I took my beautifiul Tosca to Dr. Martin yesterday to put her to sleep at the end of the day. He gave us a small room to be in together undisturbed, placed a catheter on her leg and gave her back to me to say my farewell. Tosca was quite weak and tired, as she had barely eaten anything for a few days and had hardly sipped any water yesterday. I held her close and sang a few bars of "You Are My Sunshine," the song she always heard while I bathed her. Dr. Martin emptied the syringe of sedative into the catheter and I kissed her goodbye. Tosca took only a minute to fall asleep while her beating heart was felt by my hand. She seemed very peaceful. When I was ready, Dr. Martin emptied another syringe into the catheter; a minute later, Tosca's heart stopped beating. It was as good an end as it could have been.
Dr. Martin is a phenomenal vet, not just in his knowledge, in this regard like his TV namesake, Doc Martin, but in his sensitivity both to animals and guardians. I called him and left messages often during this last year. Not one time did he fail to call back within 12-24 hours. For someone in one of the busiest practices on the Westside of L.A., that is notable and laudable. And during these last months, I called often with questions as my dog seemed to have a degree of dementia. Additionally, she was deaf and had very limited vision. In short, she was failing and needed much more help than in prior years.
Tosca came to us from Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, for whom we were fostering during the summer. After having two of their dogs for only a few days, each one got adopted. Then I saw this small dog at the rescue place; she was playing with a toy and wagging her tail, despite wearing a big plastic cone on her head and recuperating from surgery. She'd been found in a field by the animal services people, probably abandoned. They took her in and discovered that she wasn't neutered and needed dental work. Additionally, she had thirteen tumors in her mammary glands. They could not afford all the veterinary care she needed, so they called a rescue group and asked them if they'd take her. Peace of Mind agreed to. In the meantime , her owners were called from a phone number obtained through her microchip. The people said they'd be down to get her, but never came. So, this beautifiul dog, ten years old, named Peanut Cookie (dubbed by a four year, old I'm sure) had been abandoned, probably because she'd been used for breeding and was now, at ten, too old for that. POMDR took the dog and had the surgeries done. The tumors turned out to be benign, thank goodness, and the teeth were fixed, two rotten ones removed, and she was good to go. Her stitches would have to be taken out a week later.
As soon as we got her, my husband, Sam, and I renamed her. "Who'd adopt a dog with the stupid name of Peanut Cookie?" I wondered out loud. We had just come out of seeing the Met theatrical broadcast of the opera, Tosca, about a beautiful and courageous heroine. "What's wrong with Tosca" Sam asked.
"Nothing," I said. "Tosca it is." We took her home and tried not to get too emotionally involved, as we'd decided not to get another dog at that time. Sam had Parkinsons and we were both busy with doctors' visits and therapy and multiple related tasks. But we were in Carmel, Ca., a dog loving community if there ever was one, and wanted to help some homeless dogs, but not make a permanent commitment as in adoption. Well, we took her everywhere we went, all around the area. Dozens and dozens of people came over to admire Tosca because she was so adorable and appealing, but no one actually offered to adopt her. Days rolled into weeks and before we knew it, we'd had her six weeks. We were going to leave the area soon, so Carie, President of Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, said she'd put an ad with her photo in the local paper the next day. We knew for sure she'd be adopted because everyone read "The Pine Cone" and Tosca was a beautiful small dog.
Neither Sam nor I could sleep that night. In the morning he said to me "Why don't we think of her as an asset instead of a liability?" I couldn't believe it. "Really?"
I could see that Tosca had gotten to Sam's heart as she'd certainly wormed her way into mine.
"Okay! She stays." I smiled at Sam, knowing he wanted to keep her as much as I did. She was ten years old and healthy. I believe that older dogs are much more appropriate for older people who may not want or have the ability to make a fifteen year commitment, which most puppies can require. I was still concerned about Sam, possibly tripping over her. Thankfully, he never did. Now that she's gone, I have the emptiness of my house and the many reminders here which all guardians know who lose a dog. This morning, when I took a shower, I glanced at the bathmat right outside the shower where Tosca always stationed herself while I bathed. I woke up with the usual feeling of having to get up immediately and throw on clothes to get the dog out for her walk. But I remembered that she is gone and went back to sleep for another thirty minutes. And so the day goes, with reminder after reminder.
I regret not one minute I spent with her and tell myself what I always tell friends in this position -- better that we lose them than that they lose us. A dog whose owner has passed away or is unable to care for him is a sad creature, hoping or yearning for a kind stranger to care for. Tosca was our constant loving companion. After my husband passed away last year, the greatest loss I will ever have, I was blessed to have Tosca to share my bed and the life I now had without Sam. She was certainly a consolation. I am forever grateful for Tosca's sweet companionship. With deep love comes the pain of loss, but I've always believed it's worth it. I feel privileged to have had sweet Tosca for the last third of her life.