Losing Henry: Relieving His Pain
Suffering from numerous ailments for longer than I can easily recall, all of a sudden Henry was sick. Yes, s-i-c-k as in time-to-call-the-doctor sick.
Indoors and out, he could move at times, I’d watch Henry just stand immobile while staring at the ground. I do not exaggerate to say he- and I- could endure this trance-like stage for hours. I imagine I was relieved to see it end and see him come in and stretch out on the carpet by the door.
He had to be dying. I called the good Dr. Bache who came as soon as his last patients departed. That’s a good half hour drive. He hadn’t asked for directions, but I’m really not used to all the wonders of GPS. Even my friends have gotten lost trying to find me.
Feverish, though having a strong heartbeat and good lungs, Henry was bundled up by the good doctor for their trip back to his hospital.
I’m told Henry was on his feet and curious to inspect his strange digs by the time they arrived. He was certainly as good as “new” when I came to pick him up the following day.
If only that good-as-new could have lasted.
Three more “episodes” followed in the next few weeks, always succeeded by a better “normal.” Only, except for minor times (I recall his racing in a circle exuberantly, a celebration of spring perhaps — ONCE), Henry was losing his appetite as the fevers returned. He vastly preferred to sleep in the coolest spots, not difficult in this April.
Still, I could see the differences. He might set out with me for the papers but generally came only partway, if at all. One time I handed him one of the newspapers and he dropped it on the ground and walked away. Sadly I understood.
Once, when I returned, he stuck his nose out the door to greet me — as far as that enthusiasm unfortunately went. Goodness. Don’t we all know what it’s like to feel sick? And Henry was definitely sick.
So many words. So many very sad words. And, for my steady readers, an explanation I have failed to provide. When I began having these writings published I want to protect my privacy so was permitted to write under my maiden name. Private dogs as well: Harley became “Major” and Henry was thus “Minor.” That was undoubtedly the only lesser thing about him.
I have started this the day following his demise. I am guilt-ridden as I question — every waking moment and then waking in the middle of the night to question again — if I did the right thing. Did I act prematurely? He could have been given more medicines and treated at the hospital or sent home for me to care. I’d give anything to have him here right now beside me, sleeping at my feet if not under the desk, one of his special spots when I was at the computer. The doctor and I might have given him extra days . . . maybe.
The worst pain of all is acknowledging my guilt for so badly wanting another dog. Henry wouldn’t have minded. Henry never did. One sniff and a tail wag and any resident or visitor was forever ignored. I had hoped a newcomer could learn part of the ropes by spending time with Henry. Only that’s as far as it went for I knew Henry needed me and all of me.
Henry grew dependent on me. He clung to me. I had to be here for him — and was. He got all of my love and much of my attention. That continued even when he had very little left to give anyone. Like me.
I asked for autopsy and pathology reports and prayed something there would justify my decision. Until then I continued to suffer.
So many reminders — the eye drops on the table. Henry needed twelve each day and eagerly volunteered, knowing a treat would always follow. He eyed the largest piece of bread on my breakfast plate — and always got it. I still slice a banana into pieces, one third for Henry, at lunch. And who’s here now to clean the leftovers off my plates?
The results of the autopsy and pathology reports said he had an “intestinal perforation with ultimately intestinal lymphoma so cancer of the intestine, specifically lymphoma, specifically of that spot where the rupture was, as well as an adjoining lymph node so both of those ares showed the actual cancer.” I’ve done enough checking to know that, while he walked and ate voraciously (he was given treats when the end was clear), Henry had to be in exceptional pain.
Knowing at last I did the right thing doesn’t relieve the emptiness I feel now.
Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. Her Reason for Being was published in 2008 with Love in Three Acts following in 2014. Both novels are now available at Lakewood’s Off the Beaten Path bookstore. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.