It finally happened. The sweet, old man who Hugo and I loved so dearly passed away just before midnight last night. It was about 11:50pm on August 22nd to be exact. I couldn’t help but check the time when we walked back into the lobby of the emergency vet hospital, both of us sobbing and holding each other. We loved him like family, as most pet owners do.
We brought Kaiser into our life just after getting married in the Spring of 2009. Our first baby together, if you will. He was our second Rottweiler that we shared, our first, Marley, having passed away while we were out of the country for our wedding celebration. Kaiser’s recalcitrant attitude and strong-will tested me many times throughout the years. Rottweilers are dominant, outspoken dogs that require equally assertive and alpha owners. He proved ever portion of the latter sentence to be true. He would bark shout in outrage if he was told to leave the room and angrily huff if he was forced to go outside to urinate, after sleeping all night and clearly needing to go pee. He had a bold, lovable personality that everyone who met him adored. During vet trips or road trips, Kaiser could often be found sitting between someone’s legs, whether it was Hugo, myself, the vet or a complete stranger, with a big smile on his face, his legs flopped open and his wiener touching the ground due to his relaxed, happy state. As funny and crude as that may sound, we could always tell he was at ease and enjoying life in that position. Hugo and I would have a little laugh every time we saw him like that.
Whenever we’d play fight in front of Kaiser, we would always joke that he was like our referee or a police officer because we would jump into action by jamming his body in between ours in an attempt to separate both parties. He always knew it was in good fun but he equally got a kick out of joining in on the play fight. I will be looking over my shoulder for a charging Rottweiler next time I tickle or pinch my husband, hoping he will bound across the room to stop it all.
From his grumpiest to silliest times, Kaiser taught me a lot about life. I began to realize this a couple of months ago when he first got sick. You become so accustomed to certain things in your life. Waking up to the same person in bed every morning and kissing them goodnight sixteen hours later. The sound of the coffee maker percolating to conclusion and enough money in the bank to buy the quality grounds. Dogs greeting you at the door, almost causing you to trip as you walk in from a long day or vacation away from home. It’s these things that we sometimes take for granted but when any of them come to a screeching halt, even momentarily, it makes us surrender to the truth that nothing is forever and none of this is guaranteed.
The house feels so empty without him here. At his final weight, after being sick for months and slowly withering away to just bones, he clocked in at sixty-nine pounds. He was a ghost compared to the svelte, masculine 109 pound canine that prowled our backyard for nuisance crows or a rogue rabbit. It was madness to hear that weight number fall out of the vet tech’s mouth last night, just minutes before his catheter was inserted. About an hour before that, Hugo had come home early from work because we knew it was time. We both genuinely knew in our hearts that he was suffering and it was time to give him some peace. But even with that said, we stood in the threshold of our laundry room, hovering over our sick dog, debating if it was the right thing to do. We love each other and him so much that we had to just stand there, cry together and talk it out. And we did.
As we spoke and came to the inevitable conclusion that he was in pain and it wasn’t humane to make him slowly continue dying through the night, Kaiser looked up at both of us repeatedly with his sunken eyes and nearly hollowed skull. He had lost so much weight that the outline of his body was like a sketch artist had drawn a skeleton of a dog and pasted some hair on it. It pained both of us to see him like that and the look in his eyes gave us the answers we needed. Hugo took out his collar and leash, to which he wagged his tail to one last time. Nala, our other dog, said her final goodbye at the trunk of my Jeep and we descended the driveway one last time with our little puppy in tow.
Grief is a strange thing. I am not sure what stage I am in or when I will come out the other side. One thing I do know is that I have never seen my husband cry, out of the fourteen years we have been inseparable. But I saw him cry on and off several times since the events of last night unfolded. Kaiser touched his and my heart in such a way that only the unbiased, non-judgemental, unconditional love of a gentle giant can.
So for now I will continue cleaning up the house and gathering his toys for our local animal shelter. I will continue randomly crying as I remember the good times we had as a family of four. I will comfort Nala and Hugo, as they both need me in similar yet different ways. And I will keep a little place in my heart reserved for the beast that was Tootie, his nickname for all those years.
As a final note, Kaiser actually brought Hugo and I a tad bit closer these past couple of days. We have been bickering a little and mildly getting under each other’s skin, most likely due to the fact that I am like a loaded gun that has been grounded at the house in excess of six weeks due to my knee surgery. We have bonded and united as a team as we cared for our sick family member and ultimately laid him to rest. Life has a funny way of coming full circle in that sense. Maybe some times it takes a little bit of sadness to make you cling just a bit harder to the ones you love.