Monday, May 26, 2008

Is, and Was

Two weeks ago I wrote about the guilt I felt about even thinking about euthanasia for our blind, deaf, cancer-riddled fifteen-and-a-half year old dog. At the time I was still not ready to make the decision.

Then, last Monday night, we found her lying in a pool of blood. The skin over her tumor had been stretched too far and broken open. The bleeding eventually stopped on its own, but when this happens, there is nothing they can do. It will never get better. And so, the next morning, my husband called the vet.

Did you know that vets will do house calls now? You take the animal in, early in the day, and they insert a catheter into the leg that they can use to deliver the drugs. Then you take your pet home and spend the next few hours saying your goodbyes, and then they come to you, so that you can be at home when it happens.

It makes a horrible situation so much better.

The college kids both came home, and we all sat around the kitchen, chatting and petting the dog. Imminent death zooming in and out of focus as the conversation meandered. We talked about when the kids were younger, in our old house, and would drag her up the ladder of the play set and then send her down the slide. She never complained.

And we talked about classes, and school, and summer jobs.

And about how they used to get her to climb through a downed basketball hoop and call it a ring of fire.

And we talked about my daughter's upcoming choir tour to Disneyland. And...

I remember a preschool picnic, way back when my college freshman was four. I brought Felice to the park. She was normally quiet and calm, but when she saw a field full of birds she leapt away, yanking the leash out of my hand. And she was off, barking joyously, her feet barely skimming the grass, making the birds fly off in loud, annoyed flocks. She returned to me only reluctantly.

When the time came, the vet was an hour late. But it was okay. How can you want to hurry this?

This was the first time I had been through it, and I was amazed at how quick it was. The vet and her assistant arrived. They flushed out the catheter with saline, injected the solution... And she was gone within thirty seconds. She was that ready to go.

No dramatic gasps, at the end. No visible signs... Just the cessation of heartbeat. A transition from "is" to "was."

We cried. And we said our goobyes. And the vet wrapped her in her blanket to carry her out.

And as the vet lifted her up, she began to drip, her bladder relaxed in death.

When they were gone, I cried my way to the linen closet, and cried my way back, and tossed a towel on the puddle.

My thirteen-year-old son, voice husky, murmured, "The last act of Incontinentia the Wonderdog." We laughed, even as we wept.

This is my family.

We went out to dinner afterwards, mostly talking about other things and just glad to be together. Later in the dinner I found myself saying, "I feel bad. She's been so difficult lately that I don't feel like I gave her enough love."

My youngest gave me a startled look. "That's what I've been thinking!" he exclaimed. "I would kick her out of the TV room and the computer room because she kept getting into stuff!"

"You know," said my husband, "It's the same with people. You always wish you'd given them more time and loved them more."

I wonder if that's not the message pets are sent to teach us, with their shorter lifespans. When death comes to the living things that you love, human or animal, you don't want to wish you'd given them more.

I've spent the last week imagining her in that field again, barking joyously, feet barely skimming the grass. If pets get what they deserve, that's where she is.

Sending birds into the sky and knowing she was loved.

Good night, sweet girl.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Yin and yang

Before I describe the end of my sweet puppy's life, I need you to watch this. Because there is an odd balance to life. Pleasure, pain. Laughter, tears. Happiness, sadness.

Dancing walruses, and... More later.

Friday, May 16, 2008

When It's Time...

Something is wrong, and she does not know what it is.

She lies on the floor and whimpers. Or she stands beside me and lets out sharp, shrill barks. She wanders the house, blind, deaf, negotiating by smashing and crashing into walls and furniture. She does not know what she wants, or what she needs.

Food doesn't fix what troubles her. Nor water. Nor a trip outside. She doesn't know. She can't tell me. Bhe she needs...something.

Perhaps she wants to be not blind. Not deaf. Not dying.

The tumor on her side continues to grow. She has long hair, so we don't see it often. But when we do, or when our hand passes across it as we pet her, it is a shock. Ugly, red and blue, hairless. It is huge, the size of my hand.

When the end comes close, like this, how do you know? She is still eating, still drinking, still eliminating. Is she in too much misery to continue on? Or when you think about...about...that final act, are you just thinking about putting an end to your own misery?

The whimpering has been going on for awhile now, for several months at least. And the difficulties have grown in that time. The messess to clean up, the inability to figure out what she needs as she whimpers and whines and barks...

And my husband has said, several times, "Do you think it might be time...?" He's concerned, he loves, but he's outside.

And each time I've said, "No."

She's been my dog. My friend. My puppy. How can I abandon her because she's become difficult?

But now... Now I don't know. She sleeps, and she hurts. And she barks. And she whimpers. And she has accidents. And all of these things are a part of the end of her life.

She continues to eat, though. And I continue to feed her. Meaty Bones, those basted dog biscuits that she loves. Or kibble doused in the juice from a tuna can. Or leftover chicken, carefully picked from the bone.

