Cozy Tales: 61. Daisy’s Last Stand

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As a room mom at Meghan’s school, Lauren often went on class trips when they did something fun. She had left Daisy alone for six hours on one such trip which was the longest Daisy had been left unsupervised in quite some time. When Lauren got home she called me in tears telling me that Daisy was dying because she was almost unresponsive. I told her that I would come right home.

I was working up near the New York border at the time, so “coming right home” meant a 90 minute trip, and when I got home Daisy did indeed seem to be nearing the end of her time with us as she seemed to be barely breathing and had no energy. She didn’t even have her eyes open while Lauren spent hours with her that afternoon lying on the floor and talking to her. Daisy seemed as though she would draw a final shuddering breath and be gone at any moment.

We decided to have Pizza and Movie Night upstairs to be with Daisy since she could no longer manage the stairs. I stayed home with Daisy and as Lauren left to get the pizza, Daisy didn’t even lift her head which we felt was a sure sign that she was no longer with us, at least mentally. I sat on the floor with her while Lauren was away so that Daisy had someone with her at all times.

When Lauren walked up the stairs with dinner, Daisy sat bolt upright, her nose twitching in the air while she savored the sweet smell of fresh pizza. The little stinker! We loaded up a movie and passed out the slices while Daisy sat with us enjoying crust and treats like nothing had been wrong. We would never again underestimate the power of pizza crust where dogs were concerned.

Daisy would go through stages of deep sleep, only to wake up and be fine, or at least as fine as possible given her issues. For weeks we would wonder if she was dying while she slept, then marvel at her return to the land of the living.

Daisy was having good days and bad, but her quality of life wasn’t very good. She had lost a lot of weight, not to mention a good deal of fur and as a result she was no longer the beautiful elegant Miss Daisy on the outside. Her gentle soul and regal attitude were still visible in her eyes, but only when she was alert and she was alert less and less as time went on.

Lauren, who loved Daisy in the same way that I loved my Cozy, was an emotional wreck because she knew that we would need to put Daisy to sleep soon. We had many tear-filled talks late at night while sitting on the floor with Daisy. Lauren wondered if we had waited too long already. She wondered if we were being selfish keeping Daisy around. I knew that feeling all too well. I assured her that I would step in if I thought that Daisy was suffering but I also told her that it had to be her call. I would not have let someone talk me into bringing Cozy in for that last visit. Just as Cozy had needed to tell me when it was time, we agreed that Daisy needed to tell us on her own.

It got to a point where Daisy could no longer stand which meant that she could no longer get up to go out. When she wet herself without being able to get up Lauren knew it was time. Lauren came to me sobbing and said that she couldn’t make the call so of course I said I would take care of it. We had reversed roles, and I knew that Lauren needed all the support that I could give her. We agreed that Daisy should enjoy one more night with us, and we set out to make it a special one.

We got a movie, and a pizza, and had pizza and movie night in the living room once more. Daisy got all the crust she could want, which it turned out, was a lot. She even got some pizza cheese, which was possibly the only thing better than the crust. She got lots of love that night while Lauren sat on the floor with her. The girls would come down and sit with her as well while we all watched the movie. It was one of the best movie nights ever.

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That night Lauren slept on the floor with her, curled up around her on a sleeping bag. I would check on her from time to time, but I knew from experience that she needed this special time with her Daisy bear. I don’t know what they talked about, and it was none of my business, but I’m sure that Daisy knew that she was a good girl, a wonderful babysitter, and one of the best dogs ever. I’m sure she knew that she would soon be in no pain, and that she would soon meet Cozy where they would be able to romp and play together forever.

The next day Daisy enjoyed a breakfast of bran muffins and waffles. I made the call to the new vet and asked if he could come to our house. He could not, so we set about trying to get Miss Daisy into the Pathfinder which would prove to be a bit harder than we expected.

At first I thought that having a large sheet of plywood would be the answer. I had gone out earlier in the week and bought a nice piece – about two feet by four feet and 3/4” thick. We managed to shift Daisy around and got her on the board, but as soon as we tried to pick her up, she would start to scramble and frantically attempt to jump off. After almost dumping her twice, we abandoned that idea. At this point I moved the Pathfinder so that the tailgate was backed up to the front door of the house so that we wouldn’t have to walk nearly as far with Daisy once we figured out how to move her.

Next we tried a rug. We got Daisy onto the rug, and tried again to lift her. Again she scrambled and again we almost dropped her. Daisy was exerting more energy than she had in days, which made Lauren and me both feel terrible. We tried to calm her down by talking calmly to her, but that wasn’t very easy while lifting her. This was going about as well as trying to get her to use the ramp, but there was no giggling this time.

