We had to put my dog Billy to sleep two weeks ago on Tuesday, December 18. I haven’t been able to write about until now — and, really, I’m not able to write about it yet — but I wanted to mark his passing here before the year passed with him.
We had him for so long that I don’t know exactly how long it was. Billy was a part of our family for longer than Beth and I have been married. We got married in June of ’95 and I think he was still our “new” dog during the Northridge earthquake back in ’94, so he was with us for at least 14 years. That’s a long time no matter what species’ clock you’re using.
Billy was a really good boy, but he did have his idiosyncrasies. He was not a brave dog, for example. He may have been at one time, but the Northridge quake changed all that. That earthquake really did a number on him, totally scrambled his brains. Everything scared him after that. I can remember one time when a drawing Zoe had done at school that we had taped to the refrigerator came loose and slowly wafted to the floor like a leaf on the wind. That paper scared the ever-loving shit out of Billy and he ran as fast as he could to get away from it. Unfortunately, he was on the hardwood floor when this happened, so he ended up running in place like Scooby Doo, claws skittering on the floor as he scrambled madly away from the dangerous toddler crayon artwork, going nowhere fast.
He wasn’t terribly bright, either. He and Suki (another of our dogs) got out of the yard one day and disappeared for several hours. Suki finally showed up at dinnertime, but Billy didn’t come back. So I went out looking for him, riding my bike all through our neighborhood, certain that I was going to find his dead body in the gutter of one of the busy streets surrounding our neighborhood. When I didn’t find him I went to the local animal shelter to see if he was there. And sure enough, there he was, looking sheepish and forlorn and, yes, scared in one of the kennels there.
I didn’t take him home right away, though. You see, I had gotten Billy from the dog pound in the first place, so I sat down there on the ground outside his kennel and we had a little talk about where he wanted to live. I reminded him that I had rescued him from the pound once — and spent quite a bit of money doing so — and now here he was back at the pound again. So he had a decision to make: live with me, or keep coming back to the pound? Because him leaving my perfectly good home to come back to the dog pound made me wonder if he really wanted to stay with us. We sat there and I waited while he thought about it, and I guess he decided he wanted to come home with me because he gave me a Ha ha, really funny, make jokes while I’m in jail, can we just go home now? kind of look. So I bailed him out and took him home again.
Billy also had a particularly disgusting eating habit – his favorite bed-time snack was cat poop. Every night as we were closing the house up for the night, his last stop before lying down on the floor on my side of the bed was at the catbox, where he would root around looking for what we called “kitty truffles.” He’d clean the catbox for us, and then curl up next to the bed with kitty litter still stuck to his nose. He absolutely loved cat shit.
But Billy was getting really old, and the vet thought he probably had liver cancer, and he had really bad arthritis and was always in pain. By the end he’d gotten so bad that he could barely walk and he couldn’t stand up on his own at all. We have hardwood floors through about half the house and he simply could not navigate them at all — he’d slip and fall down and then couldn’t get up. We put carpet runners down to help him with the traction, but he needed our help getting up at the end — he’d just lie there and bark until someone came and picked him up, and then he’d totter off a few steps and fall down again half the time. He simply couldn’t get around on his own anymore, so we knew it was time.
Our vet agreed to come to the house so he wouldn’t have to go through the stress of going to the vet’s office — something that always gave him a lot of stress. We spent our last evening with him pampering him and loving him and cherishing our last moments with him, and we took the pictures below with him that night. When the vet came we all surrounded him and held him and petted him as he went to sleep for the last time. I think he felt safe and loved at the end. I hope he did.
His ashes came back from the pet crematory on Friday, so Billy’s home again. We miss him a lot.