The manner of his passing

Following a pleasant but fatiguing walk and a quiet afternoon that he spent cuddling with Peggy, Baxter began coughing up blood and struggling to breathe last night. Peggy became frantic, and sat on the floor holding him and wailing. She asked me to call two nearby friends, which I did. First Ellie and then Shirley stayed with us until after midnight. Before they arrived, Peggy had said she was going to have the vet come to our house and euthanize Baxter today, but when the normal doses of the medications I gave him proved inadequate, she asked me to euthanize him immediately.

I gave him fourteen times his usual dose of a tranquilizer, but when he was still awake two hours later, I gave him four (human) doses of Percocet, but the entire night passed without him going to sleep, although he was able to rest peacefully in Peggy's arms. He continued to gasp for air, and his heart continued to beat at a phenomenal rate, but he no longer coughed, and he did not appear to be in pain or emotional distress. I saw no point in giving him more pills.

Peggy stayed up with Baxter all night, but I couldn't just sit with him because of his odors and my grief, so I stayed busy doing what I could to provide for his and Peggy's comfort, and I took two naps when there was nothing more to do. I think that, perhaps, Peggy is stronger than I because I couldn't have done what she did. Of course, I suppose it's also possible that she couldn't have done what I did.

As soon as the vet's office opened, I got an appointment to take Baxter in at 8:45 to be euthanized. Ellie went with us. Sean first gave him a shot containing three sedatives followed ten minutes later by an injection to stop his heart. Peggy and I held our hands over his strong little heart until he was gone. Sean was surprised that my own efforts to kill Baxter hadn't succeeded, and he had no explanation why this was so.

The hardest part of the night was to watch Baxter's desperate efforts to live and to think that we hadn't done everything we could to give him that chance. I was all but wild with remorse until Sean said that, if we had treated Baxter, it most likely would have resulted in five months of keeping him alive in pain and misery versus the three months of love and comfort he had enjoyed. Oh, but I want to be with him! Shirley offered that someday I will be, but I can't even begin to accept an idea for which there is no evidence. As I see it, in the entire history of the universe, Baxter existed for 11 years, three months, and three days, and now he has returned to everlasting nothingness. Yesterday at this time, he was taking a nap with Peggy. Now, he is gone, and it's very hard to take that in despite the fact that I have seen more deaths than most people.

As I write, Baxter is lying on the chair that he and Peggy shared for these many years, but he is cold and stiff and his eyes are glazed, so there is no comfort in touching him. Yet, when I look at him, he appears to be breathing. Above his chair is a window and a feeder that I built for the squirrels. Baxter loved to watch squirrels, and I would often hold him in my arms so that he could get a better view. When we brought him home from the vet today, I held him there for the last time. It was a gesture of questionable merit, but I was desperate to do something.

Peggy has been asleep for hours, but sadness kept me awake--that and the fact that I slept, perhaps, three hours last night. I couldn't sleep for the sadness. Ellie's son, Josh, was to dig Baxter's grave tomorrow, but I went ahead and did it. Perhaps, I will be in physical pain a long time for that, but it was what I wanted to do. It was all that was left for me to do. Now, I can be still with my grief.

The following is entitled Baxter's Lullaby. Peggy composed it in 1999, soon after we brought him home:

Sleep, baby sleep, sleep the whole night through.
Sleep, baby sleep, you know that I love you.
And when you wake, the night will turn to day.
Sleep, baby sleep, sleep the night away.

Dream, baby dream, of things you love to do.
Dream, baby dream, dream the whole night through.
And when you wake, your dreams will make you smile.
Dream, baby dream, dream a little while.

This is Baxter's Nonsense Verse that Peggy wrote a few months later:

Baxter-waxter, wally-woo
Best'est dog I ever knew.
Baxter-waxter, wally-west
Best'est dog of all the rest.

Baxter-waxter, wally-wee
Best'est dog for you and me.
Baxter-waxter, wally-wuv,
Best'est dog a girl could love.


Robin said...

Snow and Peggy, I grieve with you....losing Baxter is like losing a child of your own body.

I can't say much - because you don't want me to.....but I will tell you that Baxter had a great life....he lived in a house where he was LOVED and ADORED.....and he knew that.

Love to you both,

♥ Robin ♥

p.s. Both of Baxter's songs are beautiful.

Kerry said...

I am so sad for you and Peggy. But you gave everything possible for old Baxter and he had an excellent life with you. Hold the memories close, for surely they will sustain you like nothing else.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Oh Snow, there are no words. I'm so very sorry. I've lost lots of people and lots of dogs. It all just sucks!

