Nearly nine years ago, we brought Reese home from the SF SPCA. On January 20, we said goodbye to her.
After nearly losing her back in October, she rebounded with the help of our amazing vet. Over the ensuing weeks and months, as her war against heart failure waged ever fiercer, our victories became smaller and less frequent. In the last couple days, her breathing became more labored, she became weak, and — the surest sign of trouble — she began to refuse food. It was time.
The decision was not easy, but once made was clear as day. She brought us years of joy, laughter and love, and it was our responsibility to make her last moments as good as they could be. We took her down to the beach one last time, then the vet came. She passed peacefully in a place she loved with us by her side.
People always tell you that you'll know when it's the right time to put down your dog, but that's not entirely true. You'll always hold out hope, always expect another miracle. It was only after the decision was made, after the deed was done, and after we had time to reflect on old pictures and videos, did we realize how far gone she really was. Compared to her last days, it's hard to imagine our Reese was ever this energetic, yet it wasn't that long ago.
Caring for a sick creature takes its toll, and again in ways we didn't fully understand until after. There were a thousand scripts running in our heads at all times. Where's the dog? Does she need medication? What was that noise? Did she have a fainting spell? Did she pee in the laundry room? Does she have water? When she was alive and fighting, we were programmed to react to a variety of things, expecting the worst. The stress was ambient, constant, and in the most literal sense devastating. It destroyed my will to create, and really to do much of anything other than nap and lose myself in my phone. It's only now, well after the fact, that I've been able to claw my way out of the abyss of depression.
We hoped to get more time with Reese, but we treasured as much as we had. Nine years accounts for about a fifth of each of our lives, and well over a third of our lives together. The vacancy in our lives is huge. Yet despite the heartbreak, we won't hesitate to do it again.
We took some time to heal, went on a well-timed trip to Mexico with friends, and will take a trip to Southern California at the end of this month. After I return from a conference in LA the first weekend of April, we will begin the hunt for a new companion.