Goodbye, Friend

posted Jun 20, 2013, 11:16 AM by Stephen Zenter   [ updated Jun 20, 2013, 8:45 PM ]

Nearly seven years ago, a little black and tan dachshund entered our lives.  Astro and I were as close as any dog and his human could be.  Don’t believe me?  Read this: You’ve got a friend in me – Part I.  He was a fighter.  He was strong-willed.  Even after a back accident that left him paralyzed two years ago (Read Part II), he was truly the best companion I could have.  

We had our struggles adjusting to caring for a paralyzed dog.  From expressing his bladder several times a day to putting him in and out of his cart to go outside and play.  We cleaned up lots of dog poop and lots of dog pee, but we were happy to have him with us.  It never seemed like a struggle when he was always acting like his usual self.  His sweet personality always had a way of shining through his disability.

About six months after his accident, we fought our first battle with self-mutilation. Astro had chewed deep holes in both sides of both rear legs, which is common for dogs with no feeling in the limbs. I was incredibly disgusted and felt just awful for him. Many vet trips, ointment applications, and bandaging sessions later, the wounds healed. Every now and then, we needed to re-wrap his rear paws to keep more sores from occurring. All in all, though, we had no more issues for some time.

A few weeks ago, I came home to find Astro had mutilated his tail. It wasn’t terrible – a little piece missing on the tip but otherwise just some spots where he had chewed some hair and skin off. The vet and I weren’t too concerned and expected it to heal without issue. After all, we had been through this type of situation before. His tail seemed to be healing, but we knew he was not messing with it. I was on the night shift for the week, so there was someone home with him most of the time. After getting back to normal working hours, I returned home on Monday afternoon to find Astro barking at his usual pace and waiting on me to get him out of his crate. I was in shock with what I saw when I went to pick him up. There was blood, and there was no tail. Somehow he managed to completely mutilate his tail, and it was gone. In a crazy hurry we headed to the vet.

The vet offered surgery to close up the wound, which was the only option even discussed the day of the tail disappearance. Nothing would happen until the next day, so Sara and I picked up the boys and headed home for the evening. I was so stressed I couldn’t eat. We proceeded with our normal night-time routine, but it just wasn’t the same. Then without any warning to my wife, I broke down. I knew it was time to tell him goodbye.

It wasn’t until last week when we stopped to realize the changes we made to our home, our daily routines, and our lives. Would we have ever changed any of our decisions in the past two years when it came to caring for him? Absolutely not! But things had changed. Astro had not been acting like himself for months. We just couldn’t see it until we stopped to think. His quality of life would never be the same as it was just 12 hours ago or even a month prior. We quickly made our decision and starting coming to terms with it. To be honest, the decision was easy. It was clearly the right thing to do. The difficult part was accepting it.

He won’t be there to guard the doorways for us. He won’t be there to lick the water off our legs when we get out of the shower. He won’t bark like a nut when the doorbell rings or run out the door every time it opens. He won’t be there to howl in excitement when he’s waiting on you to fill his dinner bowl or whine at us when he is lying in bed and wants to be covered with his blanket.

I didn’t sleep at all Monday night.  I somehow managed to make it to work the next morning in attempt to maintain some normalcy.  I called the vet’s office as soon as they opened and waited nervously until the doctor called me back.  Her mood was upbeat; she was confident the tail surgery would be successful.  I used the last bit of strength I could find and gave her our decision.  We would later go to the office to meet a very excited but drowsy Astro.  We spent our time telling him goodbye.  He licked away our tears and snuggled into us and fell asleep.

This dog was a tough.  He was always stubborn and always strong.  This was true up to his last moments of life.  It took the vet team two and a half doses of the initial sedative to get him to sleep.  After holding him a while longer and shedding more tears, we said our final goodbyes.  We then started to find something we hadn’t seen before.  We started finding some peace.  He was in peace now, and we knew it.  Our lives would start getting a little easier.  It was easier on us and much easier on him.  Within just a couple days we were adjusting to life without Astro.  There were tough times, but we knew he is ready to cross the rainbow bridge and was in a better place.

Christopher still asks about him from time to time.  Luna is sometimes a nervous wreck around the house.  Sara and I will start up a conversation about him from seemingly out of nowhere, just reminiscing the good times and the fun memories.  We're all adjusting to life without Astro.  We are fortunate that our families have been nothing but supportive through this, so we owe them all some thanks.  We have some awesome friends who have not only been comforting but have even taken extra steps to help us through the difficult time.

And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go 
Our lives are better left to chance 
I could have missed the pain 
But I’d of had to miss the dance

Zenters' Houston "Astro"
May 20, 2007 - June 11, 2013