The final chapter

So many words are bouncing around in my brain right now, but not many of them are making any sense at all. But I want to write this now, while it’s all still fresh in my mind, so that I can remember it later exactly how I remember it now.

Since my last post, Rio’s condition had steadily declined.  In the evenings, she’d always just lay next to me on the couch, snoozing comfortably, but in the last few days, she’d been unable to really get comfortable.  Her breathing had gotten a little more wheezy and shallow, and she’d cough after any level of exertion.  But what really told me it was time was the fact that she rarely lit up anymore.  I loved walking into a room and seeing her, because she’d always look like “HEY, IT’S YOU!!!!”  The face that greeted me was always so happy, and in the last week I had rarely seen it.  She perked up a bit when I mentioned going for a buh-bye or when I brought out the very favorite orange and blue rubber Chuck-it balls, but there was mostly no light.

I’d been thinking we were getting close…  and I had spoken with her doctors about “the plan.”  But part of me wanted so badly for her to keep fighting.  I couldn’t really admit to myself just how much more tired and uncomfortable she was.  I was still hoping she’d rally…

Wednesday, we had quite a bit of snow, and she was excited to go and catch snowballs, but after about 3 or 4, she was tired and didn’t want to play any more.  I had to run over to her doctor’s house to pick up a box of Trilostane, and so she had a chance to take a look at Rio and see her in action.  That day, she was almost crouching on her back leg as she hopped, because she was so tired.  But the crazy girl kept going, kept running up to people and checking them for treats (there were a group of neighbor kids sledding in Dr. Rachel’s yard because she had the only good hill in the neighborhood, and Rio had to sniff them all).  I finally put her back in the truck to rest while I finished talking with her doctor.

The next morning, Rio woke us before the crack of dawn coughing and vomiting, but then with a little coaxing, she ate breakfast, and by the afternoon, she seemed pretty normal again.  She ate her lunch without any encouragement, and also her dinner.  Even “second dinner” was eaten with some enthusiasm.  But she wasn’t comfortable.  She was restless, and having trouble finding a position that she could relax in.  She moved from the couch to the floor, and then a few minutes later would ask to get back on the couch.  This went on most of the evening.  I chalked it up to a little too much exercise the day before and the fact that I hadn’t given her any of her meloxicam.  (Her doctor and I had talked about moving to Rimadyl or other NSAID because it didn’t seem like the meloxicam was doing anything for her.  But to do that, Rio needed to be off the meloxicam for 2-3 days.)

When Rio woke us Friday morning, again before daylight, coughing, gagging and vomiting, and refused her breakfast (this time no amount of coaxing could get her to touch it), I knew…  If you could have seen her face…  she just looked beaten, worn out, exhausted.  I called her doctor and told her that Rio was finished fighting, and that it was time for her to rest.  She sounded almost as heartbroken as I felt, and she said she’d come when she got off work.

I had wanted to take Rio out for one last adventure in her “Ride,” but the weather Friday was dreadful.  It was literally pouring rain, and all the beautiful white snow was turning into sloppy, slushy, ankle-deep muck. But we could go for a ride in the Expedition, and so I loaded the girls in the back and drove around Kingston.  While I was driving, I was trying to think of things that Rio loved that we could squeeze in on such a foul and stormy day.  She loves ice cream, but the place that gave her the free ice cream this summer was closed for the winter season.  The other place that we used to go was also closed until the end of January for some remodeling or something.  I didn’t feel up to facing a bunch of people at the burger place either (no drive-through window), so I just made a quick stop at the grocery store, bought some hamburger and vanilla ice cream, and then we drove home.

We had wanted to bury her in my veggie garden because she loved to hang out with me there when I worked, however the ground was so saturated that the hole kept filling up with water, and there was no way I could put my girl into that cold brown water.  I decided then to let the doctor take Rio’s body with her…

Shortly after we got home, a friend came over to say goodbye to Rio.  Tosca and Zephyr were also very excited to see her, and they kept crowding between her and Rio.  I finally gave them each a Chuck-it ball so that they would chill, and Allie could give Rio some loves.  But Rio wanted her ball, too.  She laid on the floor and tossed her ball to me and then to Allie, over and over, just as happy as could be.  When Allie left, I made a special homemade “flying dutchman” on the grill, and while they were cooking, I fed the girls some ice cream.

And then Dr. Rachel arrived…  Rio finished her burger and asked to get up on the couch, where she promptly went to sleep.  We talked for a while, remembering funny stories about the Woo, about how she got her name, about the day I brought her home, about her unwavering ability to poop where ever she went, regardless of how many times she’d already gone that day.  Dr. Rachel cried with us as she explained what she would be doing.  And then she administered the sedative.  Within just a few minutes, Rio visibly started relaxing.  And that was the point at which I knew unequivocally that I was doing the right thing for her.  Just seeing her so at peace, so restful after so much struggle and fight — that helped assuage my fears and doubts.

