I’m afraid to say that last night our beloved corgi-bear, Chaos, succumbed to the side effects of his cancer. As I’d written previously, the summer months brought with them a series of small nose bleeds. We all hoped that they were merely due to allergies, but as the months wore on they grew more and more frequent.
Earlier this week, my wife was washing Chaos’s face, when suddenly his nose began to gush blood. Her attempts to stop the bleeding failed, so we rushed him to our vet. I thought for certain that we were going to lose him that day. Yet somehow the wonderful folks at Oak Creek Veterinary Hospital were able to get the bleeding under control and stabilize him. But even then, my wife and I were sure we had only a matter of hours, not days or weeks, before he would slip away from us forever.
We took him home and kept him comfortable. That night we watched him in shifts, dabbing up blood and snot and applying ice when it became too much for his nose to handle. In the morning, he was devoid of energy. His gums were still pale from blood loss. He refused all food, and drank little.
My wife and I had the talk. As hard as it was we decided that the best we could do for him would be to let him go peacefully. In addition to the cancer, Chaos’s degenerative myelopathy had become exacerbated by the high dose of prednisone he’d been taking to combat the nose bleeds. We thought we’d never see our Chaos running again.
And then he started eating. I coaxed him with some sardines and a Wendy’s cheeseburger, and he devoured them. He started drinking again, too. And walking around, socializing. That evening I was reading on my back porch when I heard the doggy door open and close. I turned around and saw Chaos sitting there, looking at me. Next door, our neighbor’s dog zipped down the fence separating our two yards. Chaos howled at her, like he always did. In that moment I imagined Chaos was like a Bravos Water Dancer from out of G.R.R.M.’s Game of Thrones series. He was spitting into the face of Death and saying, “Not today.”
He then took off running into our yard, got halfway across it, turned and waited for me. I followed. He then trotted a bit further, stopped, and waited for me. I followed. He led me to the gate which separates our property from our friends’. He sat, looked at me, and then looked at the gate. I ran back inside and grabbed my wife. Chaos wanted to visit his friends, and I didn’t think it right to deny him.
We spent that evening relaxing with our friends, their dogs, and our dogs. Aside from the occasional trickle of watery blood from his nose, you never would have known Chaos had been at death’s door just 24 hours prior.
I thought to myself, “That dog gives more encores on life than James Brown during a farewell tour.”
On Thursday Betty’s folks dropped by for a surprise visit. They loved on Chaos. Later that evening he got to visit with my gaming friends and be one of the guys. On Saturday, our friends Rob and Audra, whom Chaos adored, had dinner with us. On Sunday, my step-son, Logan, stayed overnight and spent time with him. We didn’t know it then, but we were giving Chaos one last visit with everyone whom he loved.
Yesterday afternoon my wife took Chaos back to Oak Creek for a follow up exam and to have them look at an ear infection he’d developed. Everyone there was so happy to see him up and about after such a short recovery time. We’d also heard back from MedVet. They advised us to cut back on Chaos’s prednisone. We had a plan. Things were looking up.
That evening I prepared the dogs’ food like normal. Into Chaos’s dish I sprinkled a bit of turmeric to go along with his kibble. I set the food down, and he attacked it as normal. I left the kitchen to work on some writing. A minute later, my wife called to me.
“Sweetie,” she said, “Chaos is bleeding again.”
She didn’t seem overly concerned. I made up an ice pack and pressed it to his face. After a few minutes, we realized something different was happening. The blood was not coming from his nose. It was coming from his mouth. Quickly and with the help of our friends, we bundled him up and rushed him to the emergency room at MedVet. By the time we got there, the bleeding was uncontrollable. They admitted him to triage immediately.
His oncologist happened to be at the hospital at that time, and it was she who broke the news to us. “It looks like a tumor has ruptured a small artery in the roof of his mouth. We can try and do a blood transfusion and see if we can suture the artery, but depending on where exactly the tumor is, a suture may not hold. He’s losing blood pretty quickly.”
She put the choice before us. It was the same choice we’d been asked to make several times over the past nine months.
They gave us time alone to discuss what we wanted to do, but Betty and I already knew what had to be done. We held each, crying, as we said aloud to each other what we knew was the only humane course of action left. It was time to say goodbye. We asked that he be euthanized.
Betty, myself, and our neighbors gathered around Chaos in MedVet’s triage room. As he slipped away, we assured him of how much he was loved, what a good boy he was, and how much he mattered. I promised him he would always be my puppy boy.
Since that moment, a scene has replayed itself over and over in my mind. A memory. It is of a scene that happened several times during Chaos’s younger years. But the one that plays in my mind is an amalgamation of those moments. A perfect memory. Chaos isn’t more than two when there is a knock at our door. I answer it. Chaos is right there at my side, barking. I open the door, and it is the pizza delivery guy. Chaos continues to go nuts at my side while I try and pay for the pizza. I reach down and scritch his collar. He calms down a bit, but keeps grumbling. I return to finish talking to the pizza guy, and I realize Chaos has stopped barking completely. I look down at him. He’s looking out past me and the delivery man at the wide world beyond his door. His ears perk up. And then he bolts!
I chase after him, but he’s running so fast, faster then I would have thought his little legs could have carried him. But then he stops and turns around. He’s looking at me, with a big goofy grin on his face. His tongue lolled out to the side. He waits until I get within five feet of him, and then he’s off again. He darts through bushes and under fences. I’m barely able to keep pace. But whenever he gets too far away, he stops, turns to me, and waits. He’s not trying to run away from me. He wants to run with me. The chase continues all across our neighborhood until he gets so tired that he no longer runs away. I gather him up in my arms and carry him back home. He’s panting so hard. I can feel his little heart thrumming with excitement. He doesn’t care if he’s in trouble. He’s had fun.
I curse my atheism and wonder if he’s like that now, still running ahead of me. His heart and his mind filled with excitement. I wonder if he’ll stop and wait for me with the hope that some day I will catch him and hold him to my chest. And then we will go home again.
Order Out of Chaos Lickman
October 7th, 2003 – July 21st, 2014