"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, January 3, 2021

If your best day was your last

 We had a recent scare with our golden retriever, Lady Spazzleton. She came to us in June 2012 as a rescue. At the time, the vet estimated her age at between 4 and 6. When she had to have her spleen removed in 2016, the vet told us she had typical problems for an older dog.

"So she's not eight?" I asked.

"Oh, no," he replied. "She's at least ten."

Lady Spazzleton when she came to live with us.

So basically, she's somewhere between 14 and 200. Even 14 is old for a goldie.

She's got arthritis and sleeps a lot, but plays with Duffy the corgi, bouncing on her stiff legs, tail wagging, still a puppy inside that old frame. I know her days are numbered but every day she's the same happy-go-lucky dog with no complaints.

On Wednesday, she began having intestinal issues, refusing to eat, throwing up, etc. Fearing a blockage, I got her into the vet Thursday morning, who ran every test they could plus x-rays and diagnosed her with colitis. I breathed a sigh of relief.

At 14, she could not have survived surgery for a blockage.

For two more days I watched her lay around, lethargic, refusing to eat. She would drink water then go throw it up in the yard. Her face was drawn. She was in pain, and I started to wonder whether it was "time."

I have two different friends who told me of having to put down their pets. In both cases, they said their fur-babies were on the decline, couldn't get out of bed without assistance, ate minimal amounts of food, etc. And then a day came when the pets got up, ran around, played like they were two-year-olds again, and THAT was the day my friends took them in to be euthanized. And at the time of their telling their stories, I thought, "NO, but they're feeling GOOD!"

Now I understand.

Lady Spazz was so sick, so sick. I hovered over her for four days, stuffing pills down her dry throat, sitting with her on her very dirty, dog-hairy bed, watching her pain, talking to her. The vet's office was closed (yay, New Year's) so if she needed more professional help, we'd have to take her to the emergency clinic.

I couldn't stand the thought of her being so sick and being hefted into the back of our car and driven to strangers, who might possibly be responsible for sending her to that dreamless sleep. To feel like utter crap and then die? Perhaps living your best day ever on your last day isn't so bad.

Fortunately, by Saturday afternoon she began to rally and ate a little chicken. On Sunday, she was ravenous and ate breakfast and dinner with great enthusiasm. She was back to wandering about the yard, finding me to lay at my feet, and sleeping by my bed.

I know she is an old dog, and that I am losing her piece by piece. My prayer is that she makes the decision someday, to stretch out on the warm patio in the sun, close her eyes and take the last breath. Failing that, I pray for the wisdom to help her if she needs it when "the time" comes.

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