I lost my baby, tanner, on Saturday night. I will never be the same as I was before it happened, I know that, and I know its okay, I know I'm not supposed to be the same. But I just cant see how I can ever be in a place where I can be "normal" again. I don't know I can come to terms with this, how I can live my life without the constant overwhelming reminder that I could have saved him, and what his last moments must have been like.
Tanner was a shihtzu, 13 years old, that we got when I was 11. I was the one who raised him. I took care of him, fed him, walked him, took him to the bathroom, he slept in my bed, and every hard time I ever had growing up, him being there next to me got me thru it. We had so many similarities between us, we even cut our hair the same way when i was a teenager. Someone could ask him, "where's derek? where is he?" and he would take off running all thru the house looking for me. He was my whole world. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I had to leave him with my family and move away when I was 18, the rest of the family wouldn't let me take him. I didn't see him for a year or so. He was the only thing that made it hard to go. I always thought about how much I hurt him when I did that. But I knew he was well taken care of. I did see him again from time to time, but only visits. Fast forward to last year, he was living with my half brother and step sister and her family. My brother calls me one day, says tanner's been in bad shape, they think he's dying, and they are going to take him to the vet to see if he should be euthanized (my brother had already been thru this with 2 cats). Told me if I wanted to see him one last time, I could meet them at the vet. The vets examined him, blood tests the whole nine, and said he wasn't dying, but he was very hurt, and sick. It would take $1k and a month of daily at home care to fix him, but if we couldn't do that, it would be better to euthanize him than have him live in this pain. My sister thought he was going to be euthanized that day, thought there was no saving him, and had already told her children he was gone, and refused to let him live there anymore, and my brother worked too long of hours to take care of him anyway.
I wasn't gonna let him go. No way. Money? Time? that's inconsequential. This was my baby. I payed the vet for what they could do and took him home. Unfortunately, pets were not allowed where I lived, which I knew. But I told my apartment manager what happened, and that I just needed to keep him for a little while, to make him better and then i'd find him a place to go. Once he was all healed up, he looked like a brand new dog. You would never guess anyone ever thought of putting him down. He was so happy and had so much life still in him. But as much as I tried, the apartment owners wouldn't let me keep him after that. I didn't want to give him to a stranger, I wanted to be able to see him whenever I wanted so he didn't feel abandoned. Thankfully, a friend who lived close by was able to take him. And tanner was so happy there. And I got to see him all the time.
Fast forward to last week. It was Saturday night, and as usual a bunch of our friends met up for game night at the friend's house where tanner lived. All my friends got to know tanner, and everybody loved him. Even one guy, who only liked cats, said tanner was the only dog he ever met that he actually liked. He was one of a kind, and he loved the attention everyone gave him. I saw him near the sliding door the backyard, usual kind where the door is just a big window, which meant he needed to go to the bathroom. Like I had always done since he was little, I opened the door for him and stood in the doorway watching him, waiting for him to come in. He did his business, and came running back in to me, excited as all hell cuz he knew every time I took him out, he got a treat afterwards (yes I spoiled him I know). He ran straight into the kitchen, to the cabinet he knew his treats were in, waited for me to get him one, then took it and ran off to seclude himself in the house while he ate it like always, to make sure nobody else took it from him, I was never quite sure why he did that. Then he came back and sat on the couch with me.
