Babe is gone.
The vet and I looked at his chest x-rays together; she pointed out the mottling that covered most of his lungs. In light of the fact that he'd fallen facefirst into the pool a couple weeks ago (playfully trying to attack me as I swam), we figured the old fellow had pneumonia. A robust round of antibiotics and he might pull through.
His breathing had gotten loud and short over night, not quite panting. The doctor took a blood sample, too, and we were on our way with some hope. Until we were about to leave, and Babe coughed blood onto the floor. Everything slowed down and seemed to stop. I called a vet assistant, and she came and picked up the blood and went to get the vet again. She talked with me for a few more minutes.
She was right twice over. She told me that dogs that are to the point of coughing blood frequently go downhill fast. She told me that there was a strong possibility that he had cancer.
The next day the worst was confirmed. The blood showed numerous cancerous cells, and by evening, Babe had stopped eating and was just lying in his corner, puffing, each short breath counting down the hours.
Today we said goodbye to Babe as he left peacefully, the vet, the vet's assistant, Bernie and I -- all of us crying. The vet has known Babe for 11 years, too.
It was the right thing to do. Nothing makes it easy to have a pet euthanized, though. We let them so deeply into our hearts -- maybe because their love in return is so trusting, so unconditional.
My memories of Babe are pretty much all good. His first run on a long line with Bernie, who underestimated the speed and power of a year-old German Shepherd -- and ended up face-plowing as Babe dragged him off his feet. Babe helping to dig holes for shrubs in the yard, his huge yellow feet moving soil faster than my shovel could. His face wistfully set on the kitchen table as he hoped for a "cute" factor to gain him a tidbit or two. His unflagging optimism.
He was my sweet honey-bunkins.