My dog, Moose, passed away last Saturday night.
He spontaneously suffered from a punctured lung, and there was nothing the veterinarian could reasonably do to save him. If he had tried, Moose would have been subjected to a long, painful recovery — if he made it through surgery. So, my dad and stepmom made the gut-wrenching, soul-aching decision to put him down. Since I was in Ann Arbor, I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.
Despite being nearly 10-and-a-half, Moose was a seemingly healthy dog. He ate well, chased passing cars across the yard and didn’t have a hard time walking up stairs.
But now, he’s gone. What gives me solace, though, is that Moose did not suffer. He didn’t have arthritis or hip dysplasia that would have caused a painful, debilitating decline. He went without much pain. He left us on top. I suppose that’s all I can really ask for.
Yet as I drive, recline on my couch filling out medical school applications, or sit at my desk at work, his memories infiltrate my thoughts.
I think about the time he barked at the squirrel in the tree. And the other time. And the other time. And the other time.
I think about the time he pretended to be deaf, only for us to realize an hour later he was just trolling the whole family. I crack up every time that gets brought up.
I think about the all the times I pet him, stopped, and then was immediately scratched because he wanted me to continue. I relented, every time.
I think about the times taking his 130-pound frame into the pet store and calling him “Tiny” as other customers walked by. It was always hilarious.
I think about the (semi-gross?) times he licked my face.
I think about the times I laid with him on the floor, when we would look at each other eye to eye.
I think about the sound of his bark.
And I think about discovering what a Shepadoodle was nearly 11 years ago, telling my family this was a dog we had to have. He would be big, but not shed (though that claim turned out to be very, very wrong). He would be perfect for us.
It’s just so hard to believe that the next time I drive home, he won’t be outside trying to block me as I pull into the driveway.
The impact of a pet, especially one like Moose, is impossible to describe. It sounds a little weird to say, but Moose was like a brother to me. He was larger than life. Despite his imposing size, anyone who met him loved him, or at the very least, tolerated him. (My friend once texted me saying, “You know I hate dogs, but I didn’t mind Moose. That’s the best praise I can give a dog.” I’ll take it.)
When I came home on Sunday, our home felt noticeably emptier. Yes, we have two other dogs (shoutout to Gracie and Penny), but it is clear Moose’s death left a glaring hole in our family. Throughout his whole life, he brought us together. He taught us what unconditional love was all about. He could turn any bad day into a good one. But because of this, I know his spirit will live on in me.
Mortality had been on my mind before Saturday.
Nearly two weeks ago, my grandfather was admitted into the hospital after experiencing chest pains, and faced the prospect of needing stents or bypass surgery. Luckily, after undergoing a heart catheterization, neither was necessary. Still, I couldn’t help but contemplate the possibility of my grandfather’s life being significantly altered. I was afraid.
And on Friday, I finished listening to the audiobook of “Being Mortal,” the book of Dr. Atul Gawande’s musings on how death in the United States should be handled to reduce pain and suffering of the elderly at the end of life. Gawande discusses the need to have difficult conversations about what our goals are as we get older. We have to ask ourselves and each other, “How much pain and treatment for aches and diseases are we willing to handle to maintain our desired quality of life?”
It had me debating what I would want and what my family would want when death is on the horizon.
But those thoughts were born out of fear and hypotheticals. This past weekend was all too real. I experienced actual loss with actual grief with actual sadness.
I know this column has a lot going on — it’s compiled of Jackson Pollock-esque, scrambled thoughts — but I had to write it. My friend Aarica, my co-editorial page editor during the school year who’s filling in right now for the summer editor, texted me, “You can always write about something else.”
Maybe that column would have been more organized. However, that wouldn’t be fitting for a column on death. Death is messy and difficult. Sometimes, most of the time maybe, it just doesn’t make sense — the mind cannot comprehend it.
And for Moose, writing this column was the least I could do.
Moose, I love you and miss you.
And I certainly will never forget you. That would be hard since we’ll be finding your hair around the house for a while.
Derek Wolfe is the Summer Managing Editor for the Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.