My dog was terminally ill. He passed away in my arms this evening.
My first real post on this blog was about him: https://www.jessewolcott.com/i-got-a-dog/
We both grew up with Labs, so I searched for “Lab Rescue” and found Lab Rescue LRCP, and went through the application and interview process, which we, apparently, passed. The interview process was pretty hilarious, including questions like “What do you intend to get out of a dog?” and “What do you expect from a dog?” (My answers are “A buddy?” and “Be cute and occasionally catch a ball?” if you want to know).
After stalking their website for weeks and week, we had a couple prospects in mind, and turned up to an adoption event in Fairfax, VA, at “Weber’s Pet Supermarket” on July 14, 2012. We walked around, trying to find “the dog.” Kona was a chocolate lab with wicked neon green eyes that looked adorable, but had a seizure issue that required he take daily medication, so we were put-off by that (which is hilarious, more later). There was Cowan, the fox-red pup that was wild as a banshee, and “not for first time dog owners.” There was Dune, the 40 pounds black lab that shook like a leaf at any stimulation.
We found Dune, who was busy cowering under a truck. Adoption events are very, very stressful for dogs, so it was understandable. The people who brought Dune were from Richmond, and also had recently come into possession / fostership of another dog, Coy. They didn’t know much about him, except that he had some veterinary records from an animal hospital in fairly rural Virginia. He was rescued, taken to Disputanta, neutered, and then into shelters. He was then rescued, and found himself in Richmond, VA with these foster parents, then off to Fairfax the very next day for this adoption event. While kneeling, trying to visit with / pet Dune, this dog laid a huge drool string on my shoulder. I goofed with him for a minute, and didn’t give it another thought.
You may have guessed from my gross over-detail that Coy later became Ganon.
We left the adoption event that day, without-dog. We stopped at a barbecue restaurant called “Red, Hot, and Blue” in Fairfax, which is a chain place, but offers, I don’t know, B- barbecue. I laid awake in bed that night grappling with the day. How, out of 30 dogs, could I not have been able to bond with one? Then it hit me: Coy. The Drool. Thats my dog. I spun around and checked the Lab Rescue Website, and, much to my dismay, a brown “ADOPTED” tag was next to his name. Shit. Love was lost. I contacted our adoption coordinator and expressed my disappointment.
The following Monday saw work come and go, and after work, Laura and I were dressed and ready for the Gym when I received a call from our adoption coordinator who told us that Coy was not adopted, and in fact, his new foster was in Dundalk. Oh, good fortune! We hopped in the car and went to meet him, again. He was a jumpy, nervous wreck! We found out that the “foster” was actually just a potential adopter that didn’t want him. He wasn’t “ball crazy,” so he wasn’t good enough for her. Well, fuck you lady, he’s ours now.
So, Laura and I got Ganon on July 16, 2012.
It was horrible. I’m not going to lie and blow smoke. I suppose we thought having a dog would be… easier? Somehow? I don’t know what we expected. He was jumpy, he was nervous, he didn’t trust us. We were used to the calm, cool, collected dogs that our parents had raised from puppies; we didn’t see the hard part. We didn’t know that a dog growling while he played wasn’t outright aggression. We didn’t know that you can’t get in a strange dogs face when they’re sleeping, having been in a shelter, you have to earn that trust.
We debated taking him back to the rescue, going so far as making calls to arrange the return. The issue was not Ganon, of course, but that my wife and I weren’t ready for the commitment of taking care of another living being. We labored over the newfound change in our lives, and I talked, out loud, to myself, as I am wont to do, to sort the issue. The words that made the decision for me were “If I return this dog, I’d be the kind of person that I’d talk badly about.” That settled it for me.
Laura is a teacher, which I’ve mentioned elsewhere, so she was home a lot during the summer (most days, actually). I’ve since learned that you’re supposed to do a “Two Week Shutdown” with a dog (Materials from “Big Dogs Big Hearts” if you’re interested here: Two Week Shutdown. We didn’t do that, at all. Looking back, we basically did the exact opposite of that guide. We introduced him to loads of people, took him for walks, took him for car rides, all sorts of things. My in-laws’ dog didn’t care for Ganon, which is something that turned into grudgingly-given tolerance, but that’s another story.
Laura didn’t immediately take to him. I will credit Ganon for bringing my wife and I together in a profound way… I also totally agree that a dog is a great first step towards children, but more in the mental capacity. Both of us really struggled to accept the responsibilities that we now had. It wasn’t long until we were both totally smitten, though. I’d get home, and the dog was hype to see me. See below:
In the late summer and early autumn of 2012, I had to travel a considerable amount for work, first to San Antonio for nearly a week, then to South Carolina in September, October, and November. The biggest revelation of these trips was how much my world revolved around my wife and dog. I’ll not say that my love for my wife has ever changed, but with people, speaking on the phone, seeing each other in video chat, the distance can be shortened greatly using technology. After all, I love my wife because she’s my wife, not because she’s fuzzy. A relationship with a dog is very physical, cuddles, petting, lean against. You can’t replicate that away from home, no matter how hard you try.
For a short time, when we first got Ganon, we tried to crate him during the day (while we were out or at work), as the rescue reported that he was crate trained. He was not. That was a lie.
Time went on fairly routinely. We struggled with some food allergy stuff because Ganon, throughout his life with us, scratched himself in the Fall and Winter. Might have been allergies or just dry skin, we’ll never know. Thanks to this scratching, he endured some pretty horrible hematoma in his ears, which left him with a seriously scar-tissued right ear. We often talk for our dog (its weird, i know). We called it his cauliflower ear (because thats what fighters get, and its the same problem). This was the first real visit to the vet.
