In the end it was respiratory, as we knew it would be.

As I wrote yesterday, Ketzl had a bad night, and we couldn’t quite figure out what was going on.

But we should have known. After each loss of function, Ketzl became anxious, at least until she got used to the fact that this-or-that wasn’t going to work any more, and adjusted.

But it’s hard to adjust to a diaphragm that’s just isn’t working well enough to draw sufficient air. The heart tries to compensate by increasing its own rate, rushing the blood by the lungs to try to keep levels as high as it can, but it can only keep that up so long. And it can’t be comfortable, a 190bpm rate.

A bad night.

Followed by a pretty low day. She was tired—we all were—and lay next to me in my home office on egg crate foam I covered with a sheet, propped by pillows, trying to rest. She wouldn’t eat—never a good sign—but would take water. Occasionally, she would sleep, head sideways on a pillow, mouth open, panting. I did what I could to make her comfortable.

Later in the afternoon, to try to perk her up a bit, I took her for a drive. Windows down in the car, a cool breeze ruffling her fur. She lay in the back on the seat, raising her head occasionally to sniff, to try to look, and put it down on her paws. And panted.

Back home, I carried her downstairs and placed her on the floor, near the cool breeze from a fan. On her left side, she gasped for breath, clearly struggling. Thinking I’d put her down wrong, I propped her a bit more sternal and put her head on my lap. I checked her airway, which was clear, and got her water, which she drank. Her head rested on my thigh, on the floor. I went upstairs, put some ice in a towel and wiped her ears, pads, muzzle.

Around 7:30pm, Zabeth called on her way back from rounds. I told her she should hurry home, since something was wrong. Or tried to. Ketzl rested on my lap.

When she got here, we talked, cried, knew what had to be done. Originally, our cut-off point was going to be when she lost the use of her front legs, but when that happened a few months ago, Ketzl stayed bright, alert and happy. So, instead, we waited—waited for a sign from Ketzl.

Given, given.

I carried Ketzl back to the car and we drove to VESCONE. I had wanted to do this with our long-time vet, but it wasn’t to be: I couldn’t let Ketzl suffer for another day. VESCONE was nearby, and they had a nice room with carpet, a couch, fish. An attempt to provide a comforting space. Better than a stainless steel table.

Ketzl was placed on a gurney, a nylon strap holding her in place, a formality, given the fact that she really couldn’t move. She was comfortable, and had been given oxygen to help her breathe more normally. More relaxed, we gave her some turkey, some cheese. She ate for us, her last meal.

And we hugged her, and cried, and the Pink Hammer came down, and she was gone. Her eyes remained open, sunken, lifeless. I tried to close them—the freezer is a harsh place—but couldn’t. Icy eyes. I’m sorry, Ketzl.

We cut three tufts of fur and bundled them like sheaves of wheat: glossy black, chestnut brown and white. Bright white, the color of new snow, the snow she loved so. I wish I could have given her just one more glorious day.

We left the room, with her on the gurney. I closed the door and left the fish to watch over her, left the waiting room, desperately trying not to make eye contact with the people there.

At home, Z and I cried over a glass of wine, raised a toast to Ketzl. She was a great dog, and shared her life with us for over nine years, good times and bad. We loved her like a child, knew this was part of the bargain.

The light that burns twice as bright lasts half as long.

And she burned so very, very brightly.

Thanks, Ketzl, for the light you brought into our lives.