Zena's final days
Things went downhill quickly for Zena. Cancer, and a torn ACL in her left back leg led to her last day, June 20, 2012, late in her 12th year, which is about the average lifespan for Golden Retrievers, we're told. About 70 years too short, in our opinion. Karen and I were in Cleveland with Ben Friday through Tuesday, so Jake had to deal with Zena's worsening gastro and torn ligament symptoms by himself her last few days. That didn't make it any easier to break the news to him when we got back -- that, barring a miracle disclosed by the doctor the next morning, Jake should expect the worst while hoping for the best. He called his girlfriend, and one of his best friends who knew Zena well and loved her. They came over and got down on the floor around the old puppy and showered her with the kind of attention she's used to, but maybe not so much all at once. They told Zena stories, and said their good-byes. She had a great time.
Karen's mother, who the family calls Bubbe, stopped by as well. It was Bubbe who bought Zena for us as a month-old pup and spent Zena's first months housetraining her, something that might've been impossible for us to manage in our Autism-centric house in those days. She was Zena's first (human) mama, and she wanted Jake to have a dog.
After everyone was gone, Jake pulled a mattress downstairs onto the floor of the den, helped Zena get up on it, and they spent the night there together. Jake had left a note on the kitchen table making sure we woke him up before we left with Zena, but that was unnecessary -- Jake didn't sleep much last night, and was wide awake when I came down at 6:30.
When it was time, I lifted her into the car. Jake had requested coming with us to the doctor's, but we felt the goodbye at home would be best. He leaned into the back seat of the car and snuggled for a time that can never feel like long enough. Finally he pulled away. I got into the back seat to be with Zena as Karen drove to the vet.
Just before we arrived, we drove through McDonald's and ordered an Egg McMuffin for Zena, hoping she'd be able to keep it down long enough. She did, and she loved it.
After showing us into the examination room, we were told how it would work. First we'd leave the doc and nurse alone with Zena for a few minutes while they put in the IV and administer a strong sedative, after which we could come back in if we wanted to be with her at the end. Just before we cleared out, I pulled a tiny bit of grilled chicken from a baggie in my pocket to give Zena one more moment of one of her ultimate pleasures. She gobbled it down and we left her to be sedated.
Karen and I heard her bark a couple of times before I was told I could come back in (Karen stayed in the waiting room -- somebody had to be in condition to drive). I sat with Zena on the floor. I petted her and rubbed her ears as she lied on a soft rug with her head up, looking back and forth, relaxed and very possibly not in pain for the first time in a while, or at least less pain. The doctor left for a minute to get the final syringes, and I told Zena how much I, Jake, Karen, Ben, and Bubbe all loved her. As I held Zena and petted her, the medication was given. I felt Zena get very still. After a minute with her stethoscope, the doctor quietly told me, "She's gone."
Never, however, from our hearts and memories.
Dave Royko through tears, June 20, 2012
This was the sign posted right inside our front door by our realtor currently selling our house. I took it down this morning.
A few video clips of Zena:
Zena and the snow, 2008: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUQ_c9QBrhc
Zena coming down the stars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfgefbt4GI0
Zena's Farewell Party: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ES3IOHhfkeo
A few more pics of Zena: