October 23 2017
When we were forced to accept that our boys would not live forever, we found it difficult to use the common words associated with the end of life. We didn’t want to say the words out loud. It would give them too much power; it would make them real. Instead, we said they would “go to college.” College is fun, right? A rite of passage. A sign of growth. The start of something new, not the end. College is good.
On September 21st, Cesar went to college.
There is comfort in the thought that he is now with Julio but it does not alleviate the sadness and grief. George doesn’t seem to understand. I think maybe he thinks Cesar is coming back. He isn’t actively searching for him, not the way Cesar searched for Julio when he left, but he takes special notice of other bulldogs and when we watch videos of Cesar on the TV. I tell people that George is clingier than he was before but the truth is we are all on edge when we are apart for too long. We need to be around George just as much as he needs to be around us.
I guess I should mention how Cesar’s college days came to be. We spent the summer visiting the vet for what we thought was arthritis pain and allergies. His eyes were cloudy with a yellowish-green discharge and I was worried he was going blind. On July 29th he woke up with a distended belly. It reminded me of the time when his pancreas was inflamed. We took him in, expecting to get a different pain medicine, but after checking him, Dr. Hamaguchi pulled out the ultrasound machine. The exam seemed to take forever. Every so often he would say “ahhhhh!” and suck in his breath. The vet tech looked very sympathetic and uncomfortable. Eventually the exam ended and we were referred to a specialty clinic in Nagasaki. We were encouraged to schedule the appointment right away and luckily, with help from a friend, we were able to get in the very next morning. Our friend even volunteered to go with us to translate.
They wanted to do a CT scan but needed permission to anesthetize Cesar. I consented, red-faced swollen from tears and snot running from my nose. I kissed Cesar’s face, letting him lick my tears, and told him to be a good boy and I would be right back. A couple of hours later, the doctor explained there was a huge tumor attached to his spleen. It needed to be removed as soon as possible to prevent a fatal rupture. There were also shadows on his liver. Possibly tumors. We wouldn’t know for sure until they could get in there and take his spleen. We agreed and scheduled the surgery.
The surgery went well. Sort of. The doctors removed a 4 lb tumor, along with his spleen and a cut of his liver. He had to stay in the hospital for a few days to recover but by the very next day he was pulling like a mule, trying to escape his pen and come home with me. I knew this didn’t mean he would be ok and live forever but it felt like he would and I had a hard time reminding myself. When he finally came home, he was like a new puppy. Bouncy! With energy! And happiness!
His vision started to come and go, even more than before. His legs were going lame. He started losing weight. Not wanting to eat. Diarrhea. Accidents at night. The tumors on his liver were starting to burst, bleeding into his abdomen and causing him to become anemic. He looked and flet like shit some days. On one bad day, George and I swaddled him in a blanket and lay next to him as his body trembled in pain.
Medicine helped for a bit but didn’t make him better. One morning, we woke up to find him lying in his own tinkle and poo. He could not move. His legs were too weak to hold his weight. It’s hard not to be selfish. Not to hope tomorrow will be better. It’s hard to ask someone to hold on just a little while longer just so you don’t have to feel pain. Ultimately, it just hurts too much to see the one you love suffering. We decided it was time.
At 6:15 pm Cesar went to college.