Friday, August 27th marked a year since losing Gridgery.
It's really hard to believe it's been 365 days since that terrible afternoon at the animal clinic when I made the most difficult decision in my life.
Not a day goes by that I don't feel conflicted about that decision either.
I thought it would get easier.
I thought at some point, surely at some point...I wouldn't feel as guilty.
It was, after-all my decision to end his suffering.
It was my responsibility as his Mom to interpret his needs.
He was in pain.
He was clearly in pain.
On August 26th, while laying in a wild patch of weeds in our yard, he looked to the sky as I sat in front of him, taking as many photos of him as possible, knowing he wasn't going to be with me much longer.
He looked to the sky, and then he looked at me.
I've heard many stories about people losing their animals. About people having to make the heart-breaking decision of putting their animals down. About the "moment" you know it's the right thing do to. The "moment" when your animal tells you it's time.
When he looked at me that day.....
And it hurt like a mother-effer.
I called the Vet that afternoon, in tears, asking what to do.
"Come in tomorrow afternoon. You don't want him in pain."
When I hung up with the Vet I immediately called Jody, still in tears.
"I need you there. I can't do this by myself. I won't be able to do this by myself."
He was home earlier than usual that day, and took the next day off of work.
That last evening with Gridge, I held him as much as humanly possible.
I sang to him.
I cried on him.
I couldn't believe I'd be taking him to the Vet the next day...to die.
I didn't sleep that night...so I ended up lying on the floor with Gridge, talking to him all night.
I told him how happy he made me.
I thanked him for loving me so well.
I told him once he got to heaven, to chase each and every squirrel, to eat as many treats as he wanted, to nap on any bed he chose and to have as much fun as possible...because if any creature in this world deserved happiness...it was my baby boy.
I also told him to listen for my call....because one day we would be reunited.
August 27th, Gridge was still in terrible shape.
I hoped a miracle would have happened overnight...that Gridge would have woken with new energy and spirits....telling me he was ready to continue the fight. That it wasn't "time" after all.
But nothing had changed.
He went outside with Kea and they both sat in the dirt on the side of the house.
It seemed as if Kea knew these were her last moments with him.
She stuck very close to him the rest of the afternoon.
Then the hour I dreaded was upon us.
It was time to take him to the Vet.
We took Kea to my sister-in-law's house. I couldn't stand the idea of bringing her and having her be a part of what would happen.
When we got to the animal clinic, I couldn't make myself get out of the car.
I turned around and looked at Gridge. He was sitting up in the back of the car, looking out the window.
He recognized where we were. We'd been there a dozen times just in the last month.
I suddenly felt like a monster.
Here we were, walking him into the Vet as if we were going to a regular appointment.
But there wouldn't be anything regular about it.
We were walking him to his death....and I didn't know what to do.
Once in the clinic, the receptionist immediately put us in one of the private rooms.
It was a typical clinic room; cabinetry for medical supplies, a steel table, animal posters on the wall...we'd become accustomed to these rooms over the last several months.
Gridge was having a hard time breathing. I could tell he was stressed about being there. He never liked coming to the clinic.
I sat on the floor and Gridge sprawled out in front of me...leaning against me.
I wanted to pick him up and run away.
I knew it would be selfish.
I knew it would only prolong his pain.
So I just sat there, massaging his shoulders, smelling him, grabbing his cheeks.
Jody sat down next to me and started rubbing Gridge's ears.
The Vet and a technician walked in.
She knelt down and examined Gridge one more time.
She determined this was the right decision and said she'd be back with the injection.
A moment later, she returned and proceeded to explain how the injection would work.
"I'm going to give him a shot. As far as he's concerned, it's a shot of medicine. It wont hurt him. He'll go to sleep quickly. And then he'll stop breathing."
Upon hearing this, my body started pushing against the wall I was sitting up against.
Had there not been a wall there....I would have taken him and run.
I started to cry.
"I know this is difficult, but you need to stay calm. He knows when you're stressed and he'll be concerned. We want to keep him as calm as possible."
I continued pushing against that wall.
"I want you both to stay on the floor with him as you are now and I'm going to give him the injection in the back leg. You'll want to hold his head so he can rest on you when he goes to sleep."
None of this was making sense to me.
This wasn't real.
This couldn't be real.
The Vet moved toward Gridge with the needle and my entire body tensed.
I was about to break down.
"Reassure him, he knows you're upset." The Vet said.
And with that, she gave him the shot.
Gridge faintly yelped at the sting of the injection and I was immediately on top of him, telling him everything was going to be OK.
"It's ok baby....it's going to be ok. You're going to be ok."
And in a moment, he was gone.
It was...so fast.
"He's at peace now. Stay with him as long as you want. When you're ready to leave, go straight home. Don't try to do anything else today. I'm so, so sorry for your loss."
The Vet may have said more...but I didn't hear her.
I lost myself in my grief.
I cried so hard that my insides felt as if they'd burst.
My baby wasn't moving any more.
He wasn't breathing any more.
Jody starting sobbing and I remember thinking it had been some time since I saw him cry.
But that didn't matter.
What mattered was that my Gridge was at peace now.
No more vomiting everything he tried to eat and drink up.
No more pain in his hips.
No more struggling to breathe.
Through our sobbing, we kept talking to him.
Jody thanked him for being so good to us.
I told him to look for my Papa and Gigi and Jody's Dad Ron.
We told him how sorry we were.
I kept telling him how much I loved him.
I held him for a long time.
At some point Jody left the room.
I don't know how much time passed. I didn't understand the concept of time just then.
All I understood was that...my baby was gone.
My baby that I raised and loved for 9 years as my child...not as my pet.
I kissed Gridge on the cheek one last time and rubbed his soft ears.
They were cold.
He was cold now.
I'm not sure why that surprised me...but it did...and I started sobbing again.
"Remember what I told you baby. Remember to listen for my call."
A moment later, Jody came back into the room, collected me, and ushered me to the car.
The rest of the day was a blur.
I know we picked up Kea.
I remember Kea starring at the door when we got home....waiting for us to let Gridge in.
I remember looking at his empty bed.
I remember picking up the towel he had been sleeping on and smelling it.
It still smelled like him.
I lost myself in my grief again and Jody put me straight to bed thus ending the worst day of my life.
A year later, I've had good days and bad.
There are days when I can't stop thinking about Gridge yelping at the sting of the injection.
There are days when I laugh so hard remembering how funny and silly my boy was.
I cry a little some days.
And sometimes I sob.
There are still days I accidentally call out his name.
Most days though....most days I feel him with me.
Most days he somehow manages to make me smile.
Bringing Gridge into my life was the best thing I'd ever done for myself.
Letting Gridge go was the hardest.
To honor my baby boy, a year later, I decided to get a tribute tattoo of a scaled down version of his paw print with a heart inside...because he'll always, always own a piece of my heart.
I love you Gridgery Lee.