My grandpa died tonight, although we'd been slowly losing him for years.

I'd received a text message from my mother in the early afternoon letting me know of his failing health. "The doctor says it could be any time now," she'd written.

I volunteer at a hospice every Sunday. I was in the middle of making cookies when I got my mom's text. Earlier, I'd brought out a tray of snacks and coffee for a family who'd just lost a loved one. Later, as I sat next to my grandfather's bed, holding his hand and stroking his forehead, one of the nurses came in with a tray of snacks. I smiled at her, and laughed quietly to myself at the reversal of roles.

"Do you want a few minutes alone with your grandfather?" my mother asked me. "Is there anything you want to say?"

"No," I told her. "He knows. I've already told him." A few years ago, back before he had gotten sick. When he was more himself. It was his birthday. I wrote him a card and sat with him as he read it.

"Thank you," it said. "Thank you for teaching me how to drive a car. Thank you for teaching me how to make my own rope. Thank you for showing me how to cast a fishing line. Thank you for letting me shoot a pellet gun. Thank you for teaching me the names of all the trees in the forest. Thank you for making my childhood exciting. Thank you for being my grandfather. I love you."

I've not yet cried over my grandfather's death, but not because it doesn't sadden me. I will miss my grandfather. I will mourn his loss for the rest of my life, but we can't keep the things we love with us simply because we don't want to be without them.

My eyes teared up as I said goodbye to him for what turned out to be the last time. I kissed his forehead and rubbed his hands. He looked so small laying there in his bed. His breathing was laboured, but he looked peaceful.

I don't know where we go when we die. I don't know what happens. But I'd like to think that my grandfather is out there, somewhere, free from the tethers of the frail body he left behind. I hope that my dog is there with him too.  


So Ambitious

"Oh, are you looking to do assisted pull-ups?" the sales representative at the fitness store asked me.
"Yes," I told him. "Right now I can do zero pull-ups, and I would really like to be able to do one pull-up," I explained.
I've had the goal of being able to do one pull-up for half a year now. I figure it is time that I finally do something about it. Well, something other than just buying a pull-up/dip station that is now primarily used to hang bras to dry. 



"I don't want to do this," I sobbed, more to myself than to anyone else, as I stood in the small room. There was a blanket on the floor and an exam table to my right. My mom sat in a chair in the corner and my dog sat at my feet, more than likely wondering what all the fuss was about.
The time had come.
It was clear he wasn't getting any better. He was losing weight and moving around less and less. He was just as loving as always, but he had lost the energy and sense of excitement about life that he'd once had.
He used to roll around on the floor and kick his legs in the air. I hadn't seen him do that in over a week, and he would no longer come when I called for him.
The vet said many things to me while I sat on the floor, stroking my dog's side, but I don't remember most of them. "I am not sure," I remember replying many times, without really hearing the question. All I could think about was how much my heart hurt and that I would soon be without my best friend of more than ten years.
His heart stopped within seconds once the vet began to administer the drug. "He's gone now. He was very weak," I heard them say. I sat there, beside his body, stroking his side for several more minutes before I felt another wave of grief.
I loved that dog with all of my heart and a few hearts to spare. As I patted his head for the last time and gave him one last hug, I did not feel regret. Sure, I wished with everything inside of me that things had ended differently, but I knew with a certainty I could not put into words that I had finally proven myself worthy of my dog's adoration.
The first moment I held him, I knew that I would be with him until he took his dying breath... just as surely as I knew he was bound to break my heart. I wasn't wrong. 


My hands on the steering wheel, at ten and two, as I make my way down the highway, going a few clicks faster than I probably should be.
Watching the road ahead of me, I feel a slight pressure on the sleeve of my shirt. Looking down to my right, I see a paw gently resting on my forearm. I glance up at its owner to see him staring at me in what can only be described as hopeful adoration.
"You're such a dweeb," I tell him, taking my right hand from the wheel and rubbing his head affectionately.
I spend the rest of the four hour trip holding his paw in my hand.
It became a ritual, of sorts, on any car ride - his paw in my hand. 


