Taking Sofie to the vet just over two weeks ago, we knew there was a possibility that we wouldn’t be bringing her home again. Intellectually we could tell that this world was becoming too much for her old bones, but our minds and our hearts weren’t syncing.
Emotionally, we weren’t prepared to not have Sofie in our lives. We still aren’t.
Earlier in February we had stocked up on cans of wet food, her current favourite treats (Dr. Clauder’s Trainee Snacks if anyone’s wondering), and lots of dehydrated chicken and duck breast. We were looking at dog-friendly hotels for an end-of-March getaway. We were considering renting a car and taking Sofie on a road trip to Denmark when Coronazeit restrictions lifted.
We were not planning on being dog-less. While Tony and I had talked about not drawing out the process if our discussion with the vet leaned towards letting Sofie go, we had not registered what saying goodbye would mean.
On that last trip to the vet clinic Tony held Sofie in his arms the whole way, despite bringing a backpack to carry her. After five tough days, we were taking her to the vet ostensibly to discuss how to move forward. Looking back on it now, and watching videos of Sof throughout the years, it’s crystal clear how subtle and pervasive the ravages of old age had been. (I’ve written another post about how we knew it was time to put Sofie down.)
We watched her breathe for sixteen years. Feeling the soft puffs of air on our skin when she rested her nose close to an arm. Those small moments were precious then and even more precious now. In the last few months, we’d started peering more closely at her torso, confirming that she was breathing at all. Checking whether she was breathing had an element of hope in it. If she died in her sleep, at home, there would be no decision for us to make about ending her life. The knowledge that we commissioned her death is hard to swallow.
On February 22nd, 2021 we watched Sofie draw her last breath.
As the vet administered the sedative, panic arose in Sofie’s eyes. The body that had already started to betray her was now slipping further from her control. As the drugs took hold, she softened. A general anesthetic further calmed her small body and I tucked her back legs towards me, lowering her torso to the table, all four legs resting fully on a towel. That same towel had lined her travel carrier as she moved with us from Canada to Europe. The red-toned flower-print held memories of her adventures on planes, trains, and automobiles for us; hopefully that ragged towel brought Sofie some familiarity on her last voyage to an unfamiliar destination.
The vet warned us that Sofie’s eyes wouldn’t fully close when she passed, leaving her looking partially awake. When the euthenasia drug took hold, she looked peaceful. We saw our little floof at ease for the first time in a long time. I think we understood then how much Sofie had been suffering, that she may have been ready to shuffle off this mortal coil, even if we weren’t ready to let her go.
Tony and I sobbed. I was partially glad for the mask covering the lower part of my face. Absorbing some of the tears. We walked home from the vet with tears streaming, uncaring what strangers who crossed our path might think. We now know first-hand the dehydrating power of grief.
And now we try to find our equilibrium without her. Our mornings feel empty without the routine of taking her out. Our days adrift without purpose and her companionship. Our bedtimes uncertain as we no longer have the marker of her last night-pee to guide us.
We may never feel ready to have let Sofie go. At least we have millions of moments to remember her by. As part of processing the grief, we created a five-ish minute video capturing some of the wonderful times we shared. Perhaps it helps you remember her, too.