Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Knew No Nonhuman Word for Love

Rudy died Monday night. I liked but didn't love Rudy (for reasons fair and unfair), though Earthgirl did, so send all Kind thoughts towards her not me.

On Sunday night he started breathing hard and didn't want to walk or play, and on Monday morning he took his morning walk lethargically. During the day he peed all over the house so we knew something was wrong, some doggy virus or something, and Earthgirl took him to the vet. He had a 104 fever (101 is normal) and was dehydrated and had an elevated white blood cell count, but the vet couldn't see anything beyond that and said take him home. Earthgirl insisted Rudy stay over night so more tests could be run the next morning. The vet nurses wrote at 730 PM Monday night that Rudy had responded to being hydrated, was standing and wagging his tail in his cage, and then they went home. When the AM nurses arrived at 6:00 Tuesday morning, Rudy was dead in his cage.

The vet called me at 8:00. When I asked what was the cause she said they didn't know. I said when will you know, and she said we won't unless there is an autopsy and they are very expensive. I said, if you want to know why a dog died, and (she told me) it's been years since a dog died overnight under your care, you have my full permission to do an autopsy, but other than that no, would you cremate him and give us the ashes.

The vet called again at 10:00. They had performed a preliminary autopsy. She said they were all distraught at the office and all the doctors wanted to know what happened. Rudy had a aggressive tumor (they're not sure if it was cancer, just rapidly growing, maybe only weeks old) on one of his kidneys and it ruptured the artery that feeds blood into the kidney. He bled to death internally in his sleep. There was nothing we could have done, nothing the vets could have done, we did nothing wrong, we'd gotten him to the vet as soon as we noticed he had a problem. Did I want to send the tumor off for a biopsy? No, it doesn't matter, I said.

And I'm thinking, thank goodness Earthgirl insisted they keep Rudy overnight so she didn't find him dead in the living room in the morning and think we killed him by not closing the door to the garbage snug and he mouthed it open and ate a ball of aluminum foil (one of the reasons I liked but did not love Rudy is because he would when he could and he slunk around looking to) and it clogged him up, or think, I wish we hadn't fenced off the backyard a month ago and let him outside because he must have eaten something he shouldn't. I'm not sure what we would have done with the body; we wouldn't have taken it to the vets for an autopsy, though I suppose we would have paid them for the cremation.

This is how selfish I am: I'm thinking, hearing Earthgirl - the least selfish person in the world, and people can vouch - express relief that she wasn't culpable in her loved dog's death, thinking, thank goodness Rudy died in the hands of the authorities so Rudy's death isn't a burden to her and her burden a burden to me.


John Updike

For days the good old bitch had been dying, her back
pinched down to the spine and arched to ease the pain,
her kidneys dry, her muzzle white. At last
I took a shovel into the woods and dug her grave

in preparation for the certain. She came along,
which I had not expected. Still, the children gone,
such expeditions were rare, and the dog,
spayed early, knew no nonhuman word for love.

She made her stiff legs trot and let her bent tail wag.
We found a spot we liked, where the pines met the
The sun warmed her fur as she dozed and I dug;
I carved her a safe place while she protected me.

I measured her length with the shovel’s long handle;
she perked in amusement, and sniffed the heaped-up
Back down at the house, she seemed friskier,
but gagged, eating. We called the vet a few days later.

They were old friends. She held up a paw, and he
injected a violet fluid. She swooned on the lawn;
we watched her breathing quickly slow and cease.
In a wheelbarrow up to the hole, her warm fur shone.


  1. I'm so sorry about Rudy, to whoever loved him. He didn't suffer for long. When Trixie, my last cocker spaniel, died in my arms I took her to the emergency vet on Nebel. They took her. So that's what you do.

  2. Thank you very much. The vets said he died in his sleep without any distress. That is a comfort, especially for Earthgirl.

    That place on Nebel is wonderful. The were great with Katie when she died of a very similar case and with Clover when his kidneys shut down. I hope we have no cause to go there for a very long time.

  3. My condolences to Earthgirl.

    Re: The Democrats: I'll quote meself:

    The saddest part of all of this? The suggestion that the Obama-Clinton position, (i.e. let Israel do whatever they want to the Palestinians, while providing billions in aid, cover at the U.N., and at most an occasional finger wag) is not craven enough already.

  4. I take it as evidence that the divine is either monstrous or non-existent, when dogs die.

  5. Ugh. But very glad to hear he died peacefully.

  6. I love dogs more than I love people and this one resonates for me as my own canine pal is aging and I expect she'll follow Rudy after not too long.

    In dog heaven, the squirrels never escape.

  7. PS: de nada on the bumpage, sen~or.

  8. A very moving arrangement, BDR.

    I second the sentiments of Mr. Crow on the question of dogs and their deaths. I suppose the only consolation is that we get there soon enough ourselves.