January 16, 2022
And it’s a little like watching my husband, Michael, die. She’s gotten to the point where her back legs don’t work very well, and they splay out. She can’t hold her peeing posture, or for that matter, her pooping posture very well, and jumping is getting hard for her. I carry her to her favorite places that are no longer reachable in her current condition.
She’s covered in distressing seeping skin sores. She’s been on medication for months, but when I stopped giving it to her, I couldn’t tell any difference. The sores are everywhere. Some are more raw, some are less, but they all have a smaller or larger version of the same shape. It’s circular, and then there’s a little bump of lighter colored flesh, leading to a darker pink inflamed center. She scratches and bites them, often until they are raw and bleeding. In one horrifying event, she was bleeding from a sore around her heart. The metaphor did not go unnoticed.
We’ve tried lots of things – medications, natural herbal remedies, diet changes, raw food, etc. And by “we,” I mean her and me. She’s always pretty much game for whatever is happening. So, we’ve experimented. The truth is she’s just getting older, and her skin is breaking down.
And warts! She’s grown tens of big and little warts. She also has a large benign tumor. It’s been there for a while because the vet wasn’t overly concerned. But now it’s bigger.
It’s clear what is happening of course, she is getting closer to dying. Oh the sorrow of this!
She’s been my only true companion in the 4 years since Michael’s dying and death. She’s the one I talk with the most, and I’m the one she talks with, period.
If she wants something, there’s very little lying around and waiting for it. Soon there is a look being directed toward me, then she moves from a lying position to a standing position and looks at me even more intently. Finally, there is a vocalization. It really isn’t a whine. She is literally trying to talk, or at least that’s how it seems. I think it’s the poodle in her. And I talk back, mimicking her sound, and she responds. This can go on for many minutes, our back-and-forth communication, our souls in communion.
She is not only verbal, but also quite bossy about it. She’s a princess. She prances. And unlike all the other dogs I’ve had, she doesn’t give herself easily to others. I’ve always told people that you have to earn it with her. She’s picky about who gets close, and I admire this about her. And once you’ve made it into the inner circle, she approaches respectfully and allows a little patting, and if you’re lucky, a game of chase or tug of war.
One of her favorite games is “sock.” She started this when she was a puppy. No sock was safe! As soon as if came off my feet, it was fair game. And any sock that had just been in the dryer was dug out of the pile of laundry on the bed and ferreted away. Then, when the sock was returned, she was rewarded with a treat. Now the sock game is quite sedate, and she can’t play it the way she used to. Now I intentionally leave a sock where she can find it. She carries it a little way away and brings it back to drop it at my feet. I still give her a treat.
Then two weeks ago, she stopped eating. I tried everything — all her favorites. But she would sniff the bowl and walk away. A woman I know said to try baby food. And for a few days that worked. So, I bought more baby food and then that didn’t work either. Now I have cases of baby food to donate to the Crisis Center. Finally, a few days ago, I put her on steroids for a while, just to see what would happen. And her appetite came back, but only for homemade chicken noodle soup, organic of course. It’s ridiculous, I know, but it makes me happy to make her happy.
And obviously, there’s an end to this. I’m removing the steroids in a few days. I can’t keep her alive this way, nor do I want to. It feels selfish. But I must get through this week. I see my last clients in the next four days, and I need her to be healthy enough that I can concentrate on them.
When Michael was dying, I cried more than I ever have in my life. Almost always noiselessly, away from him, so he didn’t know. But I cried a lot. I wept while cooking, doing yoga, meditating, and walking. I cried in the basement and in the backyard. I cried with friends, but mostly, I cried alone. Always just allowing the awful grief to move through me once again. One day, I was lying on my yoga mat crying. She was in the room with me, and very tenderly, she came to me and began to lick the tears from my cheeks. Her soft pink tongue clearing the sorrow from my face, first one cheek and then, walking gently around me, the other cheek. Drinking my tears until I stopped crying and held her, our souls in resonance around grief.
There is such a hard and heavy loss looming before me. It breaks my heart, but there’s no way around it. And really, there shouldn’t be. When we have loved and been loved so purely, it should break our hearts.
Now I am crying again. And still, she licks the tears from my face, not knowing that now they are for her.