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who makes up nonsensical songs to sing to my dogs.

So so sorry! Hugs to you and Peggy.

Life 101 said...

I really feel for y'all. My wife and I never had kids, but we've had many pets.
We've had the good fortune to have some great dogs.
Like y'all, we're devastated when we lose one.
We're thinking of y'all.

Snowbrush said...

Thank you all.

Yeah, Kerry, we did what we could.

Creekhiker, I won't tell Peggy what you said about "nonsensical songs" because she considers herself a modern-day Shakespeare. I'm just kidding you, you know. These are probably her first and only compositions.

Robin said: "I can't say much - because you don't want me to....."

Oh, Robin, sweetheart, don't be that way. You could say thousands and thousands of words, and I would gladly read them all.

We never had kids either, 101.

Crazed Nitwit said...

I'm so sorry for your loss!!

I held my son while he died, we moms (human and pet) do what we have to do.

Baxter knew he was loved!

Skepticat said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Baxter left his mark in this world by making us all better people. His story has opened our hearts and brought out our compassion. I'm so glad he had people who loved him and cared for him. I wish every pet could be as fortunate.

Please take care of yourselves in the days to come.

Natalie said...

Big love coming to you and Peggy and the other pets too. They will surely notice that Baxter is no longer home.

It believe it is much harder to lose a beloved pet,as animals only ever give us unconditional love. I am sure Baxter knew you both adored him too.xx♥

La IsleƱa said...

Snow, I am so very sorry to hear of your loss. My old Lab passed away three years ago and not a day goes by do I not think of him - you'll never get over it... but it'll get easier. I hope you hang in there.

Anonymous said...

You know me by now, enough to know that I tell you the truth. Baxter's passing was more gentle than Lucky's was, but either way, the feeling in our guts, and our hearts, are severe in the pain and anguish.

I screamed "I WANT HIM BACK". As time passed, I wondered where the healing was.

I would start crying in the middle of a restaurant and continue eating, because it would do no good to wipe my face. Crying was just another thing I had to learn to accept.

When it happened in public...I didn't care.

If one more person had sent me the RAINBOW BRIDGE, I would have gone ballistic.

We now have Beau, with his own personality and an abundance of love. He fills the empty space in the house, but not the one in our hearts that is reserved for Lucky.

His urn sits on the shelf next to his photo, but it's in a room we rarely enter.

Peggy held Baxter like I held Lucky. Women, for the most part, are the ones programmed to be there at the beginning, and the end, while men have the capability of going to sleep.

I rage against unfairness of all kinds, and it does no good. So imagine raging at death. It's just a continuance of banging my head into a wall, but it's in my nature to do so.

I see no point in living if there's no point in dying and there's no way to avoid either.

Humans spend their lives knowing the end is some point. Animals spend their lives living, but they know when the end is near and accept it. For what choice do any of us have.

At least Baxter had you to ease the end for him, and you had the fortitude to do what you could. for his comfort.

The Blog Fodder said...

I am sorry for your loss. Dogs are pretty special.

I cried more when we had to put down our black lab than when Ella died.

The Bipolar Diva said...


I am so very sorry. I love you and am here for you whenever you need me.


Kay Dennison said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Words can't make it better for you and Peggy but that's all I can offer. Baxter's suffering is over and yours will subside with time -- the greatest healer.

Lorraina said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, Snow. Maybe later you'll understand it's really better this way than if he had lost you and Peggy instead of the other way around. I know Baxter had a wonderful life with you and Peggy and my heart aches for you both.

Anonymous said...

Hey there, Snow.

There are no comforting words that will take away what you're bound to go through. It hurts, always and for a while, to lose a you know very well.

Your words here, though, do validate and comfort those of us who've been through it and have moved on.

And maybe writing what you did about Baxter, your shared experience of the last day and loss... I've found that that is a way to pass the time and get me through the blackest part of the grief.

I like that you held him for awhile after he'd gone. I've done that, too, with two cats. Or placed them in a sleeping position in their little coffins for "viewing" until I was really ready to let go. I don't know why that helped/helps, but it really does.

Snow, I wish you and Peggy peace and strength these next days and weeks while you move on. It's just occurred to me at THIS MOMENT, that it was a year ago today that I lost my good friend, Kathleen. What I remember of thoughts from that day is the same as you: she was here, and then she was gone. And what I remember of thoughts a few weeks later: moments of smiles and light will continue on in her absence.

Peace and love,

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow and Peggy, I too am sorry to learn of your loss, and my heart goes out to you both.