The waiting game

It's a last ditch effort; bombarding his body with pills to see if something will work.
"This would be so much easier if you could just talk, Dog," I tell him while stroking his head.
"It is weird," the vet said. "His symptoms are so vague, and his test results aren't really telling us anything other than that there is fluid around his lungs." I nodded as his voice echoed through the phone.
"I can't afford to take him to the specialist," I told him and tried to keep my voice from shaking. The test the vet had recommended to confirm a diagnosis required a referral to another vet and $1,500 to start.
"If the specialist is not an option," I continued, "is there anything else we can do?"
"Well, if the fluid is caused by an infection, antibiotics would be able to treat it, or if it is congestive heart failure, water pills would help," he replied. He'd told me earlier that, if the fluid was not a result of infection or heart failure, there could be a few other possible causes that only the specialist would be able to diagnose. Two were very rare and would involve surgery resulting in a bill of upwards of $5,000, and the other was a tumour on the heart.
"If I chose to give him antibiotics and water pills, would we be doing it for him or would it really be just for me?" I asked.
"What is frustrating with this case," the vet said, "is that we just don't know what the cause is. There is a chance that the pills could work, but we just don't know."
"Okay," I said, and took a deep breath. "And if I give him these pills, how long would we wait to see results before it is no longer fair to the dog?" I asked.
"I wouldn't let it go more than a week. But if he starts eating again, more than just tiny little pieces, we'd extend that to two weeks and take things from there."
"Okay," I said, "let's do that then."
I've spent a lot of time crying. While the idea of my dog dying was looming on the horizon, it wasn't something that I'd seriously given much thought. I'd assumed I'd have more time. More time to be a better owner. More time to spoil him. More time to take him on long, slow walks. More time pet his fur and tell him that he would have to start pulling his weight around the apartment and get a job. But I've come to realize that, no matter what happens, I have already been lucky to have had this much time with him. I've had nearly eleven years of his love and loyalty, and, since he started showing signs of illness, I've already gotten an extra week I didn't think I would have. If our journey together has reached its end it will hurt, but I have no right to complain. But I don't think I can be blamed either... for being greedy for more.



Gandhi's longest hunger strikes lasted 21 days. So far dog is on day 23, although he seems willing to cheat every so often.

Both blood and urine collected and analyzed, the only thing we can say for certain is that dog is probably not fasting to end violence or anything quite so noble. 

It is hard to say if he is in his final days. Other than having no interest in food, he largely still seems to be enjoying life, but there are times when he is so still that I have to place my ear to his chest to make sure he is breathing. 

I spend hours just staring at him and stroking his head. I feel anxious when I have to be anywhere that requires me to stray from his side. Hard as it may be, I can accept that this may be the end of our journey together, but it breaks my heart to think he might take his final breath when I can't be right next to him. 

Without any sort of definitive answers from the vet, I am not sure if the idea of euthanasia is jumping the gun. "If only you could talk," I say to him, as we stare at one another. "I don't know what you want me to do, and I don't want to make the wrong choice." 

So, for the time being, I keep him next to me in my bed at night, listening to him snore as he breathes in and out, hoping that maybe tomorrow he will decide he has proven his point and eat the bacon I have cooked for him. 


My best friend

As I jogged at a leisurely pace on the treadmill, I looked over to my dog on the couch and squinted my eyes in an attempt to see if I could tell he was still breathing.

The dog is old now, eleven to be precise, and he hasn't been feeling the greatest over the last few days. Feeling overly sympathetic, I have been spoiling him by letting him sleep on my bed and on top of other comfortable surfaces. I can't tell if his apparent lethargy is due to illness or simply because he's always been this lazy but never had something comfortable enough to lay on.

As I stared at him, determining that he was in fact still very much alive, I tried to think back to some of the more memorable moments we've shared over the last decade. He is my best friend, and he is the only friend I have that has shit on my floor and faced absolutely zero consequences afterwards.

I am not sure what I will do when he dies. Sure, dog number two will still be kicking it, and the cat (always the cat), but it won't be the same.

When I finished my run, I decided to take him for a walk in the snow. He sniffed around and hopped in the air as I threw snowballs at his head (trust me, he likes it). "I think you're faking," I told him. "You're feeling much better than you've been letting on." He ignored my accusations and rolled onto his back, kicking his legs up in the air.

We stayed outside until he got back onto his feet and led me back in towards the door.

I hope my dog knows how much I love him. Even when he passes so much gas within the confines of my bedroom that the smell causes me to wake from a dead sleep. He has been much better to me than I deserve, and I can't imagine being anything but completely lost without him. 


Growing Up

At some point in time it is going to happen to you. You're going to reach that age where very nearly everyone you know is a "responsible adult." Your entire circle of friends will consider it a big score when one of you can come up with enough pot to roll a single joint.
You'll huddle around it, reminiscing over the last time you'd partaken in this particular past time. "I haven't done this since before I had kids," someone will surely say.
You'll say nothing though, because it has only been a few weeks since you smoked a bowl. The only reason it hadn't been more recently was because your dogs broke both of your bongs and you'd been a little careless with the glass components of your vaporizer. The tinfoil-wrapped straw device you'd rigged up as a replacement just wasn't cutting it anymore. Before that though, you'd gone through two solid months of getting high every day after work. You'd ended up getting to know the local Taco Bell staff on a first-name basis.
"I am a grown woman," you repeat to yourself.