Yesterday we put Henry down. That’s an odd phrase, as I see it written, as though he were a held object to be set aside, left behind.
He was suffering from spinal disease. For a while we held out hope, which spiked last Saturday until, in a moment of pure Henryish abandon, he slipped past me and raced down the stairs to see his dad. But that act of joy cost him dearly, because in the days afterward he was almost completely debilitated with unmanageable pain and an end to anything resembling happiness. He lost his appetite, his thirst. He wanted to be alone, instead of directly underfoot as usual. Every movement caused him to whimper with pain, and in his last days, even heavily medicated, he wandered around quivering and panting in an endless quest to find a comfortable position where he could rest. It was brutal. A heartbreaking thing to witness.
On Wednesday we lost hope. Every day seemed worse, every minute was hours long. The quality of eye contact between us had changed, and he refused to leave my side.
I called the hospice vet and made an appointment for Saturday, hoping to gather the family. Then, remembering how long those extra days would be for Henry, I rescheduled for Thursday afternoon.
The vet and her staff were lovely. Very gentle, very kind. Very patient with the floods of tears and all. Henry yelped at the first injection of sedative, but immediately afterward he hobbled over to the vet to apologize for having snapped at her, made his way over to me, then tried to circle back but buckled midway, half on and half off his blanket, and went to sleep.
There is an inherent nobility in animals when they have been mortally wounded. They go until they can’t go.
Henry died with his head in the palm of my hand. Put down, set aside, left behind.
I was his person and he was my steadfast friend.
Only one of us is hurting now.