Saturday, July 9, 2016

What to Do When Your Dog Dies in the Middle of the Night

I hope this is helpful.

1) Call a vet.
Doesn't have to be your vet. Call any veterinary facility that happens to be open at that time. Tell them that you don't know what to do, and ask them who you should call and what you should do with the body. I called Oakland Veterinary Referral Services, a 24-hour animal hospital near me, and the kind woman who answered the phone offered to arrange cremation services for me. But then I would've had to transport Madison's body there all by myself (I could take a sick day but on this particular day Ma couldn't), and there was no way I was touching that body, much less moving it. So I thanked her kindly, hung up the phone, did some quick research and opted to contact a local pet cremation service directly.

2) Call that auntie (you know which one) and ask her to pray for you. 
I called my Aunt Fay and she prayed with me over the phone. Didn't fuss at me about how early or late it was either.

3) Sit. Wait. Cry.
It was still only 5:30am by the time I'd made those first calls, so all I could do was sit on the couch adjacent to Madison's body and wait. I had to wait until 8am to call the cremation service. Ma had to wait until 9am to inform our vet (which she didn't end up doing until the next day anyway). And I knew my supervisor didn't usually make it to work until 9:30am, so as a courtesy I waited until 9am to call and tell him that I needed to not be there today.

4) Take a shower and put on clean clothes.
Especially if you're the self-neglecting type when you get really stressed out or bogged down. Give yourself a chance to have some sort of fresh start today.

5) Make a few more phone calls.
See the the aforementioned under 3).

6) Sit. Wait. Cry some more.
Sit on the couch and watch TV, scroll through Facebook, watch YouTube videos. Cry. Make some tea and pick up a book. Cry. Get one of the lawn chairs from the basement, sit outside on the front porch with your book and your phone and your tea. Cry. Look at creation. Cry. Listen to birds chirping and children playing. Cry. Just try to avoid sulking, you already know you're good at that and you don't need to revisit that right now.

7) Let cremation services do what they do.
Drivers from Faithful Companion pulled up at around 9:45am. Two very patient men. They asked me my preferences, explained that my dog would be treated with the utmost dignity, efficiency and care, explained when and how I would get her remains back. Took my credit card info, gave me my receipt, gently lifted and lowered Madison and all her blankets into a lined cardboard box just her size. (I couldn't bring myself to touch the medium-sized mass of blankets to bid farewell, but I watched them put her in the box because I felt I needed to. You might not, though. Her nose, tail, and hind paws peeked out from under her covering and I remarked silently how unnaturally still she was.) They expressed their condolences, carried her out, loaded her in the back of the car, and drove away. (I watched all of this too).

8) Cry.
Because you saw the car drive away and finally realized that you're never going to see your dog again. Call your mom to update her. Think and talk about how you don't want to feel feelings right now. Feel them anyway. Cry.

9) Cope.
Do a few things that make you feel somewhat normal. Me personally, I made announcements on Facebook and Instagram so my friends and loved ones could be informed. Then I sat down to write a eulogy and this post. Then I tried to take a break from crying because my head was killing me and I didn't want to make myself sick. (Cry too hard, head hurts too much, headache triggers nausea, nausea and headache intensify at the same time until it's nearly unbearable, vomit only once hopefully, fall asleep and feel better. That's usually how my body reacts when I'm extremely and uncontrollably upset. Wasn't trying to go through all that today.) Ate some toast and a peach. Drank more tea. Went to Panera for soup and quiet reading time, which inadvertently turned into quiet crying time so I left. Came back home.

10) Go to the movies.
Or do anything else seemingly incongruent with the time at hand to take your mind off of things. I went with Ma to see The Secret Life of Pets, which I'd at first preemptively decided not to see because I knew that there was an elderly basset hound character in that film who used wheels for hind legs. I hadn't wanted to see that and feel sad about Madison, my own basset hound, aging. But Madison's not aging anymore, so. Might as well. It was just aight.

11) Next day: go back to work.
Take a shower, maybe cry while you're in there. Then go. Engage with as many or as few people as you can handle. If you're not the office social butterfly anyway, then this may not even be a problem. No one knew about what happened besides my supervisor, my supervisor's boss, and a former high school classmate who also works at my office. Ma told me to use the work as a distraction, which I did. I managed to cry only one time, after said former classmate presented me with a token of condolences from her and her mom.

12) Call your vet and try to get some answers.
Or have someone else do it. Ma called me while I was at work to let me know she spoke to the staff members who were working over the July 4th weekend (might be worth noting that she didn't tell them that Madison had died). Apparently Madison was her usual self all weekend, was picky about when she decided to eat but hadn't in fact gone all weekend without eating. Going by what they said, her health probably deteriorated rapidly between Monday and Wednesday.

13) Go home.
Thank the Lord for the weekend and only having to put up a front for one day so far. Maybe start thinking about your dog again and dread going home because you know that no one will be there tripping over themselves to greet you at the door. Maybe cry.

 14) Clean. Wait. Cry.
Clear off one of the side tables in the living room in order to set up a simple memorial for your dog. Cry. Wait for cremation services to deliver the urn with her remains in it (or "cremains", learned a new word today). Take the urn, thank the nice people, set it in the middle of that table. Sit in front of the table, stare at the urn and the photos of your dog that you set up. Cry. Hold the urn in your arms. Cry. Put the urn back. Get up from the floor and try to do something else with your evening.

For anyone who's curious, Faithful Companion charged me $285 for private cremation of my dog. A hard plastic urn was included in this option, but I wanted to do better by Madison than that, so I ordered a gold-painted metal (steel? brass?) urn and had it engraved. That cost another $130 (no additional cost for engraving), which was actually one of the cheaper urn options. So to have my dog's body picked up, cremated, and have her remains returned to me in a nice but simple urn within 36 hours, it cost me $415. Which, if you're familiar with buying dog food or paying vet bills, isn't absurd. Way less expensive than I'd thought it would be, anyway. I would also like to add that everyone from FC with whom I spoke on the phone or encountered in person was exceptionally kind, informative, and gracious.

15) Call it a night.
Take advantage of whatever kindness that your loved ones offer. In this case, Ma uncharacteristically let me lay on her bed with her while watching a documentary that we both fell asleep on fairly quickly. Before you fall asleep, remind yourself that you did all you could. You did all you could. You did all you could. And you and your dog gave each other a really great life.

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