Katrin’s Last Ride

I awoke before my alarm on a Thursday morning in September. The room was dark. The fan was on. The window was open.

Katrin, my 11-and-a-half-year-old Caucasian Mountain Dog, was lying on her side, with her back against my closet door, beneath the open window. She seemed to be at peace while she slept.

She’d become sick the previous Saturday with yellow diarrhea for two days, followed by vomiting. She’d had bouts like this before, and we’d given her probiotics, lots of water, and let her rest, which always restored her health. This time was different.

During Katrin’s sickness, my daughter Macy had been gone a lot due to house-sitting and pet sitting, in addition to her regular work as a vet assistant. One night, Katrin lumbered down the hall into the living room and headed towards the staircase that led to Macy’s room. Maybe she was looking for comfort from her buddy.

I told Macy that Katrin was sick and missing her, and she came home the next day to check on her. By then, Katrin had stopped eating altogether. She lay on her bed in my room and wagged her tail excitedly when Macy came in to rub her belly. She sat with her before heading off to work. From that day on, Katrin didn’t leave my room.

Desperate to cure her sickness, I went to the pet store and got goat’s milk, pumpkin, and bone broth. I picked up some electrolytes, too. Mark and I took turns syringe-feeding her the liquids. Jessica cooked her chicken and rice. Katrin wouldn’t even touch that.

When I awoke on Thursday morning, I knew that would be the day. I called Macy, who was working, and relayed that we’d scheduled Katrin’s euthanasia. She said she’d get off early so she could be there.

I busied myself until 4:00.

Macy arrived home, still dressed in her scrubs, and sat on the floor with Katrin next to my closet doors. She pulled an orange-frosted sugar cookie and some candy corn from her pocket and offered them to Katrin. Surprisingly Katrin ate them. It was an unusual last supper, I thought to myself.

When it was time, I spread a blanket in the back of my car, and Mark and Macy lifted Katrin in. She was a big dog, weighing 112 pounds, and it took some effort to lift her. She enjoyed car rides, and Mark and Macy snapped pictures of her as we drove to the vet.

We arrived and checked in. Edwin, the clinic manager, greeted us. He’d known us for many years. He led us to a cozy and dimly lit room with a comfortable green loveseat and chair and a thick pile of blankets spread on the floor.

Katrin laid down on the blankets. Macy sat beside her and petted her.

Edwin explained everything that would happen. A tech would come in and shave Katrin’s leg and insert the device where the medicine would go. I signed the authorization forms. Mark left the room to pay the bill.

At last, it was time. The vet came in. She was a petite Asian woman with a soft voice and a gentle touch. She explained that she’d administer two shots – the first one would put Katrin into a deep sleep, and the second one would stop her heart.

The vet gave the first shot. Katrin closed her eyes and put her head down. “She can still hear you,” the vet said. She was teary-eyed and compassionate and petted Katrin’s neck. We told Katrin she was a good dog and that it was OK to go. “Look for Tiny,” I said, referring to her son who’d recently passed. Her breathing became deep.

The vet gave the second shot, then listened to Katrin’s chest. “She’s gone.”

Macy laid on the floor next to Katrin, overwrought with grief. Mark wept openly. I stared at the commotion, unable to cry.

The staff left us alone in the room with Katrin on the blankets.

Macy removed Katrin’s collar and asked if she could stay a few extra minutes. Mark and I headed to my car to wait.

I sat and stared out the car window and watched people entering and leaving the QFC, buying groceries for their dinner. I heard the ruckus from the outdoor dining area at the Mexican restaurant in the same lot. I had a surreal thought of me screaming, “How can you eat your chips and salsa and cheer for the game on TV when our dog is lying dead on the floor next door?”

Macy came outside. We drove home in silence with the windows rolled down.

“Can you stay for dinner?” I asked Macy when we got home. By now, it was 6:30.

“I’ve got to go check on the kitties,” she said. “I’m not hungry anyway.” I hugged her and let her drive off, thankful to be alone with my thoughts.

I took Katrin’s dog bed outside and washed it with lavender castile soap and cold water from the hose.

The sun went down.

She was gone.

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