I started to write this post in August, 2011 about a few losses we had had through the pet blogging community. I stopped writing it, because I felt like I couldn’t adequately discuss a matter I hadn’t experienced on the personal level that the blogger’s who lost their pets had, and that it might be insulting for me to post about it. Now, unfortunately, I can finish this post. I need to finish it.
I usually try to keep things G-Rated on the blog, because honestly, what’s more family friendly than a website full of animals? Today, however, is not that day. Course language ahead. You have been warned.
The rainbow bridge has been a selfish bitch.
What the stupid rainbow bridge is.
If you’re sitting there wondering “What in the hell is a rainbow bridge? What substances has Katherine been abusing?” I assure you that the only thing coursing through my veins is caffeine, and I can to expose to you the term. I didn’t hear “rainbow bridge” until I started pet blogging. Each culture has their own way of discussing death and the mourning of a death; this includes the sub-culture of pet bloggers on the web. When a pet dies, they cross the rainbow bridge. It’s supposed to be a comforting thought to pet parents in their time of grief.
Well, fuck the rainbow bridge. Fuck it.
Gertrude: a history
I moved in with my fiancé, Zack, about two years ago. In addition to moving in together, we also brought out families together. Zack embraced my cats and Arie whole-heartedly, and I welcomed Gertrude, his elderly Basset Hound.
Gert lived a hard life before meeting Zack. She had been abused. She had been a mother (and HATED her puppy when they were fostered together). She had a back leg that wouldn’t bend, a sweet but also grouchy disposition and she smelled like a three day old corpse (NOT an exaggeration).
When Zack inquired about adopting her from the Basset Hound rescue, the foster family said that they had bonded with her and couldn’t give her up. Two days later, foster dad called and asked Z to come get her. He gratefully obliged. They have been nearly inseparable since, going on now for a decade.
Gertrude was a hilarious dog. Refusing to learn most of the most basic commands (but somewhat mastering ‘sit’ for noms), Gertrude was her own lady, and the boss of herself. Her biggest desires in life were a warm, soft cushy bed, love from her human, a yard to bury things in, and pizza crust. There are so many good stories from this dog, from expensive Italian sausages disappearing only to be rediscovered months later when she dug them up to stollen challah bread hanging out of an unapologetic Basset face as she stared our the porch window looking at her dad.
Moving in together was tough. Gertrude would be jealous of Zack a bit, and there were plenty of squabbles between her and Arie. She would chase the cats. We spent a lot of time cleaning up after both dogs, as Gertrude would have accidents from age, and Arie from her spay incontinence. It was sometimes stressful, often gross, and a consistently busy life with our family of six. It was also amazing. We slowly got to know each other better, and the family became more and more of a family. With the good and the bad, we balanced things, and Gertrude became a huge part of my heart while she learned to tolerate my presence.
Experiencing that %$*!ing bridge
On Tuesday of this past week, Gertrude started having issues using her hind legs. We were extremely worried, but started to think it was just arthritis, as she perked up when given her pain medication. Over the next few days, she seemed to be doing better, which gave us hope that it had just been a bad day from the weather or just a random pang of worse arthritis than usual. On Saturday, however, Gertrude refused to take her pill in the morning, though wrapped in a tantalizing piece of chicken. She wouldn’t move. She seemed despondent. We knew something was really, really wrong, so we scooped her up and headed to the vet.
Within around 20 minutes, they noticed something was off in her vitals. Within another 20, they found that she was anemic. Within another 30, x-rays confirmed she had a tumor in her abdomen. We knew what choice we had to make. Within another 30 minutes, we were saying goodbye.
What we thought was a visit to treat bad hips turned out to be the visit where we had to say goodbye. This is the first time I’ve been in a room while a pet was euthanized, and let me tell you: Fuck. That. Rainbow. Bridge. It’s not shiny. It’s not sparkly. It’s shitty. I had to watch my dog take her last labored breaths when she couldn’t even recognize me or Zack, the man that had loved her for over a decade, because she was so weak from disease. Since then, we’ve had to handle calls about what to do with her remains, what we wanted from the cremation, and what memorial items we wanted to choose, along with letting work know why I won’t be coming in (because I just look like I went 3 rounds with Tyson with the swelling from crying so much, and we still are crying) and all the other arrangements. There’s so much to take in emotionally, monetarily, physically, mentally. It’s exhausting and emotional and overwhelming. They don’t warn you about this part of losing a pet. The business part. No one does.
Being back home is both comforting and eerie. Arie knows something is different, but doesn’t seem to realize what it is yet. She and the cats to do realize that mom and dad are hurting like crazy now, though, and are all about the comfort cuddles and checking on us, which helps. Still, it’s shocking to not hear little basset claws on the hardwoods. To not smell that death stench right around the corner of the sofa. To not hear a scratch at the door, asking to go in and come out five hundred times in a row without peeing once. We will heal, but healing takes time, and patience, and love.
Gertrude, I don’t ever think you’ll know how much you meant to me, and I don’t think I knew until you weren’t here anymore. Thank you, for being such a huge part of Zack’s life. You saved him, probably more than he saved you, and I am forever in your debt. I am so glad you are not in pain anymore, though I really wish you could still be here. Run fast, sweet girl. Eat all the things. Bury all the things. We love you.
Rainbow Bridge image via Wiki commons, Maris Stella.