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grief makes me stupid

April 24, 2011

Aside from the terrible act itself, there’s no word or phrase I like referring to what

we had done to Roameo.  “Put down” is too cold, “put away” is too vague, “put to

sleep” is a copout.  “Euthanasia” is correct but silly.  Are we talking about Chinese


“Put to death” is the one I’m most comfortable with, even if I don’t like the implica-

tion that we were part of it.  But we were.  It was our decision.  I regret Roameo’s

death, but not the choice we made.  He slipped to the other side so easily.  There

was no yelp, not even a sigh, just the slightest relaxation of his muscles.  As soon

as the vet said “I’m making the injection,” it was over in a heartbeat.  Literally.

A tumor was blocking circulation to his left front leg.  When I put him on the surgi-

cal table the vet told her assistant to shave “the warm leg” for the catheter.  Once

inserted, the catheter was secured with an orange bandage.  A healthy Roameo

would have thought that insulting and torn it off.  But he was already letting go.

The young assistant then took a firm grasp to steady him.  Jude asked if she could

do that, but the assistant said she had to, to assure he didn’t struggle.  The vet said

“let her do it.”  That was good, because Jude was not going to be denied.  As she

steadied his body, I held his head.  I couldn’t see the vet, but Jude, the assistant

and the receptionist were crying.  I was, too, and I could barely watch.

He went so quickly and effortlessly that I didn’t realize it until the vet said it was

over.  Jude and I stroked him for awhile, then she went to the car to check on

Slinkee.  I used the washroom, then went back to pet him one last time.  I so

much wanted him to jump off the table and head for the door.

The rest of the day was done on automatic pilot.  It was just left foot out, right foot

out, then left again, then right, left, right.  It was all I could do to remember that.

Grief makes me stupid.  We did some absolutely necessary shopping and caught

the ferry home.  Jude made a supper of eggs and sausage: the simplest, most com-

forting meal we could think of.  We went to bed early, exhausted.

The next day we had the multiple blessings of ample sun and Mowat and Maese.

M & M’s mom Jolie dropped Mowat off and took Maese to a tea party.  Mowat and I

set up our fishing company and he caught a dragonfly larva, some sort of water

beetle and five somethings that looked like tiny shrimp.

When Jolie and Maese came back, Jude and Maese made cookies while Jolie and

Mowat paddled around the pond in a kayak.  I stretched out on the boards we had

put across the creek and soaked up as many rays as my SPF 1000 sunscreen would

let through.  The day was the perfect antidote for sadness.

Yesterday brought even more blessings.  Good neighbour Chris came by with many

cold beers and one warm one that he had thoughtfully marked by wrapping in a rub-

ber band.  We sat on the deck and drank a toast to Roameo.  Chris and his wife Nina

had also lost a beloved dog not too long ago.

It was a perfect spring day, the one the neighbourhood had been waiting forChris,

Jude and I solved all the world’s problems in less than 3 hours, so he went home

to tell Nina the good news.  Shortly after he left, our friend Lee and his friend Mike

showed up.  Lee and Roameo got along famously.  I told him immediately and we

shared a hug of sorrow.

Lee had some nasty rope burns on his hands that Jude treated.  Soon Lee was able to

wrap his fingers around a beer and we had another toast for Roameo.  Lee and Mike

headed out an hour later.  Jude and I had pizza a second night in a row and watched

a rerun of “Saturday Night Live” and a tape of another SNL rerun from last week.

The emptiness that Roameo’s death left in our lives is slowly filling up.  Mowat, who

is often Maese’s antagonist, gave her a big hug when she got back from the tea party.

Our corn and tomato starts are robust.  Slinkee is beginning to test her power as the

alpha pet.  Ollie brought a bird into the house and Jude chased him out as feathers


I’m an infrequent crier.  I can’t remember the last time I shed a tear before last

Thursday.  So I forget how potent and cleansing it is.  It dissolves grief.  Hugs help

tremendously, as well.  But what has helped most has been your thoughtful words

of condolence, sharing of similar stories and poems.  I’ve learned that grief is a

burden best carried on many shoulders.

