Izzy’s Last Days

Finding our way to goodbye

A dog is man’s best friend. Truer words have never been spoken.

He joined our little family in 2006, when Buio was already 8 years old.

Buio had lost his front left leg when he was hit by a car, and Izzy quickly became a concerned protector of his idol.

Izzy had a sweet personality, and loved to be petted. He never tired of affection.

When Buio died in 2013 we added Blue, a black lab. Just as Buio was slow to warm to Izzy, so Izzy was slow to warm to Blue.

But eventually they became best buds.

Izzy had hypothyroidism which caused his fur to thin and fall out. He received a pill 2x a day for his entire life. It worked well for him, as you can see in the photo below.

During the week or two prior to his death this summer, he changed his behavior several times and did some unexpected things which were particularly striking and meaningful for me.

Over the last two years he had been on a CBD tincture which dramatically improved his life. Prior to that, arthritis had nearly disabled his rear right leg, and he had restless, painful nights, making audible groans as he shifted himself to try and get comfortable. The CBD changed all of that.

He always looked forward to his 45 min. morning walks with us, and was up for everything and anything, often scrambling over rocks into streams, and up and down banks, etc. 

We got a ramp to help him in and out of the truck, but he didn’t trust it at first, (and only grudgingly later.)

Towards the end he would place his front legs inside the truck and I would hoist his hindquarters up and into the vehicle. He gradually came to expect that. Sometimes, however, he would surprise us and get in and out on his own, especially getting out.

Over the course of the spring and early summer months of 2020, he began sleeping a lot on the couch after these expeditions, often through the night. Sometimes he would make it to his bed next to me, but mostly he stayed on the couch.

Around two weeks before his death, he started sleeping in a number of different spots on the floor: behind my recliner; near the fireplace, on the front stoop, in front of one of our recliners.

Eventually he started to decline in his ability to do much of a morning walk. While on the trail he would often pause, and stare blankly into space for minutes at a time. His last week, we skipped the walk a few days in a row. But he acted like he wanted to go, anyway. I stayed home with him, while Veronica took Blue and Blaze, and I walked him out our front door. He would make it to the garage, and then turn around and go right back, for a total of 20 yards each way. 

The day before his death he insisted on going on the walk, and we loaded up the three dogs and drove to the Long Trail. Veronica headed out with Blue and Blaze while I lingered near the truck with Izzy. He surprised me and made it farther than he had in weeks, about 400 yards each way up a moderate incline. He paused often, and gazed into space. At first it appeared that he was suffering from dementia, but I realized that maybe he was just taking it all in, the sunshine, the breeze, the smells, the totality of “being in the moment” and I tried to do the same. These are special memories for me, both of us just standing there, gazing at the trees, feeling the breeze, trying to just be.

At the start of his last week he stopped eating. We were unable to give him his 2x a day thyroid pill and CBD, because he wouldn’t eat the roll we hid them inside. He became very restless, and took to waking up and wandering aimlessly, going from his water dish, which he did not avail himself of, to the front door, but once outside, he would just come back having done nothing. 

We then started holding his mouth open and dropping his CBD down the back of his throat which he did not appreciate, but it definitely calmed him down. Still the nocturnal restlessness persisted. One night, after letting him out several times, we let him stay out. It was definitely on the cool side, for a summer night, but we didn’t know what else to do. We figured it’s where he wants to be and he can always scratch the door to come in, if it gets too cold. In the morning he was nowhere to be found. He gave us quite a scare. We searched high and low. Veronica finally located him, curled up and trembling, hidden amongst the tiger lilies on the side of the house.

During his last two days he spent hours laying in a few different spots in the backyard. I felt like he knew that he was dying and was seeking out mother earth, auditioning different sites beneath the big sugar maple outback. I sensed that maybe he wanted me to bury him in one of those spots.

On his last full day, after lunch, after he had been laying next to the garden gate for several hours, we heard a hoarse, hollow, raspy shadow of a bark. The sun had found him and I figured maybe he was too hot. I carried him in my arms, (down from 65 lb.s to a mere 43 lb.s), all the way around the house, in the front door and over to his favorite spot on the couch. He did not try to right himself as I lowered him down, the way he usually would, limply falling into the couch. 

Something happened at that moment. It was like his dimmer switch had started automatically dialing him down. He never got up again. 

That evening when it came time for us to go to sleep, Veronica and then I, individually spent time with Izzy, saying goodbye and kissing him, fearful that he might pass in the night.

I woke up twice and checked on him, around midnight and 2 am, and he was resting comfortably, still breathing his shallow breaths.

I woke a 3rd time a little after 4 am and he was gone. He was still warm, but already starting to stiffen.

In my heart of hearts this was exactly all that I had hoped for Izzy, especially after what we had gone through with Buio seven years earlier: a frantic trip to the vet, euthanasia in the parking lot, part of which Veronica missed because she was being asked for her credit card, and then cremation. I wanted to spare Izzy and us the drama and the stress. I wanted him to die peacefully in his sleep and to be buried on our property. It just seemed like the natural and truly ideal way to go, if at all possible.

Unfortunately I had pulled my groin muscle and had a bad knee and shoulder, so hand digging a grave was out of the question. This summer we had a great experience with a young man named Cole Palmer who had just graduated HS, but also had his own excavation business. He helped us to fill our new raised beds and did some tree work and grading as well.  I knew that it would not be practical to use the mini-excavator out back again as we had already reseeded the grass after the first job. 

Then it dawned on me that we could bury Izzy over at the log landing on the western edge of our property, which also happens to be the neighborhood “view spot”, as it commands an unobstructed sweeping panorama of the Green Mountains.

I texted Cole around 6:30 am. He was here by 7:45 am.

By 8:30 am Izzy was reunited with mother earth. We wrapped him the blanket that Veronica had made for him years ago, with white fleece on one side and a patterned fabric with dogs all over the other side.

Cole refused to charge us, so we gave him a $200 tip and suggested he spend it caring for his 1 year old female Golden Retriever, Bailey. It was a whirlwind of serendipities. I could not have dreamed up a better scenario myself.

I’ve been telling Veronica that I want to be buried on our land, and I just found out that is totally legal in Vermont, you just have to file a form with the Town Clerk. It is a wonderful spot with a million dollar view. Fingers crossed that all of us can rest in peace there together eventually.