Yesterday was like any other day. Xander greeted me at the door as he does every day, and then he patiently waited for me to put on my shorts, a tee, and running shoes, and take him for our daily long walk. As it was a nice day and as it’s his favorite place to walk, we got in the car and went to Apex Park and Lake Pine. There was nothing noticeably different about his demeanor. He did his business as usual, sniffed the same places he always sniffs, and was the good dog he has been for the past 12 years.
There was a very bad thunderstorm last night, and I heard Xander jump from on top of and crawl underneath the bed. Again, this is normal behavior for him. My alarm went off at 4:09, and he let me hit snooze twice before demanding that we go downstairs. I let him out the back door, he went through the doggie door and down the steps of the deck, and I fed the cats.
He didn’t come back inside right away, but this wasn’t too out of the ordinary, as it was a cool morning and he sometimes likes to enjoy the fresh air. I called for him. I made a cup of coffee. I called for him again. He didn’t respond, so I turned on the outside light. I couldn’t see him, so I got a little worried. I thought that the wind had possibly blown open one of the gates. As the backyard was very wet from last night’s rain, I walked out the front door and ensured that both gates were closed and locked.
I called for him again, and now I was beginning to worry. I turned on the flashlight on my iPhone and looked in the usual places that he might be lounging: behind the shed, behind the bush, by the gate. I found him lying in a puddle of mud underneath the deck – something I’ve never seen him do before. I called him and he looked up, but he didn’t move his head. I began to get very anxious. I went inside and got a few pieces of chicken, thinking I could entice him to come out. Even when I crawled under the deck and showed him the chicken, he didn’t budge. I knew something was very wrong.
I lifted him off of the ground, and he began to walk. He walked up the stairs, into the kitchen, and then collapsed on the floor, completely covering the air conditioning vent. I called my vet and jotted down the emergency number for the Cary Animal Hospital. I called them and let them know I was on my way.
They immediately took him to the back, and I immediately began sobbing. I knew something was very, very wrong. The vet then called me to the back and showed me Xander’s x-rays. He had an enlarged heart, and it appeared that fluids were surrounding it. With a very concerned look, she suggested that I immediately take Xander to NCSU Veterinary Hospital. She said, “He might not make it there.” I burst into tears.
An assistant carried Xander to the car. I talked with him the entire way to the hospital, telling him how much I loved him, and that I was there for him. At every stop sign or stoplight, I reached back and petted him.
They were waiting with a gurney, and lifted him from the backseat of my car onto the gurney and immediately took him to the back.
I waited and waited and waited. No matter who much I tried to convince myself that things were going to be fine, I knew that this was not the going to be the case. I told myself that if I heard any two of the following three words, I would make an immediate decision: cancer, tumor, or massive.
The vet called me into the examination room, and I could tell by the look on his face that the news was bad. He said, “Xander has a massive, cancerous tumor on his heart.” I replied, “I don’t want to see him suffer.” The vet said, “You are truly making the right choice and the best decision.”
Xander had been sedated, and he certainly wasn’t himself. I got to spend a few more moments with him, rubbing his head and ears, and telling him how he was the best friend that I ever had. I held him as he was euthanized.
Upon arriving home, I changed into my trail running shoes, drove to White Oak Church entrance of the American Tobacco Trail and ran a very fast 5 miles. I’m sure that other runners, walkers, and bikers thought I was merely breathing hard.
I had parked where I always park, and I glanced to my left expecting to see my best friend, as there was a patch of grass that he particularly liked. The picture is of him waiting patiently for me by the car.
I’m a freaking wreck.