Thirteen years and two months. Approximately.
You see, we got (rescued) Karma when she was only eight months old. That was thirteen years and two months ago. She was around for the highs (getting married) and the lows (the loss of our house). Throughout all of it, though, her love never wavered. Karma was always on hand for a tail wag or a face lick or sometimes just a curl up next to you.
Karma the dog was pure, distilled, unquestioning love.
In September of last year, Karma began battling a series of illnesses brought on from her advanced age. We thought we were going to lose her – but she pulled through. In January, another health scare threatened to take her away again.
She beat that, too.
Our dog began impersonating a cat by flaunting her nine lives and dodging some pretty serious bullets: heart disease, failing liver, spinal injury, and back leg joints diminishing. Over the past couple of months, her doctor had noted that her kidneys were beginning to fail. In the grand scheme of all the other elements, though, this just seemed like “one more thing”. Karma was handling it okay, but we had noticed (over the past month) that her hunger and eating habits were becoming sporadic.
While I was in Indiana for Gen Con, Shannon kept calling me letting me know that Karma was beginning to act less and less like herself – and by Sunday she was barely eating. I told her I’d be home Monday and we’d assess everything then.
Monday night, I “cheated” to get her to eat by getting her one of her favorite foods: pizza crust from a local Italian restaurant we frequent. I even got her some peanut butter for desert. She ate it and both Shannon and I felt relieved… until she threw it up while sitting in my lap.
The next morning, I took her to her doctor. (She’s been going to the same vet for almost 8 years now.) Doctor Lisa (that’s what we call her) said there was little we could do – but we could try to see if this was just a passing phase by getting liquids back into Karma’s system via an I.V. and giving her some anti-nausea medicine. She spent the afternoon at the vet, and I picked her up that afternoon still hoping for the best.
For dinner, I made ground beef and Karma ate it. This seemed like a good sign… but she didn’t really eat much, and then quickly lost interest in eating again. She woke up at about 3:00 AM when her body began giving up and excrement just poured out of her. Shannon and I cleaned up and cleaned her up, hoping she’d feel better in the morning.
This morning came early (6:00 AM) with Karma waking up again. She looked out of it and a bit discombobulated. We decided to try “cheating” again by getting her food she couldn’t turn down: bacon and eggs. Shannon, Karma, and I walked down to The Lemon Tree for breakfast and ordered food (and extra bacon!) for breakfast by the beach.
She seemed happy to be with us, but not interested in food. I tried everything: bacon, eggs, pancakes – and she would just sniff it and look away.
Karma was not going to eat, and after having not eaten for a couple of days, was starving to death.
Shannon and I had discussed the signs with Doctor Lisa about “when it was time” – and we seemed to have finally come upon that point. I called the vet and let her know that Karma, Shannon, and I would be by around 3:30 PM. I added, though, that if there was any change I would call back.
I still had some hope.
We walked out by the beach ignoring all the NOTICE signs.
We took her out by the water. She loved the smell of the ocean air. It was seriously one of her favorite things.
If this was going to be Karma’s last day, we were going to make sure it was the best fucking day ever. Sitting on the beach with her early in the morning is something I will always cherish.
Afterwards. we went back home to spend time doing one of her favorite things: laying on my stomach while we watch T.V. She loved being close to me and hearing my heartbeat.
Karma was tired, though, and almost immediately passed out.
Later that morning, “Aunt Tracy” came to visit to say good-bye. Karma showed some sign of life again when she saw her, and it was amazing and emotional. We all went out to the beach together.
In a final attempt to see if we could steer Karma back to “normal,” we went to our local Italian place to get her the food I knew she ate before: pizza crust. I cut it up into little pieces and offered it to her.
She put a piece in her mouth, tasted it for a moment, and then spit it out without chewing. We repeated this a few times, but Karma was still refusing to eat. At this point we were positive: she was done and ready to move on. Our options were to keep pushing the issue until she starved to death, or to let her go on her own terms… listening to her requests via her actions.
As the day pressed on, her health continued to decline. She was tired and napping constantly… but not a peaceful nap. The age and her failing kidneys were taking a toll.
Tracy left to head home and Shannon and I just held Karma and cried. We loved her, and we wanted her to stay – but we knew that she was ready to go. I’d always heard that from other dog owners. “You’ll know when it’s time,” etc. I never really understood it until our connection with this small emotional animal let us know…
She was ready to move on. Karma was tired, and we didn’t want her starvation and kidney failure to progress into pain.
So, at 3:00 PM, we go in Shannon’s car and headed to go see Dr. Lisa. Karma could barely hold her own head up, so I helped her so she could enjoy the wind in her face with the window down.
We got there and we tried to act prepared for something no one is ever prepared for: to say good-bye for the final time. We walked in and brought her bed and teddy bear so she would be completely comfortable. With tears streaming down our faces, we finished the needed paperwork and paid all the fees required. At this point, she was curled up in her bed and was barely able to hold her head up. The doctor weighed her in and she was down to only ten pounds. (Her normal weight was close to fifteen, and just yesterday she clocked in at eleven pounds.)
Dr. Lisa gave her an injection of morphine, and Shannon and I caressed her slowly repeating in low tones that we loved her and what a “good girl” she was.
She was our “baby Karma”.
After a short while, Karma was passed out and was oblivious to everything – and Dr. Lisa gave her an injection of something blue. With my hand resting lightly on her side, Karma stopped breathing.
Doctor Lisa pointed out that Karma succumbed very quickly and without resistance – a sign that she was “ready to move on”. We stood there… crying – but knowing that Karma was no longer in pain.
That one hour was easily one of the worst hours of my entire life. The price? Thirteen years and two months with one of the most amazing souls to enter our lives…
Totally worth it.
We’ll miss you.