Oh trouble set me free
I have seen your face
And it’s too much too much for me

Oh trouble can’t you see
You’re eating my heart away
And there’s nothing much left of me”

-Cat Stevens

Zato’s breathing had been getting worse as the days passed, and we saw no difference with the Cytoxan.  I had ordered more herbal remedies in the desperate hope that we could pull off another miracle, but nothing seemed to be making a difference.  I took him to the vet with Tink (bandage change), and after giving him a good exam, the vet said that although his lungs sounded not great, they weren’t too bad, and he didn’t appear to be in distress. He said Zato’s lungs sounded much better than patients that come in with other problems; congestive heart failure, for example.   So we got a prescription for Tussionex cough syrup and some more cough pills.  We discussed if it was time maybe we would do it on a Friday (this was on Tuesday).  Although our vet was off that day, he said he’d be available if we needed him, even on the weekend.  God bless him.  He also said that it was probably better to let him go a bit sooner rather than later, because with this type of thing, “things can get pretty ugly at the end.”  So we went home, and on went the rest of the week.

Zato would do ok during the day, with some coughing fits, but the Tuss helped.  At night he was restless and would be ok until about 3 a.m., and then that horrible sound would start again.  Other than the cough, he was acting a bit tired but still eating, still wagging his tail, and still having the occasional bicycle kick display on his back, as well as the ritual of licking the Pig’s head.  But he stopped lying behind my legs when I was on the couch.  And when I would go to him and pet him, he would like it for a little while and then he would go lie down somewhere else.

By the time Sunday night rolled around, we could hear sounds when he breathed, something between a whistling and a wheezing.  And he was breathing faster and it was more shallow.  He did manage to attempt to chase some deer, though! Monday morning, we got up early, looked at him, sat and cried, and made the decision.  Unless of course there was something else we could try (nothing like one last smattering of denial).  I brushed his hair and got enough to put in a little bag.  When the vet opened up at 8, I called.  But his vet was off that day.  Lucky for us, there was another one there that he knows and we think the world of her, so after I had choked out enough words for them to figure out what I was saying, they said to bring him on over.  I took this while it was still pretty dark but you can see him:

We drove to the vet in the rain. Richard carried him in and they had a room ready for us.  I went to the restroom to try and compose myself so I wouldn’t be hysterical.  Zato needed calm, not my screaming and crying.  When I got to the room, Richard was filling out the paperwork.  Tears streaming down his face, he asked me what was the date.  I said the 19th. Then he said, choking back tears, “I mean, what month is it…”  I know everyone reading this understands that level of grief and shock.  We still couldn’t believe this was about to happen.  The vet came in.  Zato, who usually walked around to greet everyone, was just lying on the floor.  He was done.  We could see it.  The tail wagging, the enthusiasm from that morning and the past few days, we knew he was doing it for us.  Suddenly he had a look on his face of relief, as if he was thinking, “I can rest now.”  He wasn’t afraid.  She listened to his lungs.  They sounded bad, she said.  And that he wasn’t getting enough air.  And things were going to get really bad for him from this point on.  After everything, there was no way we were going to let that happen.

Richard picked him up and put him on the table and they gave him the sedative.  As she did it, she said something about how he had always been such a good boy.  Everyone always liked our boy Zato.  She and the tech left so we could be alone with him while the drug kicked in.  We hugged him.  We cried.  We thanked him.  We told him how much we loved him, over and over.  When he started getting sleepy, I leaned over and softly sang all of his songs to him.  I told him that he was going to sleep and when he woke up, he would have his leg back and it wouldn’t hurt anymore.  That he would have wings.  To find Amy, and Ali, and Thatcher, and Stymie, and Josie, and all the other doggie loves of my life.  But please, if you can, wait for me.

The vet came in and we held him as the final shot was delivered.  He coughed for a second and then was silent. It was fast and peaceful.  He was gone.  And so was my heart.

Zatoichi Bugaboo Treen