We finally had the idea of folding her up in the rug. It wasn’t elegant, but it worked. Instead of trying to lift her flat on the rug, Lauren and I picked up the corners almost like two people do when folding a large blanket together. With Daisy gently folded she was like a swaddled baby. She was still able to see, she was unable to scramble, and somehow now that she was more secure, she didn’t seem to panic. We gently walked her down the stairs and into the back of the Pathfinder and Lauren crawled in the back with her. Colleen sat in her car seat in the back seat. Meghan was very excited because for the first time, she got to sit in the front seat with Daddy while we drove the four miles to the vet’s office.

After Dr. Fritz had died, we had tried other vets but we hadn’t really bonded with any of them. The vet that met us in the parking lot was was a big man without the easygoing likable nature that had endeared us to Dr. Fritz. He rolled a stainless steel cart out to the car to help us get the weakened Miss Daisy into the office.

Daisy sat in the back of the Pathfinder as we all looked on. She was unable to even sit up on her own, and she was missing much of her beautiful fur, but I’ll be damned if she didn’t still look regal. As I explained to the vet that she couldn’t stand, and started to outline a plan for getting her out, he reached in, grabbed Daisy in a particularly ungentle manner, shifted her around in his arms and put her on the cart. It happened so fast that I didn’t even have a chance to stop him.

I was livid. Lauren was in shock. Here our beloved regal Miss Daisy had just been handled like a sack of cement by a vet about as caring as a longshoreman with a hangover. Now was not the time to complain, and the things I would say were not fit for the ears of my two young children who were watching and listening. Daisy, meanwhile, was understandably panicked. Lauren knelt down to get face to face with her and talked to her in a soothing voice. As always, Lauren’s calming touch did the trick and Daisy calmed down right away. We wheeled her inside to an exam room and had the kids wait in the lobby. The entire scene was a little too familiar, but I knew I needed to be strong for Lauren.

The vet, now listed on the first page of my mental book entitled Assholes, was the opposite of Dr. Fritz in almost every way. Dr. Fritz had genuinely cared about Cozy and us. He has been wonderful. This guy seemed to me to be just doing a job while trying to be nice because someone had told him that vets should be nice. It was awful.

Lauren knelt down in front of Daisy’s face and stroked her head. She let Daisy know that she was there with her, and that it would soon be over. She told her how she was a good girl and how much we all loved her. When Lauren was ready, we gave the vet the okay.

As her head gently rested down and she went to sleep for the last time, I knew it was the right thing to do. She looked at peace and relaxed, no longer bound by any physical discomfort or pain. Lauren would later tell me that when the vet had given her the injection, that she thought she had seen Daisy’s eyes widen a bit, almost like it hurt, or that she was in shock. If even for a second, it gave Lauren cause to worry that we had hurt her, and that she had left us afraid.

I told Lauren that I had once gone in for an in-patient procedure at the hospital. They had sedated me so as a result I was asleep for most of it, but at one point they did something that hurt. I was dopey and mostly out of it, but I woke up startled and in pain. The pain quickly subsided, but what mattered to me in my confusion was that one of the nurses knew that the pain was coming, and had held my hand. I had only been awake for a few seconds, but I clearly remember the gesture. It was a sign of comfort that I understood at a primal level. I have no idea who the nurse was, but I vividly remember her setting me at ease. I knew that I would be alright.

I told Lauren that even if Daisy had experienced any pain (which I doubted) that she knew that Lauren was there. When Daisy closed her eyes for the last time it was Lauren’s face that she saw, and Lauren’s voice that she heard. Nothing had ever made Daisy happier.  Every dog deserves the love of their person at the end. Regardless of anything else, what mattered to Daisy was that Lauren was with her.

Always.

The vet left us alone with Daisy and I let Lauren have her moment with Daisy as she had for me with my Cozy. We then invited the children in to see Miss Daisy one last time. There were no questions this time, only kisses and goodbyes. There was no talk of zombies in the car ride home. My girls were growing up and they were more somber this time.

On Daisy’s last night with us, I set out to make a paw print impression like I had with Cozy. I mixed all the ingredients, poured the mixture into a small cake pan and took an impression of Daisy’s paw. I have no idea what I did differently, but this impression was perfect. The only problem this time was the small matter of removing the mold from the pan. I had used a real baking pan – not an aluminum disposable one, and the mold was stuck in there.

For years that cake pan containing Daisy’s paw print sat on Lauren’s nightstand until some ten years later I carefully removed it and mounted it into a shadow box frame like I had with Cozy’s. It sits in a place of honor in our living room.

I have a rack of computer equipment in my garage including a couple of servers that at the time hosted various web sites like Newf.net and GAD.net. The night of Daisy’s passing, one of my servers crashed. While I tend to be of a scientific mind about most things, I had to wonder if the server was sad. You see, I had named my two primary servers Cozy and Daisy. While servers crash from time to time, this one had not crashed in years. and the server crashing that night was significant because it was named after Daisy. The server ran Newf.net, and Daisy was its mascot. Her face had graced the top left corner of every page since the site’s inception. On the night that Daisy died, the server named for her crashed. Coincidence? Only Daisy knows for sure.

Godspeed Daisy Bear.

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