[To Council Readers -- Sorry about a second week of rather personal posting, but after your read it you'll understand why I wasn't terribly prolific this last week and may have done more looking inward than I probably would have liked. Fear not . . . there won't be three in a row. -- 'Okie']
There’s a lot to be learned in the tending of the needs of an old dog. But, to get to the end of a story, first there must be a beginning.
Fourteen years ago on Memorial Day, the SoCal wife and I went looking for a dog. I hadn’t had one since two disastrous tries at dog ownership with Okiewife #2, and the last time I had bonded with something canine was during my childhood, my boxer named Bosco, so this was going to be almost a new adventure. Actually, the first real conversation that the SoCal wife and I ever had was the morning that she had dropped her lab/poodle mix off at the vet to be put down — the dog had lost the use of its hind legs and was in constant pain and frustration. Tough way to start up a friendship — significant way to begin a two-decades and counting love affair.
Annie, aka Annie girl, aka Lil’ Orphan Annie — Spring ’07“Annie”, aka “Annie Girl”, aka “Lil’ Orphan Annie”, was a Wheaton/Chow Chow mix, a little blond puff of a 4-1/2 month-old pup with a curled-over-pompom of a tail, the chow part that she got along with plenty of attitude as well as a hatred of other dogs when she was on leash. She had been an Amanda Foundation rescue, an animal saved from euthanasia after it has failed to be adopted at the animal shelter. Why this dog got to that point I could never figure out. There was quite a crowd at the vets where Amanda had set up to show the available adoptees on that Memorial Day, and the little thing that was soon to be named Annie was drawing a lot of interest. The wife took her out on leash and we both thought that the girl would make a great companion, however the wife wanted to also take a miniature border collie out for a quick spin, an older dog that might have been lower maintenance as Annie did seem a bit high strung. I held onto the lil’ blondie just in case, as I was convinced that if we took her back to the cage someone else would grab her up in an eye blink. I heard several inquiries as to “where is that cute little dog?” I felt like saying to them the words from The Princess Bride’s Man in Black, “Get used to disappointment.”
Annie came home with us that day, and has been a wonderful canine companion ever since. As a pup, she only chewed up two things. A wee-wee pad that we had left for her the first time we went out for an evening — obviously she was letting me know that, “Hey bud, I’m house trained, I don’t need no stinking pee pee pads!” Second thing was the wife’s address book — another schooling from the dog for our having the temerity to go out in the evening without her. But, that was it. No mangled shoes, no munched couches or chairs, no-nada anything else.
Another thing that impressed us about Annie, and everyone that spent any time around her, was how smart she appeared to be. Dogs supposedly have an understanding-vocabulary of a little over 200 words, but this dog for all the world understood context — and, she held grudges for days, even weeks! The first time we went on vacation and boarded her, on our return she treated us like pariahs for over ten days. Little snubs would get you ignored for hours. Crazy little dog, this one. But, like I said above, she was a smartie.
If you told her to go and get her red-devil baby, she did. Get the “new” baby, and she’d get the last one brought into the house, even if she had to dig into her toy basket to find it. Same with “dino” baby, hedgehog baby, duck baby. One day I decided to see if I could teach her some parlor tricks, and literally ten minutes later she was hopping across the room on her hind legs, rolling over on command, sitting up, begging, giving her left paw on “Left” and right one when you called out “Right” and falling on her side and laying her head flat if you pointed your finger and yelled “Bang”! She would do this, that is, as long as you had a treat handy. Without a treat — fugitaboutit! “No treats, no tricks!” There’s a life lesson for ya.
For a little dog, 35 lbs. or so, she had a huge bark. If you came to our door and knocked, you thought there was a German Shepard or larger animal on the other side just waiting to make you its next meal. We also had a little game that we played to freak out our friends the first time they would meet Annie. If you got on your knees and told her to “Give kisses”, the dog would jump at you, barking and snarling, for all the world looking like she was going to tear out your neck — with that pompom tail wagging all the way through the performance — then she’d give up the kisses. Well, it was funny to us. Annie never bit anyone, ever. She loved everyone, except for those among us we would meet on her walks that were obviously-not-quite right. Those she would growl at. Come to think of it, there’s way too many of them on this block!
But, getting back to the gist of this post, experiencing life with an old dog. Pups grow up, young energetic, frenetic younger dogs turn into mellower middle-aged ones, which, if lucky and cared for, become “old dogs”. At 98 in dog years, Annie is one of the canine ancients. The difficult part has been that she doesn’t look old — eyes are clear, no gray on the muzzle, still a full-healthy coat, although her hearing has become ever more selective and her deteriorating spinal condition has kept her from running for over a year, and from not being able to get on or off the bed or couch for longer than that. As long as she had a good appetite, could walk around the block to get her business taken care of, enjoyed being around company and wasn’t in pain, I was good to go with the extra time and care necessary to maintain a pet this aged. However . . .
