My friends had to take their dog to the vet today. The final journey. He has grown frailer over the past four or so months – regressing from stalwart friend and gentle enforcer of his small pack, to a frightened, blind, insulin-dependent outsider who tottered stiff-legged into walls, cried when left alone and had to be carried outside to do his business. “This is no way for our boy to live,” said R on Sunday.
Honey broke her hip and never quite recovered from it. She was our beloved family pet, who had been with us for 13 years. A real character, as full of foibles, farts and mutters as any grumpy old lady. The vet had cut off the end of her bone and it jarred when she walked – but she kept going. My mom made her life as pleasant as possible with great food and an electric blanket. Warming her inside and out, letting our dog know she was loved. Then Honey developed cancer. It was hard – our sweet Boxer welcomed visits to the vet, understanding that this man was trying to ease her pain, even as he sometimes hurt her. But one day the doctor told my mother that it was time. Mom should take Honey home for a goodbye night on her blankie and a meal with her family. Then, the next morning, we should let her go. My mother cried so much that night: her ears were full of tears.
The next morning Glenis held Honey on her lap and spoke to her as the vet administered the sedative. My friend did the same today. Walking with his beloved pet to the end of this life.
While camparigirl was telling me about her adopted dog Rachel’s death: we both battled to breathe. Rachel had gone to lie down under a tree. Not one that had identified itself as being a favourite; but she chose to move away from the house to die. Claudia couldn’t let her do that, and carried her to her dog-bed. Nestling down beside her – as the other two dogs kept watch. Afterwards they buried Rachel in the garden. Kept her close.
I sit now and look at Jack and I can’t imagine holding him as he dies. This fellow is with me more constantly than any other creature – has been for the past two years. And (I hope) will be for at least another decade. Of course the time will come: I don’t fear much, but I do fear that.
But that loss is not mine to mourn now. This is Jackie’s time. Dogs live in the moment, and Jackie always had a wag of his tail and a welcome for us. My friends believe their boy is in dog-heaven with other departed members of his pack. And I like that image. So we will salute him and send him on his way.
And as for my Jack, I have just made him promise to stay alive for at least another 12 years. He cocked his head at me as he does when I am using unfamiliar words, licked my hand then turned to some intimate grooming that required his immediate attention.
Living, as ever, right in the moment.
(The quote in the headline is by Mark Twain, in full it reads: “The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s.” I couldn’t agree more. For a sweet and somewhat profane take on the life of a dog: read Oatmeal’s “My Dog: The Paradox here. Picture of Jackson aka “Jackie” copyright RvdH. Image of My Jack copyright campari&sofa)