May 25th, 2019

I suppose I have put off writing this because, in a way, it does not entirely seem real yet and because there are too many emotions for me to unpack.  This is a sad story – proceed with caution.

On Saturday, May 25th Mark and I were getting ready to go to the Great Glebe Garage Sale when I got a call from my sister.  She is the kind of person who always texts first, so for her to be calling me I knew that this was urgent.  When I answered the phone and could hear that she was crying, I instantly knew that this was about our family dog.  He was only about a month away from his 16th birthday and had developed health problems in his old age, so I always knew I could be getting this call at any time.  That still wasn’t enough to prepare me for the roller coaster of emotions that day.

img_7089Toffee was an American Cocker Spaniel and came into our lives when I was 12 and my sister was 8.  We had seen him at a pet store and every member of our family had fallen in love with him.  My father went back to the store to pay for the puppy without anyone knowing.  After he told my mum, they surprised us by bringing Toffee home one night while my sister and I were hosting a slumber party.  He was only about 2 months old at the time and has been with our family ever since.

img_7044My sister told me that Toffee had collapsed and no longer had any control over his bowels or bladder.  She and mum were just about ready to leave their place, so we’re very lucky that this did not happen while Toffee was home alone.  My sister told me that she was taking Toffee to the vet and that Mark and I should go to the vet too as we would most likely have to say our goodbyes.

Unfortunately, because the whole family wanted to say goodbye, this meant that my father would be there.  I had not spoken to him in over 3 years.  We had never had a good relationship, and when his abusive behavior became too much to handle I ceased all contact with him.  This would be the first time that I would have to see him after cutting him out of my life.

This was an incredibly difficult day for me.

img_7050When Mark and I got to the vet, Toffee was very much not himself.  He was letting the nurses handle him and he wasn’t making a fuss like he normally would have.  He was also the thinnest I had ever seen him.  It is not an exaggeration to say that he was nothing but skin and bone.  The doctor thought that there was most likely a tumor somewhere in Toffee’s intestines and that it was bleeding.  He discussed the possibility of surgery with us, but there would be no guarantee that the surgery would really fix anything.  Toffee was just too old and too weak, and we had to debate how a surgery would affect his quality of life at this stage.  There was also the fear that he could collapse again at a time when my mum and sister were not at home.  We did not want him to suffer, and we did not want him to suffer alone.

When my father finally arrived, we all discussed the issue and came to an agreement.  Although I had been prepared to see my father, the sound of his voice was very triggering to me and I began to struggle.  Thankfully, my sister had told him that Toffee was the main focus of the day; we were not to talk about other personal issues.  This suited me just fine as I had not told him about my engagement and had no intention of letting him find out about the wedding as I do not want him to be able to show up unannounced and uninvited.  Mark was very helpful as he stayed close to me and offered to protect me if need be.

Once we had all come to a unanimous decision, the doctor allowed us plenty of time to say our goodbyes.  Toffee gets nervous on examination tables, so we were allowed to sit on a couch with him as we each shared memories of life with this precious dog, and each had our turn to say a one-on-one goodbye.  When we decided that it was time, we called the doctor back in.  He was very accommodating and allowed my sister and I to sit with Toffee on our laps on the couch as he was put to sleep.  In true Toffee fashion, he snored in his final moments, giving us all one last giggle before it was over.

The rest of the day, and even the rest of the weekend, was a constant emotional up and down for me.  Going to my mum’s apartment afterwards was difficult because there was no sleepy, excited, wiggling friend to greet us.  Even after we left and walked around The Glebe, I would burst into tears every so often.  I spent the rest of the day thinking about his final moments and cried myself to sleep.

Although the many emotions from that day are still with me, I feel as though I am recovering.  I have not lived with my mum and sister for over a year, so I am more used to not having Toffee around.  I have two cats at home to cuddle when I need to.  I suppose that is why this whole thing doesn’t always seem real to me.  This process is undoubtedly harder on my mum and sister, as the lack of Toffee’s presence is far more noticeable in their apartment.  Although I am finding it easier to move on, I still think about Toffee a lot.

Thank you to Dr. Nightingale and the staff at the VCA Ottawa Veterinary Hospital for all of your help and understanding.  Thank you to friends and family for your hugs and kindness.  Thank you to Mark for comforting me and making me feel safe.  And thank you to Toffee for being a good boy who was loved by all.

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