I am sitting here with tears running down my face at the beauty of your writing and the obvious depth of your love for Baxter, Snow.

Your firm belief in everlasting nothingness is admirable, but of course you know I think you are mistaken. I would respond further, but now is not the time.

Marion said...

How difficult this was for both you and Peggy. You write so very well, Snow, it felt as if I was there with you and Peggy during that long night.

I feel for you both; I have had many dogs over the years and know just what it's like when they die. I think you helped little Baxter when you gave him the must have calmed him down, at any rate. You have great cannot have been easy giving Baxter your medication.

Much love to you both.

khelsaoe said...

{{{{hugs}}}} to you and Peggy.

Leah said...

I am so very, very sorry Snow and Peggy. I know how it is. I was heartbroken after our good old boy Pippin died two years ago. Not a day goes by still that I don't think of him.

All Consuming said...

I'm so sorry to hear this Snow, my love goes out to you both. I know you were both such loving carers for him and I'm sure he couldn't have wished for a better life. Sending you hugs and know you are in my thoughts, Michelle xxxxx

Robin said...

Dear Snow and Peggy,
you both have been in my thoughts and prayers all day. I feel the pain you are going through... how I wish I could do more.

Sending you many, many hugs and strength......


♥ Robin ♥

Joe Todd said...

Sorry for your loss Snow. I haven't had another pet since my Shephard "Sam" died about 30 years ago.The loss I had this previous week was my computer. Had to do a full system restore. Finally things are almost working ok.

ellen abbott said...

The inevitable end. I'm so sorry.

Marion said...

Snow, I'm so sorry to hear that Baxter passed on. His suffering is over. (I still miss my 20 year old Siamese cat who died a few years back.) Nobody understands the loss of a beloved pet unless they've experienced it. It's like a family member died...only one who was always good, kind, happy to see you and joyful. Give Peggy my sympathies, too. xoxo

Love & Blessings,


kj said...

i am so so sorry snow and peggy. i understand this completely, the loss, the void, the unreality. i'm sending word to my rosie to greet baxter and take care of him.

what you feel, at its core, is pure love. i hope there is comfort in that


Bernie said...

Snow and Peggy, I am so sorry for your loss. Please find comfort in knowing you provided Baxter a good home and he knew he was loved.
......:-( Hugs

The Depressed Reader said...

Hi Snow,
I'm sorry to hear of your loss - I know what it is like to lose dogs, and I feel for you man.

Matawheeze said...

It is hard to lose the furry folk who share their lives with us. Even though I didn't have the privilege of knowing him I cried for the pain you and Peggy felt, that we all feel when we lose such a friend. We keep opening ourselves to them though, don't we? Such joy and love we get and learn to give!

Mim said...

I can't even read all the comments - my heart is breaking for you both.

Just_because_today said...

there is never any comfort in loss, Snow. Not in what we did, not in what we had, not in the happiness we shared, actually because of all of that, it is more difficult to see a loved one go.
I am sorry.

Gaston Studio said...

Snow, so sorry for you and Peggy but I'm sure Baxter is looking down on you, feeling so glad that he had you two as his "parents".

Anonymous said...

I had to come back, just to see Baxter again, and knowing that these days are not getting easier. I was amazed at how I seem to recover from human deaths faster than I did from my furbaby's.

I believe it's because, UNLIKE HUMANS, our furbabies are only happy when we're happy. They give all they have, and they only want to be near us, 24/7. So there's more to remember, miss, and be heartbroken over.

Robert the Skeptic said...

We had to do the same with our little Angelina, it was heart-wrenching. Always in the back of my mind is the comforting thought that we live in a state which supports Death with Dignity.

... now if they would just allow us to pump our own gas!

yoborobo said...

Snow and Peggy, I am so very sorry. I have lost beloved pets, too, and it simply rips your heart out. We had a golden retriever that basically raised our kids. When she died, it wasn't 'like' losing a member of our family, it was losing a member of our family. I think you and Peggy are very strong to have held up as well as you both did. Take care of yourselves, I know these are very hard days for you. Pam

Diana said...

I do understand this pain Snow. It is difficult. One of the reasons that I have decided not to have anymore pets. after the five that I still have are gone. The pain is just too much. I'm so sorry for you and Peggy.
It sounds as though Baxter enjoyed a loving home. Love Di ♥

Myrna R. said...

So sorry for your loss. I can relate to the grief. Our German Shephard died over a year ago and I still think of him daily. You provided Baxter with a wonderful life. Take care.

nollyposh said...

~Love~ to you both (((hugs)))

Mad Mind said...

I am thinking of you.