likely was a very aggressive form of cancer. Liz told them to do whatever they needed to do to save the dog. The vet let her know that even in best case scenario with chemo and stuff-- Vegas is looking at around six months to live. Vegas was only 9.
Hearing this news set Liz off hysterical crying. She went into denial about the ordeal. Saying there was no way her dog could possibly die. That they still had stuff to do and places to go. The vet went into the back to do whatever-- and I realized that I was in this situation for the long haul. I dropped Roscoe off at home, cleared my "schedule" then headed back to the place. Vegas wasn't stabilizing.
I waited by myself in the exam room while Liz went into the back to spend time with Vegas. I sat in the chair doing nothing and feeling sad. 10 minutes goes by. But it's impossible for me to do nothing for any long stretch-- so I got busy fidgeting around the exam room. Opening drawers and looking at medical supplies and stuff. I was thumbing through actual files when the vet guy came into the room to talk to me. (He totally busted me going through stuff but didn't say anything. I wonder if that's common. Busting fidgeters.) He started giving me the rundown on Vegas's status and before he got into it I felt the need to let him know that I was, 'Really just the friend... Not like... y'know... family...aka I can't make a decision here, dude.' But the vet guy went on to tell me that Vegas is not getting better and will not get better. And chances are Vegas was going to not make it through the day.
He went on to tell me that they've been trying to pass this information along to Liz-- but Liz wasn't hearing them. He told me that she was now only really talking to the dog and telling the dog to get better. That she kind of wasn't 'on the ground' mentally. So the vet guy asked me if I could go in the back and talk to Liz to help bring some "reality to her situation". I'm looking at him like, 'Whoa what? Wait... dude... You want me to tell her that her dog is going to die? Like right now?? Dude! I'm just the friend! You're the doctor, Doctor! Doctor whatever your name is I already forgot!'
I was already feeling weird being a part of this life
memory that was currently being scorched-- let alone becoming actively involved
in shaping it.
Vet man leads me into the back where Vegas and Liz are. Vegas is lying on a table under a blanket. Tubes under the blanket. Dog looked bad. White lips. Uncomfortable. Swollen. Groaning a little. Liz was sitting on a stool whispering to Vegas. Telling Vegas to get better. And mumbling little secrets. The vet is gave me a look like, 'Dude, see what I mean? She's all...' -- he might as well have done the crazy gesture when you swirl a finger around your own ear.
Bad scene. Now not only am I trying to think of words to break this news and break her reality-- but I'm also seeing a dog who I consider a friend looking terribly sick and in pain. Who I also need to say goodbye to. Plus! The whole back room is filled with sick or hurt animals! Cats with double leg casts. Dogs with cones of shame. Hurt animals. The whole place wasn't a party atmosphere. I started crying at this point.
I try to think of the best words that can be soft yet serious. I start telling Liz that she's been a great mom to this dog. That she's always been there for her. And now she has to be strong for her and let her go. Liz looked at me like, 'What the fuck are you talking about?! Vegas isn't gonna die. Why are taking their side, jerk??'
I took Liz in my arms and gave her a hug. I told her that today was the day. Today was the day. She started to get it and sobbed away while I reassured her how good she has been with the dog. She was crying back into reality when the vet rudely interrupted by saying, 'Ok she's arresting right now. We need to know if you want us to perform CPR or just let her go. We need to know. Now.' Liz told them to perform CPR. It was all too sudden. The vet warned her she might not want to watch them do that. She turned to me and cried more while I had full view of the CPR procedure which was indeed not fun to watch.
They got Vegas stabilized and the vet puts the idea of 'letting her go peacefully' (aka giving Vegas 'the shot.') I told Liz she had to do this and she agreed. I said goodbye to Vegas. And backed away. Liz sat with her as Vegas was allowed to go peacefully. (The vet warned there might be reflex reaction with her kicking or whatever-- but thankfully she didn't). And then Vegas was gone. It was quiet.
A few minutes go by and it seems like Liz has no intention of leaving Vegas's side. Everyone is looking at me like, 'Umm... Dude...Friend guy whoever. Whatever. You gotta get her like out of here..' I pull her away from the dog and we start walking away. Liz collapses on the floor. She was wearing a dress and she showed everyone her underwear. I picked her up off the floor. And led her into the other room.
The vet guy comes in and explains the options. She opts for cremation and to have the ashes returned to her. The vet asks if she wanted some of Vegas's fur. (apparently some people ask for this). Thankfully Liz declined. It seemed creepy. Especially with Vegas being a shorthaired dog.
Liz spent the rest of the day surrounded by friends who
left work or home for a makeshift get-together in a Vegas's honor. People told
stories and stuff. The kind of event that
sometimes is too easily dismissed by people who have never really known a dog.
PS. Here's a picture of Vegas.
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