Dearest Dr. Mackey

imageI wanted to thank you for caring for Legolas in his final days.  You fought with all the tools at your disposal.  We were fortunate to have a dear friend help make those treatments possible.  His cascading failures were too many, he was finishing, and you did not hesitate to call us back to the hospital.  Thank you.

More than the days, I wanted to thank you for his final minutes as we ended his struggles.  I saw your tears at his passing, and was so sorry you had just gone through the same thing with your dog of so many years just last week.

I want most of all to say thanks for standing back as I lingered, insuring that as life and light faded from his eyes, I was the last thing  he would see in this world with Jill peering over.

I have thought for years that as other pets faded in the seconds after a vet said the heart had stopped, that the eyes were still too clear, too focused for all of the passing to be done.  I sensed that as death came and all that it brings to an animal, it had an anchor, a last comfort if it could see Jill or me.

The newest research says that the short term memory, cognitive functions, and even motor functions shut down — before the senses when the thalamus can no longer relay information to the cerebral cortex — all in minutes.

But Legolas could not close his eyes, and all the rest was passing from his ability to see and process or understand me.  I had a sense years ago to hold the gaze until the eyes lost the clarity, lost the lucidity.  And only then to move away.

Somehow the science seems to bear it true.  So the last thing he saw was our tears, yours, Jill’s and mine.  The last thing he felt was my petting and stroking his fur, and the last thing he heard was our voices.

As a child, my father taught me that part of God assigning dominion to us over these animals was that when their sojourn ends, we who have enjoyed them should be the last ones they see.

Thank you for affording us that.