Mid-2013 saw my first foray into volunteer work. I just do transport Rescue Road Warriors and all kinds of stuff with Dogs XL now. It was because of Ganon though. I solidified my beliefs about dogs with him.
In June, 2014, we went to Ocean City, and thanks to our friends Matt and Amanda, were able to stay in their in-laws house, and bring Ganon. As you can see, “Uncle Matt” loved Ganon so much.
There is a section of the bay that is accessible from a rec center, and we took Dexter (Matt and Amanda’s yellow lab) and Ganon to swim and play catch in the bay. We had a very long leash on Ganon, but we were worried because we never really trusted him off leash; he is too curious. He swam out to the ball and came back in, limping. We thought we were in for a trip to the Ocean City Emergency Vet… when a small crab unhooked itself from Ganon’s paw. Pathetic! We cracked up. Dexter and Ganon spent a lot of time together.
Ganon was so loved wherever he went. He had an energetic goofy demeanor that endeared him to people. Thats the part I’ll miss the most.
Ganon, when we got him, had a tumor that we assumed to be fatty on his belly. We had that tumor removed in late October 2014. The testing of that tumor came back negative, and he was on an antibiotic and pain pill. After the antibiotic ran out, after a week, Ganon became unable to hold his urine for more than about an hour. It was diagnosed as a bladder infection (by an Internal Medicine $pecialist), so we treated that. After a while, he seemed to recovered, and was able to hold his urine. I was “tapping him out” by taking him for a walk in the morning on January 5, and I noticed that his urine was very, very orange / red. Back to the vet, this time, for a biopsy.
The biopsy was incredibly invasive, and he was in really bad shape after that. It took him quite a few days to even be able to walk correctly, or to pee consciously. This carried us through the year’s end. We had an excellent couple of weeks, until February, when Ganon suddenly was reluctant to eat. He’s never been a picky eater, so this should have been a monstrous red flag. He also began to vomit pretty regularly. It should be known that when we got Ganon, he was the biggest drooler I have encountered. We were able to control it with Pepcid, but this time, he was throwing up everything.
In the end, he was down 11 pounds, and would not eat. Could not digest. He’s thin, and exhausted all the time. We have not been able to keep any meaningful nutrition in him since he began vomiting (Tough to figure out the exact date on this one, but I believe it was the beginning of February). We were in constant contact with our Veterinarian, and performed so many tests. They haven’t been able to figure out what it is, beyond “Irritable Bowel Disease”, but he’s not responding to the treatment plan thats typical for IBD. Its probably because his poor little body can’t take anymore.
On February 20, Laura took him to the vet, as he was not eating, and when he ate, he vomited. He was getting dehydrated and lethargic, as well as extremely weak. Subcutaneous fluids let him come home, but the lack of nutrition continued to be a problem. Wednesday (2/22/2015) I dropped him off at the vet for a battery of tests, and he came home that night, slightly more hydrated but not really any better. The vet decided to keep him for some time, to give him intravenous medication, subcutaneous fluids and so on. In the end, he was there 9 full days, with our vet giving updates daily.
While Ganon was in the hospital, we had a snow-storm that was pretty bad. Our vet, Dr. Rick Lewis, essentially took up residence in his office, and cared for his patients. He acted with care, compassion and sympathy. He answered our calls, gave us status updates, and gave us consolation when we needed it. He is a skilled veterinary surgeon, and delivered news to us in a way that we understood the impact. A seasoned professional, truly and completely. The way that the doctors in that office rallied around my pet to try to figure him out was nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Saturday, February 28th, we went to Monster Jam, and Fogo with some friends, and I can remember walking through the streets of Baltimore like I had a rock chained to me, and the world on my back. That night should have elicited nothing but various spikes of content, and my mind flashed back to his face so much. Laura and I moved through the motions of life, almost, at least to me, like I was watching someone else do it. I’ve never felt so disconnected.
We brought him home on the morning of Saturday, March 7, 2015, and he had a very sluggish, but reasonable day. He was thin as hell, at 69 lbs, where he spent most of his life with us at a comfortable 83 (and lean and mean). He looked terrible. We slept on the ground floor with him that night, so that we could be near, and answer his cries if he needed to go outside, as he was far too weak to handle the steps up to the bedroom. Sunday came, and we spent all day with him. Laura’s mother and father came to visit, and around 7 PM, I took Ganon outside. He laid down in the grass and was not able to get up. He defecated while laying down, struggled to get up, then defecated again, this time very red, very bloody. I carried him inside and set him on the ottoman, but he was panting, his breath was very shallow. Laura and I decided that it was time to put him to sleep, so we called to ask the Vet if we could take care of it this evening, to which he agreed. I carried him to the sidewalk, while Laura brought the car up, and I carried him to the car. I sat in back and Laura drove. He was very weak, but he was thrashing around (as best he could). I know that the term “death throes” exists, though I’ve never looked much into it. He died in my arms on Bel Air Road, around 8 PM this evening, Sunday, March 8, 2015.
He came home for two days. I think the vet knew that we needed some closure, and some time to say good-bye.
Laura and I are struggling. It was pretty difficult for me to catalog this, but I know how time passes, and I want to make sure that I have a solid record. I may come back and add more events, or pictures. He was very much our son. I’m so very thankful for what he’s given to me, and I’ve given him everything I can. He taught me many things in his life, and will continue to teach me in his death. I love him so much, and I’m so thankful that Laura and I have thousands of pictures of him. I am not a religious man, but times like these make me wish I was able to think I’d see him again. He is such a good boy.
Thank you, Ganon. May the road rise up to meet you. I love you with all my heart. Rest in Peace.