A while later, he stood on the edge of the couch, which he does when he wants down. He never learned to jump(just like me, Ive got no jump at all), and years of poor technique trying to jump down from things had slightly weakened the muscles in his back legs, so we always helped him down. Its about 1am, few minutes after I put him down, I see one of the guys open and shut the sliding door, and I ask "did you just let tanner out?" he says "yeah he was looking like he needed to go out". I thought nothing of it, and stayed on the couch, he was perfectly comfortable going by himself, had done it a hundred times before even in the dark. every minute or so I kept looking over at the door from the couch, expecting to see tanners face looking in wanting back inside, but I never saw him. After about 5-10mins, the guy who let him out asked "did anyone let tanner back in?" everyone said no, so me, the guy who owned the house, and 1 other decided we better go get him, and went out with a flashlight to look for him. We called his name, looked around, and then I shined the light on the pool. There he was, floating, motionless. They rushed to him and pulled him out, trying their best to give CPR with no real training. Everyone else came from inside and tried to help, looking up videos on how to do it properly. We called Vet 911, but they were 20mins away and said with the time that had passed, and the time it would take to get there, there wouldn't be much of anything they could do. My friends weren't giving up. They kept trying chest compressions and breathing air into him, for half an hour or so. I was frozen. I couldn't do anything. I stood there, silent, shaking, staring at him and hoping to see him move his head or cough or something. It was pretty cold outside, around 35 F, so after everyone stopped, they move him inside, wrapped in his favorite blanket and put him in a box. I stayed outside, I didn't understand why he fell in. I retraced his steps. Found his fresh poop and was able to estimate the path he walked before he fell in. It didn't make sense to me, it still doesn't, he walked halfway around the pool, he should have been moving away from it and towards the door. This is something he had been doing every night for over a year, there's no reason it should have happened. When my flashlight died, I went inside to him. Everyone was there, silent, just staring at him in the box. Around 3am, my friend forced everyone else to leave, he was on melatonin so he was forced to sleep, and I just stayed there with him thru the night, petting him. He was so cold. He was in the same position he slept in, and many times I thought I could see him breathing, I just expect to hear him snore at any second. Wasn't until I picked him up to hold him how he liked that I found how stiff he was, and knew he was really gone.
Ever since, ive been trying to process it. I let my friend say goodbye, then my brother after he got off work the next day. then that night I took him in to be cremated, I don't have his ashes back yet. I imagine how his final moments must have been. In that pool, freezing cold, back legs must have been too weak for him to swim, slowly drowning, couldn't even bark with the water he was swallowing, looking at the sliding door, waiting for me to come save him, as he struggled for life to no avail. He was my baby. I was the one who was supposed to take care of him, he depended on me, and I let him down. I will carry that failure with me for the rest of my life. But how do I live with that? How can I go to work and spend time with friends and do the things that I enjoy, knowing what he went thru?
If my mom died, or my dad died, that would be different. They are human beings, fully capable self sufficient adults, however they die, it probably wont be in a way where I could have saved them. If tanner got sick, and there was nothing I could, if he died from natural causes, i could understand it was just his time. heck if he drowned one night when I wasn't there, that would be different, cuz my friend never followed him out like I did. But this is not a human being, this is a dog, who depended on me. And I was there. I was right there. If I had just taken him out like I always did and watched him, it wouldn't have happened. If Instead of just looking at the door, I got up and went out there after him, I would have found him in time. He was not ready to die. He was still very much alive. It was not his time, he had more life ahead of him, and I could have gave that to him. Nobody else is to blame, because nobody else ever goes out after him like I did, they just did what they normally do. But I didn't. I could have. Its my fault his life ended prematurely. How do I live with that? What's the answer?
The best I can think of, would be if he was in a better place, up in dog heaven somewhere living whatever his greatest dream was. But god isn't real, heaven isn't real, and this only makes me more certain of that. Because right now I wish it was real, becuz then I'd feel better, which is probably why people believe in it in the first place, cuz they need to, cuz its necessary to continue living. The only other thing I can think of, is the "everything happens for a reason" line you get. Well whatever the reason is better be something god damn life changing, cuz this was. There better be some damn large karmic return, some serious yin to the this yang. If this just happened so that I could be strong enough to deal with some other problem ahead of me, I couldn't accept that, cuz he wouldn't have had to go now. He could have went at his time. But he went now, in this specific way, why? For what purpose? If he had went another way, I could focus on celebrating the life he had, I could accept it, and just remember the good times. But that's not the case here. This was pointless. This i could have prevented. How do I carry that weight?