I watched as the vet placed the needle into the tube connected to Kaladi's leg and began injecting the first medicine. It was a sleep aid just to make sure he was comfortable. As she slowly pushed on the syringe and I could see the fluid fill the tube, I began to wonder if maybe I shouldn't try and stop her. To plead with my dad that there must be some other way. Maybe Kaladi just needed a couple days and before we knew it, he'd be back to his old self again. Maybe there was something else we could do to give him new life, a surgery or some meds. But I knew the truth, that my dumb dog was old and it was his time. The only problem with that was that he was dumb and didn't see, to know it. Certainly, Kaladi's body had failed him. He could barely get up on a good day, let alone walk. Which also meant he could no longer go up or down the stairs for using the bathroom. And he hadn't eaten anything in days. But even though his body had run its course, his eyes were filled with the same spirit they had the day we got him as a puppy. Where most of his body had failed him, his heart had decided to try and do it all on its own.
It took most the syringe of meds before Kaladi finally laid down to sleep. He fell over in an awkward position, so that he almost looked like he'd just gotten really drunk and decided to pass out wherever and however. Then the vet switched to her other syringe, the dose of the stuff that would end his life. I wanted to daydream that he'd jump up before she injected the stuff and run circles around us. I wanted to try and give myself an imaginary happy ending, but I couldn't.
Instead I felt like an asshole because there was nothing I could do. And I was mad at myself for not taking him out for a walk more often. Or feeding him some better food than that dry crappy dog food that's supposedly formulated for dogs (if that stuff is so well formulated, why do dogs always seem to want to eat nearly anything but that stuff?). Or that I couldn't really do anything special for him before this had to happen. And in a weird way, I was mad at myself for ever joining the Air Force and missing so much of his life (I know some people think "what's the big deal, it's just a dog", but if you've ever had a dog for a long time, you know what the big deal is and that it's never just a dog).
And then I just remembered a lot of my time with him. Friday nights when I had nothing to do and there was no one home but Kaladi and I and he'd sit there with me while I watched TV. Or his insane sixth sense for knowing when I was going to get food from the kitchen. The way he liked to sit at the top of the stairs as though to claim this was his house. His desire to always play, though never any typical games people play with dogs (i.e. fetch or tug-of-war). How he licked everything, from the floors to people to cabinet doors; if he could get his tongue to it, he probably would. And then of course, there was the fact that he always looked to be smiling, no matter what was going on.
We stuck around for a few minutes after the vet gave him the final syringe. And I just stared at him, almost disbelieving he was dead. When I woke up this morning, I had no idea this was going to happen today. I knew he was old and the time was coming, but I thought for sure we had a couple more months at least. Instead there I was late afternoon watching a good friend die.
If I take nothing else from this day, it's that I hope when it's my time to go, I go out a lot like Kaladi. Not on the floor of a vet's office (though that would probably have an interesting story attached to it, so I can't say I'm necessarily opposed to the idea). But that no matter how much my body has fallen apart, my spirit is still as eager for adventure as always, and that it can be seen in my eyes.