I was going to present the events in reverse chronological order, but I couldn’t bring myself to prepare Finnian’s Last Day until after I posted Fenris’ First Day.

I hope this doesn’t bother anyone. Besides, as beautifully as Dawn describes his last day, this is still the rendition of events that incapacitated me for two days after reading it.

So here is your warning. If you are already in mourning for a pet, if you feel weak of heart or spirit, you may want to wait or prepare yourself to read about Finnian’s last day. Dawn is candid, sensitive and vulnerable in sharing his last day with us, but it is still very sad. Dawn’s words have been very minimally edited as a matter of basic proofing.

Finnian at home, just before leaving for the vet hospital

Finnian, just before leaving for the vet hospital

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dawn wrote:

    As I told you all earlier, I prayed for Finnian to have a perfect day today. Our sun made a rare appearance and shined brightly … all day.

    Finnian woke up wagging his tail and tottering excitedly if unsteadily on our bed, as if to say, “Get up! The day is wasting!” I fed him his regular supplements and little breakfast, and then fed him a little Pop-Tart crust with a tiny bit of the “good stuff” on it. He was passionate about Pop-Tarts, something I ate very, very rarely, and even then, I would buy the whole grain kind, but for him, anything.

    I took him outside and let him hobble down the street off-leash in his small red sweater, going slowly here and there, wherever his nose would take him. This was his day. He only went half a block and wanted to come home, but he was smiling and blinking his happy little eyes against the bright sun as he made his way home.

    I sat in the sun with him on my lap. While he took a long nap, I called my friends across the country who are the
    only other people I know with an autism service dog. Their own dog had a health crisis recently and had to go in for a surgery that she wasn’t expected to survive. Before the operation, they took her back to the [service dog] training facility. Like Finnian, she would never let another dog near her autistic partner, but she also picked out a young dog and insisted it get onto Chris’ lap. She was choosing his next service dog. I explained that Finnian had done exactly the same thing with the new Pomeranian rescue we now have. Her story moved me, once again, by the love and foresight animals have on our behalf.

    By that time my family was home and taking turns petting Finnian and telling him how much he meant to them. He reached a point where he was uncomfortable and not feeling well. He moved away from us, not wanting to be petted anymore. We just sat near him and respected his wishes.

    We decided to go to the vet’s early because they have a beautiful trail behind the clinic. He got another walk. Again, He didn’t want to go far, so I picked him up and put him in his service front-pack and we just took in the natural beauty around us.

    I was so grateful to my family, who fell behind and let me have a long, intimate talk with Finney about how much I loved him, what he had meant to me, and how I would be ok. I told him he need not not worry. I told him to find peace.

    As I reached for the door at the clinic, I had a momentary breakdown. I just couldn’t open the door. I stood there and sobbed at the threshold. My family opened the door and helped us in. They took Finnian away to put a line in his arm and brought him back to us waiting in the room. Then the vet came and talked with us about Finney’s symptoms, went over the treatment we had been giving him and how he had a very bad night a couple nights ago. She said I could give him drugs that would allow him to hang on for a day, maybe two, but that it would be for me and not for Fin. I thanked her for being honest with me.

    He was able to stay in his service pack as she gave injected the shot into the line in his arm. I kept saying into his tiny ear, over and over, “There’s my Fin, there’s the boy I love. He’s good boy,” in the voice I always saved for him.

    I have been a vet tech and volunteered at shelters. I’ve even worked for a mobile vet whose specialty was home euthanasia. But I have never seen a dog die so fast. Before the injection was done, he was gone; no second breath, no heartbeats.

    My family left so I could have a moment alone with him. I hugged him and cried until I felt that he wasn’t there anymore, that I was holding an empty body. Then I walked out into the hall and tenderly lifted him out of his service pack for the last time, and gave him to the nurse.

    We had brought the other dogs with us so we could take them all to the park afterward, just to see romping dogs full of life. I put Fenris, my new service dog, into the service pack Finney had died in. She smelled it, looked alarmed and then deeply sad. Then she settled down into the pack as if to make it her own.

    I didn’t expect to write anything this soon, but I was so moved by the love and support I have gotten, and by all the beautiful words from hearts who have the scars, that I knew I must thank you from Finney and myself and share his last moments with you all.

    I may not write for a while, but I consider myself a permanent member of the group and have no plans to leave.

    With love to all of you,

    Dawn, and Finnian, from across the rainbow bridge