It’s been three weeks since we lost our little boy.
Three weeks of alternately trying not to remember how tough his last days were, as well as reconstructing the events in my head (which obviously makes forgetting tougher). I’ve been researching into his cause of death. I’ve wondered endlessly why the regular vet couldn’t figure out what was going on, so we ended up going elsewhere for answers. She said he had pneumonia, may pilay pa. Why she just went palliative and conservative with her treatment, instead of aggressively figuring it out. When it was obvious that Zack had fluids in his lungs, I helpfully suggested to the vet to suction it out, but she said that he’s too old (the suction actually did happen when we ended up at the ER, so I was right – it could be done). She kept doing house-calls and suggesting acupuncture as additional treatment. We didn’t mind the expense. We were prepared to spare no expense. But the vet was busy doing laser therapy on his hind legs, using the nebulizer on him, injecting antibiotics and supplements, cleaning his eyes and his teeth…even telling us that she’ll fix his teeth if he survives. IF he survives? That was the red flag that he wasn’t as okay as she was claiming him to be.
When we finally went for a second opinion, in one visit, they did all the tests they needed to do and we learned that Zack already had an inflamed liver and inflamed kidneys. Pneumonia was the least of the problems. The prognosis, at best, was one month. Worst? “He can go anytime.”
After days of what was supposed to be expert veterinary care, our little boy was dying. And his regular vet didn’t even tell us. All because we trusted in the expertise of someone with a supposed 25+ years of experience, someone who kept name-dropping “famous” clients. We didn’t care much for her clients. All we cared for was Zack.
By the time we sought a second opinion, it was too damn late. The vet who gave the second opinion said Zack can be put to sleep if we want. Otherwise, all we can do is make him feel comfortable. But we didn’t want him to be put to sleep. Maybe it wasn’t the compassionate choice, but we felt it wasn’t up to us to end his life. Or maybe we were just cowards who couldn’t let him go, so we’d rather let him go on his own terms. His life was a gift to us and everyone who knew him. We were entrusted with sustaining him for a measure of time, and we were ready to give him back when he chose to go. Not before that.
That night, I was too scared to sleep.
I wanted to watch Zack like a hawk, monitor his every movement, and snuggle with him. I wanted to make sure that he was breathing. Instead, I brushed his teeth and brushed his hair. Afterwards, we lay prone on the bed watching old videos of him taken during our travels – running on a beach in California, walking briskly in a Buddhist monastery in New York. We saw about four videos until he fell asleep leaning on my shoulder.
All was well.
When he woke up, Lynn hung out with him, gave him relaxing body rubs while delivering her motivational words (“kaya mo yan!”). He fell asleep again. To my surprise, I fell asleep too.
The next day, he willingly used the steam inhaler and nebulizer to soothe his congestion. He drank little bits of water. He walked around the house, even climbed the stairs on his own. He also got showered. He watched as his young furbaby cousins ran around the house, not really approaching him, just watching him from a distance. After the younger ones left, he continued walking around the house. In retrospect, he seemed like he was looking at the place one last time.
When bedtime came, I brought him up to bed with me. I sang a song or two, told him how much we love him, and we fell asleep. Around 3AM, hubby came to get him because Zack usually wakes up around that time, so he can pee. By 3:30AM, hubby called me because Zack had taken a turn for the worse. He was eliminating everything, plus he had seizures. I quickly Googled the nearest ER and drove as fast as I could to the veterinary hospital.
When we got there, he had more seizures and his heart stopped while hubby was holding him. Thankfully, his generous heart responded to resuscitation. He was in critical condition the whole day. We stayed with him until it was past visiting hours. We’d switch places holding him, so he knew we were close. By 11PM, he succumbed to cardiac arrest, but the vet managed to resuscitate him while we were heading to the hospital. When we arrived, their team ran to us while carrying him. They weren’t sure how long his heart was going to hold. We told Zack how much we loved him, how he’s such a good boy, the best boy ever, how so many people love him (like Mommy, his titas, etcetera) and that he can go – no need to worry about us, we’ll be fine. We’ll miss him so much, but we’ll be fine. He needs to rest. We kissed him on his forehead, then he listened to my very brief song. After that, just like a light switch, the light faded from our little boy’s eyes. He was gone. We stayed with him for a half-hour or maybe it was an hour. We still kept telling him what we told him. Surprisingly, he started smelling like vanilla again.
For days, I despaired at how tough it all went down, not just on us, but more for him. He was a wonderful little boy – goodness knows he didn’t deserve that. But eventually, I realized that the story of his illness and demise is just a tiny part of the story of his life.
Anyway, I’m so thankful that Zack gave us one good day before things went down. When I think about that, it’s pretty bittersweet. Our little boy kept giving and giving. Even when he was gone, he came back – not just once, but twice – giving us time to say our goodbyes. I wish he knew that everything we did, we did because we hoped it would help him get better. I wish they didn’t make us leave him that night – maybe they thought he really had a fighting chance? I’m still thankful that they let us stay an hour past the end of visiting hours. Yet a part of me wishes that we were there the whole night before his cardiac arrest. He’s used to having the two of us near him, so us not being around probably stressed him all the more. A friend of mine told me that she prayed so hard for Zack to make it. I told her that he did make it – he made it to the other side. We prayed the rosary and novenas to the saints we usually pray to, but nothing can deter divine timing.
After Zack passed away, I’m like a dog with a bone. Any news I hear about pets and diseases, I look up and find the symptoms, etc. trying to see if anything matches what Zack exhibited, on the off-chance it explains why the regular vet had difficulty in diagnosing him. The thing is, if she knew, then darn her for not telling us. If she didn’t, then darn her again for not telling us. What a learning experience. Not all doctors know what’s going on and sadly, they won’t admit it. Even worse, they’ll milk it for what it’s worth. What’s worst about the whole thing? The regular vet (an FB friend, BTW) did not even send a message of condolences to us. Some friends are advising us to lodge formal complaints against her.
The garden stone for Zack’s memory garden arrived just in time for today.
Three weeks later, I still miss him. Hubby still misses him. I see cute little dogs and I think, “that’s not Zack” and I go into despair again. I know this will take some time. After all, Zack gave us 14 years and 8 days of his life. That’s priceless.