Righto, so as you’d already know if you’ve read the first two parts of this story, we’re now up to the really sad part. The part where I’m sitting in a vet’s waiting room anticipating the worst possible outcome.
I remember the whole thing so vividly – sitting there waiting while families with young puppies and kittens flowed in and out of the Vet’s office and I’m sitting there looking at them thinking, “you poor fuckers are gonna be crushed by your love for that animal one day!”
The Vet was terrific at her job. She calmly explained to me what the process would be, and asked me if I wanted some time alone with Pat before she did what needed to be done. I said yes please, and when she left the room I gave Pat a big cuddle, got in really close to his face and told him that he had always been the best dog I could have ever hoped for.
“Even when you were a naughty little shit, I still loved you, and I always will.”
I thanked him over and over again for coming into my life and just kept telling him what a good dog he was. I don’t know if he understood any of it, and I don’t know why I wasn’t crying yet. Maybe I was trying to stay strong for Pat.
The Vet came back into the room. This was it. She told me that I could keep hold of him while the process took place, which I did. Pat was panting directly into my ear as I held him tightly in my arms and told him once again what a good dog he was as the green dream was administered. Within ten seconds his panting started to slow down, and then it stopped. The vet stayed silent and I hugged Pat for a little longer before I quite literally had to let him go. I rested his body down on the bench, and it already felt like Pat wasn’t in the room any more – that thing I just let go of wasn’t my dog – at all – it was just his body. Even in the midst of this traumatic moment in my life, I couldn’t help but notice how strange it was to no longer feel Pat’s presence in the room despite his body being right there in front of me. I undid his collar and the Vet led me out of the room. I turned around and took one last long look back at Pat’s body laying lifeless on that silver bench before I went out to reception, where, I am pleased to say, unlike other vet visits I was not expected to pay the bill right away. That would have been a tiny bit harsh, no?
Morning Pages: Tuesday April 9th 2013. 9.02am
Sad. So very very sad. I had Pat put to sleep last night. Dunno if I’m capable of writing this story in order or with any real narrative, so I’ll probably just write in circles for a while while I try to let it hit me what’s just happened. So… I mentioned yesterday that his leg looked lumpy but he seemed happy. What I didn’t mention is that he didn’t go for a walk on Sunday with the other dogs and that he generally was looking lethargic and still not bearing weight on that leg. I also noticed yesterday morning when I lifted him up onto the bed for a cuddle that he was getting really thin… (Half a kilo weight loss in a week, which is a lot for a dog of 10kg) anyway, I’m probably just trying to justify this whole thing to myself and get past the awful feeling that I let him go too early, the reality being that the rest of his days would have been very painful. I did the absolutely humane thing. Shit man, it hurts though.
It’s all a bit strange that I didn’t cry when it actually happened or when I was telling the housemates, but I had a good howl later with Paulie, and I really just numbed myself with beer and tried to NOT feel it. But oh boy do I feel it this morning. That’s the trouble with numbing agents.
Ok, workout time, and then I have to somehow get to work and make it through my on air shift today. Being on the radio is probably the exact distraction that I need right now, but I’m fucking shattered. Crying now while I write this, so that’s probably enough for today. RIP Pat. You were fucking awesome.
One of the things that working on the radio teaches you is how turn on the happy radio guy persona regardless of how you’re really feeling. I had to dig deep to get through those next few days at work without dissolving into a wailing mess on the wireless, but the feeling of having a head full of un-cried tears persisted. Actually, it intensified to the point where I decided I needed to take control of the situation and make myself cry.
The first thing that worked was when I put headphones on and listened to a Coldplay song. (…told you I was in a bad way.) Fix You is the only song that ever made me cry the first time I heard it. At the time of it’s release in 2005 a friend’s mother was in the final stages of cancer, so the lyric Tears stream down your face, when you lose something you cannot replace was what got me, and in light of the Pat situation it got me all over again. They really should put a sticker on Coldplay albums that says “may assist with processing the grief of your dog dying”.
Even after I picked up Pat’s ashes a few weeks later, all nicely presented in a beautiful wooden box with a name plaque on it, that gnawing feeling that I still had tears inside me that needed to be cried out persisted. I was so certain that I needed to have a big cry that I made the slightly insane decision to watch the Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson movie, Marley and Me, on my own. Paul offered to watch it with me, but I felt that this was something I needed to do by myself.
Like pretty much every movie ever made that focuses on a dog as a main character, the dog dies in the end (sorry if I just spoiled it for you, but having said that how the fuck did you think it would end?!) and I knew going into watching it that it was going to tear me to pieces, which it did, not just the end bit where Owen Wilson is comforting Marley before he is put down (using, I couldn’t help but notice, strikingly similar words to those I had used with Pat) but the entire damn film. Even the cutsie bits where Marley was a naughty little puppy. I cried and cried and cried.. and it worked. From that point on I slowly started to feel better, but the cold hard truth is that I will never completely 100% recover from it. The love that you feel for a companion animal is so pure and strong and unbreakable (unlike so many human relationships, let’s face it!) that it stays with you forever, and that’s a good thing.
I don’t know what form Pat has taken on now but I do know that I never again need to see the Rainbow Bridge poem. An army of well meaning people sent me that poem via social media after I lost Pat. It basically states that your animals will be waiting for you at the rainbow bridge when you die, and then you’ll cross the rainbow bridge together and go to heaven and blah blah fucking blah. Admittedly, it was a comforting thought the first time I read it, but by the time it had been posted on my facebook wall for the fifty-third time, it started to really shit me. Shirl knew this, and in the months after Pat’s death Shirl would constantly drop rainbow bridge references into our conversations just to wind me up, which it always did.
It’s now six years since Pat’s passing, and not long ago I found out on Facebook – where I seem to learn a lot of this kind of news these days – that Shirl passed away suddenly. He’s been very much on my mind as I’ve been writing this. Shirl was one of those people who was very central to my life, but just for a while. After I moved out of Oakleigh we stayed in touch with the occasional phone call and by virtue of being Facebook friends, but I never got to see him in person again, and that makes me feel sad and guilty. As much as I adored him and totally got his camp and sarcastic sense of humour I never felt any real urgency to spend more time with Shirl. I guess I stupidly thought that Shirl would always just be there, and that sooner or later we would hang out again and have some more laughs remembering some of our stupid little running jokes, like how after Pat’s hearing went we would call him by yelling “Hey, deaf cunt!” (Admittedly, that is not a nice way to talk to your dog, but Pat couldn’t hear us so it didn’t matter, or at least that’s what Shirl and I told ourselves as we fell apart laughing.)
Shirl was one of a kind, and as I told him last time I was on the phone to him, I am forever grateful for the way he and the other housemates in Oakleigh took me in and looked after Pat in the late stages of his life. I would like to think that Shirl and Pat are running around together somewhere now, but not on the rainbow bridge. Seriously – fuck the rainbow bridge.
My guardianship of Pat accounts for a major chunk of my life – including all of my thirties – and I would like to think that I gave him a good life. He deserved it. His ashes sit in their wooden box on a shelf above my desk at home. I’m not sure how long I will hold onto them. I’ve been toying with the idea of taking them with me next time I go to Perth to scatter them at one of Pat’s favourite places, the Whitfords dog beach. I used to love the look on Pat’s face as he ran up and down that beach greeting every other dog he saw, wagging his tail so hard that the entire back end of his little body would swish from side to side.
Pat The Dog brought me immeasurable joy. Yes, he was a full-on high maintenance psycho sometimes, but so am I.