Here’s some photos of Roameo’s last day.

  1. April 24, 2011 11:39 am

    You are fortunate that you have such great neighbors who understand what is needed at such times, and fill the need so beautifully.

    We have an orchard in the back corner of our lot, and that’s where all of our critters go for their final sleep. When we had Yazmine put down, the night before we gave her a magnificent supper of salmon (her favorite) from the restaurant we worked at, and though she was skin and bones, she managed to do it full justice.

    The next morning, we took her the 25 miles into the vet, gave her the final kindness, wrapped her in a shroud made from a beautiful sari, laid her in the back seat, and when we could see again to drive, we headed off to do a few necessary errands while in town.

    Somehow, I forgot that in death, sphincters release. The magnificent supper of salmon was not so nice the second time around, and we got to *ahem* enjoy it for about 40 minutes.

    Believe me, when it was Thor’s turn the next month, we went straight from the vet’s to home! We were scared *ahem* shitless that the output from an 80 pound dog would far exceed the output from a 6 pound cat. Fortunately for us, we worried in vain.

    It was however, a lesson that will never be forgotten in the future!

    • April 24, 2011 4:45 pm

      I like “the final kindness”, Rosie. It’s accurate but gentle. We gave Roameo a light breakfast. His appetite never flagged, but we were aware of that sphincter thing. Also, we weren’t quite sure that it would happen that day. We had decided that if the vet told us of a drug that could really help, we’d try it. But she examined him and said “we’re not winning here”, and that was that.

  2. April 24, 2011 12:41 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved family member. Regardless of how we lose them the grief is just so overwhelming, even if we are ending the suffering. Your neighbors (friends) are just so lovely, and the way they helped comfort you is amazing. Just about the time I want to give up on mankind I read something like this and it restores my faith somewhat.

    Hugs from Oregon where it’s raining again.

    • April 24, 2011 4:51 pm

      Thank you. Our neighbours are simply the best. We help each other out in all kinds of ways. Dogs here tend to be big and protective. One of them is famous for facing down a cougar. Thank you for the hugs. It’s raining again here, too.

  3. Fletcher Sanders permalink
    April 24, 2011 2:33 pm

    Sorry for your loss. Most of my life I’ve had a dog. Those who say that their responses are just classical conditioning either can’t love, or refuse to believe that anyone but human’s have a personality. They ones I have had have all had different personalities. If there’s one thing that I can say, Allen, its that you have the memories and they won’t die. You’ll be sitting around one day and all of a sudden you will start laughing when you remember something Roameo did. You can pat yourself on the back for making his life after he found you great before his death. Just think about what it would have been like without you. Embrace the pain, let it go, remember the great times, continue to live. This too shall pass.

    • April 24, 2011 4:53 pm

      I appreciate that, Fletcher. Like you said, we’ll have many fond memories over the years about Roameo. In fact, when Jude was working on our ham feast earlier today, we laughed about him not being underfoot. Slinkee did her best to fill both spaces.

  4. Charlotte Wales permalink
    April 25, 2011 6:22 am

    You’re right, Allen – grief is best shared, as it lightens the burden. Thinking of your Roameo, I worked in Dingo’s “garden” this weekend; the older plants are growing well – ginger, mums, a peace rose, cactus (HATE the damned thing!) and a eucalyptus tree; the new plants are coming up nicely, too – caladiums and oregano. I still tear up when reading your stories about Roameo – it rips off the scab that softens Dingo’s loss. I still hear Dingo stories from friends and acquaintances, though; she made an impression on everyone she met

    • April 25, 2011 12:23 pm

      I wish I could have met Dingo. It takes quite a being to feed a peace rose AND a cactus.

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