One day, Pluto followed me out on the front porch, just as he usually did when I got the paper. I picked up a tennis ball and headed down to the sidewalk in front of our house to throw the ball for him for a few minutes, just as I had done every morning for many years. Pluto watched me earnestly, and sat down at the edge of the porch, just at the top of the stairs. I knew immediately something was wrong.
Within the next twenty-four hours, he was suffering from a set of strange and painful symptoms, including a huge swelling. The veterinarians treated him with steroids, which rapidly made him more comfortable, but within a couple of weeks he came down with acute pancreatitis. At this point, he was hospitalized, and given IV antibiotics. After a number of days he was doing well enough to come home. Right before his discharge, an attending vet heard him coughing, and did not like the sound of his cough. An ultrasound revealed that his lungs were full of metastasized tumors. We brought him home having been told that the next medical crisis would be his last.
Over that week, he enjoyed a modified version of his normal routine, with short walks and lots of naps. When Pluto left for the hospital, our other dog Wheatie frantically searched the house for him, anxiously barking and whining. The excitement and relief when Pluto returned were strong enough to trigger a seizure in the young dog. We were all playing outside, and he fell into a small depression in the grass. At first he seemed stuck in a hole, like a turtle on his back. He was such a goofy dog we did not recognize it as a seizure until we touched him and realized he was not really awake. We did call the vet, and kept him under close supervision the next few days, but Wheatie was fine and never had another seizure for the rest of his life.
The day before Pluto died I was headed out for a longer walk with Wheatie. Pluto begged to come along. I followed his lead and let him join us. We made large, concentric circles around our neighborhood, since I wanted to be able to take him back to the house when he was done. We saw all his favorite places one more time. The next day, Pluto could no longer get up, and had to be carried up the stairs. Wheatie was looking for him before he even went to the vet.
Pluto struggled at the very end; we had to carry him from the car into the vet’s office. He was dehydrated, so a vein was hard to find. I held him in my arms and calmed him down, they found a vein, and then he was gone.