This is a hard one to write, one that I have not been able to face for a few weeks.
Several weeks ago I got a call that my dad was in the hospital for emergency surgery. I loaded up the fur-kids and headed to my parents home, which is several hours from mine and the reason I moved back to the Northern Mid-West from my much loved West Coast.
Saturday morning I came downstairs in my parent’s home to find my mom cleaning up after Jenny the Collie. Jenny had been having bowel problems that week but at my home I’d convinced myself that we’d get through this, I fed her some canned pumpkin and we got by. I told my mom I didn’t know what was wrong and mom gently said, “I think her body is shutting down.”
I called my vet (nearby town to parents because we’re there so often) and took Jenny in. The vet agreed, it was Jenny’s time. So with much pain despite the inevitability of this time, I said goodbye to my old friend.
Visiting my father in the hospital that afternoon I reminded myself that I was fortunate, my father was going to recover and Jenny had a good life, having been comfortable for the final 3+ years with a chronic condition that was hard on her body.
On some level I had been expecting this. Personally, I don’t think knowing something is coming necessarily makes it easier but at least one isn’t taken by total surprise. What happened next though, did surprise me.
Chi Chi had stopped eating and drinking the morning I took Jenny in. Jenny was his best buddy and when I was at work, he and Jenny snoozed side by side, two seniors comfortable in each other’s company. I worried that he was having trouble adjusting. It was worse than that.
His body quickly failed him. He lost control of his body functions. Monday I was back at the vet. Three months previously Chi had a wellness check and at that time he’d been a healthy 7.01 pounds. That Monday he was already down to 6 pounds. He was dehydrated and a different vet than the one I’d dealt with on Saturday – a young person who was trying to be neutral and non-influencing – advised me that I could try taking him home and getting him to drink – his veins were bad enough they couldn’t do it intravenously – but that we were still dealing with his underlying neurological condition and ….
I said, “My concern is I would be keeping him going just for me.”
Her response, “People do that all the time, we all do.”
Personally, I’ve tried to always avoid that, asking an animal who had lost their overall quality of life to keep living just for me. I looked at my weary little old dog and realized that without his bff he was not wanting to go on. So I had to say goodbye.
It’s been a tough couple of weeks and this sorrow will not go away any time soon, I know. We’re all adjusting. Lil has become more grey of late and though she is the youngest, seems to feel it is her responsibility to step up and be the Good Girl and Responsible Dog.
She continues to follow me everywhere, which she’s always done – she is a Lab. Now however, she sleeps with me every night – she used to just as often sleep in ‘her own room’ next door to mine. But she’s decided I need closer looking after now. And then there’s Gracie.
Gracie is a senior now. Nine years old. Which means she acts at her age the way more ordinary dogs behave at a much younger age. She only needs to jump on my head on rare occasions now and is satisfied to try and sit on my shoulder from the back of the couch, like an over-sized parrot, or drape over my lap, as she’s always done, but now without exploding off my lap into my face or onto Lil.
Gracie still keeps an eye on all the neighbors. As I reflect though, I think the outraged barking has decreased a little.
Bull Terriers are not noted for being particularly long lived. In the UK where this has actually been investigated, the mean age of the breed is 10. I’m not borrowing trouble and Gracie is currently fit and in good health, seeming younger than she is.
When one has lived with, loved, and lost canine companions though, it seems impossible not to look at the writing on the wall. I expect age may suddenly catch up with Gracie. I’m hoping she will against odds and her ill-planned breeding, prove to be an unusually long lived member of her breed.
We are all aging and doing our best to adjust to what life requires of us as our bodies slow down and our losses compile alongside our gains. I’m grateful for the time I have with canine friends; I miss them so much when they are gone.