The last two weeks have been kinda rough here at Okie Manor, and this last weekend was an absolute disaster. (Why do these things always happen on a weekend?) The most difficult problems that she has been having reappeared, and this time the meds given to us by the vet, which had worked within hours the last two times, were not helping after three days. Also, sometime Saturday morning her back legs decided that they’d finally had enough.
Making the decision to let Annie go is a hard one, but drugging her down to the point of living this way for what, a few more days or maybe a week, would be a supremely selfish act. I don’t believe in assisted death for humans, as my Terri Shiavo blogging and my posts about the Groningen Protocol illustrate. In a previous Okie post, Life — Death — Pets — Misunderstanding the Meaning of it All, I made my thoughts on this matter crystal clear in my reaction to a signed Op-Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times in favor of assisted suicide.
I don’t believe that any animal has “rights”, for that is something that the Creator has given to us humans as intellectual beings, or at least according to our Constitution. I don’t remember reading that a dog, cat, sheep or cow has an inalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. But we as self-aware humans do have “responsibilities” to our pets and food animals to treat them humanely, as opposed to humanly, and not letting an animal suffer is one of those responsibilities. It’s not an easy decision, either. I realize in hindsight that I let our 14 year old kittyboy, Gallagher, live about 18 hours too long. Up to that point, although he was weak and frail and needed a lot of care, he wasn’t in apparent pain and still loved to sit in your lap and give you loves. I would have done better for him to have spared him that last day and a half before having him “put down”.
My Mother, on the other hand, was trying to die, by refusing medication, from December 26th until she finally passed on the following January 10th, a couple of years ago. The night of the 26th I spent at her bedside, not-quite sleeping across two chairs, listening to her constant prayers to God to take her. I cannot imagine doing anything active to help end her life earlier than what the good Lord decided it to be. But Kenneth Swift certainly doesn’t see it that way.
“Life is a precious gift. Yet when a life turns tragic through disease or injury and the joy of living yields to the pain of interminable suffering, surely an enlightened society such as ours can accept that from death there can be peace.”
“Life is a precious gift”, but if it gets a bit ugly, “an enlightened society such as ours” should just stick a sock in the mouth, put a pillow over the face, or just plug a nine-millimeter into the brain, so that “from death there can be peace”. I keep writing that this generation of ours, the Boomers is going to take its infantilism to the grave, and if the good Kenneth and his ilk have anything to say about it, probably sooner rather then later!
I am constantly amazed at how politicized life has become for me of late. I’m not sure if its because with getting older I’m getting wiser, or if it’s just that as the personal hourglass has less and less sand in the top section I have less and less attention span to waste on the insignificant flotsam and jetsam of life in the modern world. As the wife and I try to decide just how many MRIs and CAT scans to have, when to have life-saving surgery that could also be a life-threatening procedure in and of itself and how to learn to accept ever increasing losses as a part of being one of the ones still on this side of the great divide — if it don’t affect life, love and Western Civilization in profound ways, it just don’t seem to matter much anymore.
Now, I’ve got to go and try to make a doggie-diaper, so that I can give Annie one last ride to the vet. It could turn out different, and she might make the trip back home — I want to have a consult with him first. However, as much as I want to deny what needs to be, in my mind, and heart, I know . . .
Our appointment is at 4:30. I have about 1/2 hour to spend with my little dog before we need to go. Those that prattle on about quality time mostly haven’t got a clue. This half hour is going to be quality time to the max. Not much else to write . . .
Walking back into the house I heard, “How’d it go?” The empty collar I held in my hand said it all. We pretty much had a liquid dinner last night, with stories told about and toasts given to the ol’ girl. When I checked-in I had an IM from a client/friend that I deleted but can paraphrase here.
“Sorry brother, but she certainly knew how much you guys loved and cared for her. Sometimes dogs just hang in there because they don’t want to let you down.”
That sounds about right. Today, the cats are totally wiggy and it sure is quiet and empty around here. About those “lessons”, they are the same each time you suffer a loss, be it the loss of a family member, a friend or a beloved pet — still, they always bear repeating. You get a stiff dose of realization that life is much too short, that every minute of every day is precious, that we are not really in control.
I love the old adage, “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die tomorrow.”
January 15, 1993 — June 25, 2007
This entry was posted on Monday, June 25th, 2007 at 3:53 pm and is filed under Hell No - It Ain't Fair, Okie on the Lam. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed. | Print This Post | Email This Post
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