I kissed her sweet face and breathed in her Woo scent, trying to memorize the feel of her, the smell of her, telling her all the while how much I loved her,  how sweet she was, how there would never be another dog like her, how lucky I was to have had her in my life.  I told her now it was time to rest.  She was very tired from her long fight, and now she she didn’t need to fight any more.  She was so strong, such a warrior.  And then we kissed her goodbye.  And then we wrapped her up in a little brown blanket, and inside that bundle with her tired, battle-scarred body was my heart.

I slept badly last night, awakening frequently and spending hours staring out the window into the night.  I watched the sun come up this morning with Zephyr spooned tightly against me, softly running my fingers through her silky curls and wishing, wishing that it was Rio’s softness and warmth just one more time….


Rest in peace, my darling girl


16 thoughts on “The final chapter

  1. It sounds a lot like Abby at the end. She just couldn’t get comfortable either. And the look on her face… Oh, she was so done.

    My heart breaks (again) for you.
    Big hugs.

  2. I’ve so enjoyed reading Rio’s Mom’s accounts of all that Rio has gone through. Living in the same house it’s given me a different perspective of how someone else has seen that journey.

    Where I think we are absolutely aligned is that there are no regrets. Our girl continued to beat the odds after each projection of how much time she had left. I am thankful for all the additional moments and memories we shared that others said would not come to pass. I cherish each of them. Rio’s Mom was the driving force behind giving Rio that chance to prove them wrong again and again. No Mom should be prouder of a job so completely well done. Rio drew so much strength from that bond she had with her Mom. I thank them both for letting me bask in the product of what was such a special relationship.

  3. You both fought a courageous fight and it is important to always remember that the cancer did not win….the balance between her spirit and body tipped in favor of her spirit, and you were the chosen one to set her free.

    Hugs and chocolate labby kisses,
    Ellen & Charley xoxo

  4. Thank you for sharing, Micki. I hope this was cathartic for you, you are right to write down every detail. I know the pain you are experiencing, please know that we are with you 100% of the way. Maybe it will make your loss of Rio a tiny bit more bearable.

  5. It sounds like a beautiful day. A peaceful ending. I want to believe the heaven’s opened up and cried heavily on the last day for her.


  6. Oh Micki,

    Our hearts are with you. What more can we say. Thank you so much for sharing Rio’s story, every bit of the way–what a gift to all of us. Sharing about her last few days is so important–I just know it will help many tripawd pawrents who are reaching the endpoint with their beloveds.

    We love you and we know that Rio is having a grrrrreat time, cuttin’ the rug with Jerry over the rainbow. And that thought makes us smile through the tears.

    Martha, Ralph, and the Oaktown Pack+1

  7. I am so glad for you and Bryan that you know the time was right. It does not mean you miss her any less, it just gives a sense of peace going forward. Perhaps the Woo-pug and Maggie are comparing notes on their almost parallel journeys. But I have to say, seeing the two of them together it is a little hard to see the pug in the Woo! But I know it is there- she was soooo stubborn.
    Still sending strong and peaceful thoughts to the whole family.
    Karen and the pugapalooza

  8. I am so blown away by this post for the Woo Girl. It is such a loving tribute…but it is SO much more than that. It is a lifetime Love Story beyond measure, summed up in just a few days. When the light goes out, we owe it to them. Much love to you Micki.

    There are no words to tell you how heartbroken we are.

  9. It sounds a lot like Chili Dawg at the end-he couldn’t get comfortable either. You gave Rio an amazing life and she knew love each and every day. I like to think that Rio, Abby, and Chili Dawg are running on the beach together now.

    Sending you hugs,
    Jenna & Spirit Chili Dawg

  10. Thank you Micki for sharing such a beautiful description of your last day together. I am so touched and moved by the absolute love and total sweetness that you two had between each other.
    She had an extraordinary life. I feel honored to have been able to know your precious girl.
    Sending much love and biggest huggs
    Joanne & Lylee

  11. My Momma’s eyes are filled with tears right now Micki, she remembers what this is like all too well.

    You are so very brave to share that last day with all of us, thank you for your courage. It’s not an easy thing to do but by doing so, you’re helping others to recognize when that “light” isn’t in our eyes any more.

    It’s a gut-wrenching thing to go through, for sure. But you know what? You done good. You saw that she wasn’t hoppy, you read her like a book and you did her absolute justice and kindness by calling the vet. The fact that you didn’t let her suffer is proof of the eternal bond you share.

    Always remember, that bond can never, ever be broken.

    And our love for her will never go away. We are honored that you are both a part of our community. You’ll always be heroes in our book.

  12. My dear Micki,
    I just read your very special story of the last moments with your very special Rio. Thank you for sharing. I am so sad that we lost yet another sweet tripawd.I write this with many tears. Even though it’s been 7 months that I had to say goodbye to my Indy…it feels like it was just yesterday. I feel your pain and I sure do feel your love … There is nothing like the love of an animal…but – especially the love of a gentle tripawd warrior and our tripawd family!! We are all her for you xoxo
    Love from Spirit Indiana and his mom – Carol xo

  13. I just saw today the sad news about Rio. There are no words to take away the pain but it sounds like she had a wonderful life and an amazing family who loved her and did the best they could for her until the very end.
    Kathy and Tasha

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