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Griffin: In Memoriam

It has been a while since I have posted any video, or anything at all for that matter.  I promised myself that the next video I posted would be one in particular, and it has taken until now until I was ready.

 

You see, two years ago today, I killed my best friend.

 

It was merciful, to be sure, but painful nonetheless - and still.

For those that have read my spotlight piece on How to Die in Oregon, you might be familiar with my situation.  If you haven't read it already, I won't recap here as it is posted there.  In the aftermath of that, I committed to not picking an end date for Griffin, but decided that he would tell me when it was time.  

Two years and a day ago, he stopped taking his pain meds.  For him, that was the sign that he was done.  Whereas previously, he would sometimes wake up a half hour before his next pill was due and politely bark  "Hey!"  "It's time for my next dose!" and then take his "treat" and go back to sleep - showing that he knew full well what these pills were and what they did for him - on this day, he refused the medication.  He wouldn't take his meds and I couldn't leave him in pain.  After squeezing every last drop of life out of the thirteen months following a six-week-to-three-month-prognosis, all the stones had been turned, every avenue taken, and all the remedies used up.  

Roughly three weeks shy of his 14th birthday, it was time to call the vet and then spend a final day with my favorite living being.

The next day - two years ago - I took him to the vet and came home without him.

The following day, I wrote the eulogy (in bold below) and electronically shared it with anyone that knew him.  A little impersonal, but I just didn't have the strength to relive it all with each person and didn't want to leave anyone out.  I also posted some videos on Facebook of him in his younger more spritely days, one of which I have included here.  Following the eulogy is the post I wrote for Facebook (in italics below).

People responded overwhelmingly to what I wrote, especially those that had lost a loved one of any shape or form.  Since I started telling the final chapter of his story here, I felt I owed it to those that read about it to let them turn the final page and see how that story ends - and vowed that that would be the next thing that I posted.  So now, after a long gap, here we are.

For anyone that comes to this site, and might happen to read my posts, we're all here because we care about film, for all the many reasons that we do so.  In the big picture, from abstract metaphor to documentary, film is about life.  However, sometimes with great clarity, we are reminded that life is not about film.

This post, therefore is not about film, despite its appearance on this site.  For those that choose to read on, I hope that you get something from it.  For those that don't, I hope you'll excuse the indulgence.

 - Todd

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I lay down on the floor, snout-to-snout with my best friend, as I gently rolled him over onto his side.  Our eyes met and I watched the light within him go out.

Your discomfort ends and my pain grows.  I take this burden, not happily, but willingly.  If I could have taken it earlier without taking your life, I would have done so gladly.

You soldiered through arthritis.  You compensated for spinal stenosis before we even knew about the coming gradual-but-steady decline.  You fought cancer and kicked its ass for over a year.  In the end, the only fight you couldn’t win was the fight we all lose.  The opponent: Time.

Yet, even on your final trip, you showed what you were made of.  As we swung by Nut Island and I carried you down the fishing pier for one more sniff of one of your favorite places, you cuddled up to me, cradled in my arms, now unable to walk without help.  We reached the end, both in metaphor and in reality, and I set you down to see if you could stand.  Even though, in recent days, you had needed assistance for this simple task, now, in your last attempt, buffeted by ocean breeze, somehow, you stood.  On your own.  Like an Olympic gymnast with a bad ankle, you stuck the landing.  Like DiCaprio in Titanic, you were King of the World! 

To mark this occasion, and your place in the world, you posted your final P-mail – and what a post it was.  “Let it be known far and wide, that I, Griffin, was here!  Smell what I have left for you and know that I was here before you.  My kind shall not pass this way again.”  Or something like that.  It was a really long pee.

As I gathered you up into my arms to bring you back to the car for the last leg of the journey, I couldn’t guarantee that you were king of the whole world, but you were certainly king of mine.

Your unbridled joy and merry tail brought a smile to everyone you encountered – from people in passing cars to a little boy in a pet store who, upon seeing you, excitedly exclaimed to his parents: “That’s the dog I was thinking of!”, to the neighbor that just days ago unsolicitedly snow-blew the yard to make it easier for you to try to walk.

To those who knew you, you brought happiness. 

To those who knew you well, you brought love.

This morning, I took your sister Shayna for a long walk to through the neighborhood – we went to the end of the marsh boat ramp and back.  She misses you.  She was re-reading your old posts this morning and was very sad last night.

Today, there is a Griffin-shaped hole in my heart that is raw and wet with tears.  Someday, the scar that eventually forms in its place will be one of my favorite parts of me, as you were one of my favorite parts of my life.  In the meantime, I wear these tears with pride.  A badge of honor for having loved you so deeply for so long and being loved by you in return.

Now, I begin Life 3.0.  Pre-Griffin, Griffin, Post-…

My life goes on, but it will never be the same. 

Perhaps I can strive for it to be as good, but that seems a long way off.

Thanks for filling the last nearly-fourteen years with faithful friendship, constant companionship and unconditional love.  Your life has extinguished, but the fond memories of you live on.

I love you buddy, and miss you very much.

Love,

Dad

 

--------

 

Thanks to everyone for your kind words and supportive thoughts.

I had intended to show a number of images showing Griffin's life over time, including samples from the last year. 

Some of them are funny, but perhaps only if you knew him. 

For example, after his partial mandiblectomy to excise his osteosarcoma (he had the left side of his lower jaw amputated from behind the canine tooth back to the skull in order to remove an aggressively-growing bone cancer tumor), he showed no real ill-effects. Just kept going. The morning after surgery, instead of needing to be syringe-fed liquids at the hospital, he was up and eating food out of a bowl. That said, he would occasionally drop his tongue out of the left side of his mouth, since there was nothing there to contain it if he didn't actively hold it in. 

If you knew him, a really good picture of his tongue hanging out might bring a smile to your face - as he would have. But others might see a dog with a tongue problem and think it sad.

Similarly, videos of him walking down the pier at Nut Island this summer - where he made me laugh by trying to suck in an entire baby squid that one of the fishermen had left behind, before spitting it out (too much or too slimy, we'll never know) - might seem nice to some, but others might see a dog in decline. His back had started to sway like an old draft horse and his gait is less sure and becoming stumbly.

Seeing him every day, the slow fade was less perceptible. Going through videos and pictures yesterday, the contrast is striking. 

His mind was still in the game, but he had lost a step - eventually, all of them. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. After people thinking he was a puppy when he was 10 and thinking he was about 3 when he was 12, very suddenly, he was old.

In the best case scenario, we all get old. For most, however, we'd choose to have people remember us when we were young and vibrant. As a beauty queen, not as a chemo patient with our hair fallen out, our eyes hollow and our skin drawn and pale. As a varsity athlete, not as a fat grey man with a balding head, a beer gut and a bad back. As a loving young mother with a baby stroller, not as a shuffling hunched crone with a walker.

As an irrepressibly playful dog with a welcoming face and a fantastically expressive tail, not... well... these other images.

So... I have revised my plan and choose to leave you simply with young Griffin - like skinny Elvis. 

Enjoy.

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