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.