The last time she was at the vet, they said that she should lose weight. But now I think, "What's this going to do, if I feed her this thing that she loves? Shorten her life?"

I give her what she loves, and it is not enough.

My husband and I decided today that he will call the vet, who is a friend-quaintance from raising-younger-kid days. Next week. He will broach the topic of...of...of the end.

And I feel guilty, and I feel selfish.

And I feel that it is time.

I love you Felice. Please forgive me.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Kangaroos and No Kangaroos

I was looking for something else and stumbled across this photo. My daughter was in Austria on a choir tour a few years back and has this on a t-shirt. I love it.

Of course, I also love kangaroos.

Yes, I'm easy to please.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dreams that Kind of Make Sense. Except Not Really

I had this dream last night.

Okay, first? Before I start? I want to say this: I don't watch reality TV. Meaning that I don't think I've ever seen a full espisode of any reality TV show. Ever.

Oh. Wait. I take that back. My kids and I watched an episode of "Nanny 911" once. But other than that? I'm not a fan.

But last night I dreamed that I was back living in Colorado. Or it might even have been Wyoming. And they were taking auditions for this reality show where you could be in a cattle drive -- kind of "Survivor" type -- and ride horses for days on end through and endless, uninhabited reality.

In my dream, I wanted it more than anything.

What do you think this says about me?

(P.S. I grew up riding horses. I miss horses. My knees these days would probably not put up with more than an hour in the saddle, and there is probably a teensy little bit of grieving going on as my body ages. Is that the only message Freud is trying to send me?)

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Nielsen Company Wants to Eat Our Brains

A few weeks back I got a phone call. From the Neilsen company.

You know. The Nielsen company. Nielsen ratings. The guys who tell you what TV shows everybody in America is watching.

The woman wanted to know if I'd take a survey about online habits. Said they'd pay me $15 for approxiately 40 minutes work. So I said, $15? Sure, why not.

She gave me the login info, and I put it aside and forgot about it, at least until the envelope arrived in the mail with two crisp, brand new $5 bills and five crisp, brand new $1 bills.

I am certain that they planned the dollar denominations by scientifically studying which would create the maximum amount of guilt in the recipients.

It worked. I went back and found the login info and took the survey.

It was all about what online services I use, and what websites I visit, and how often I go there. And every time you click that yes, you have visited a site or kind of site, it triggers a follow-up question. So the more you use the internet (assuming you're truthful), the more questions you have to answer. I work online approximately eight hours or more each day. I visit a lot of websites. By the time I got done, my shoulders ached and my eyes were burning.

(It did not help that I decided to start this at 11:00, after a long day of working on the computer.)

But here's the interesting part. I get to almost the end. I'm thinking, Hallelujah! I'm done! I'm running through the personal "How old are you, what education level have you completed, how many kids do you have at home?" section. I'm tired. My guard is down.

And I get to the question that goes something like this: Can we install software on your computer that will track your online movements? We'll pay you.

That's not how they worded it. It was more subtle than that. But that's what they were asking.

I said no.

They followed up with a question: What are you worried about? Click all that apply. Privacy, viruses, hard drive space, etc. I clicked half a dozen responses.

It then took me through one screen for each response, dragging out the drama. You don't need to be worried about...this issue, because... And then it begged me to reconsider. Please, please, please let us put tracking software in your computer so we can track every site you visit!! We'll pay you! Lots!

I said no again, and it finally let me leave.

Now here's the thing. It's not like I visit porn sites. But I like my freedom. I like to wander wherever I want online whenever I feel like it. My online wanderings are...are...MINE.

Nielsen wants to take what's mine and track it to make money for advertisers who pay them to get inside the minds of people like me.

Ick. Just...ick.

When I finished the poll, I felt a desperate need to go take a shower.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Award for Best Opening Paragraph Ever...

From the New York Times:

FBI agents Tuesday raided and temporarily shut down the offices of a federal watchdog agency charged with protecting the rights of government whistle-blowers that has been accused of retaliating against whistle-blowers in its own ranks.

That is all.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Continuing Adventures of Incontinentia the WonderDog

Her real name is Felice. I think I've talked about her before. Given name: Feliz Navidog, named by my two older kids when they were...not so old. We got her right before Christmas, way back in 1992. Animal control had found her wandering the streets, and they picked her up and brought her to the shelter. We were the first family to see her after she got her shots. We immediately fell in love.

Our best guess at her heritage is cocker-sheltie, heavy on the cocker. Imagine Lady from Lady and the Tramp, but with black ears and a black body. But the same tan face and beautiful intelligent eyes. At least in her prime.

Now those eyes have turned milky and blind with cataracts. She's not always continent.

And she's deaf, too. She used to be a watchdog, letting us know whenever anybody came close to our porch steps. That's been a little while, though.

A couple of years back, the UPS guy said, "I haven't heard your little dog recently."

I said, "Yes. I know. And she hasn't heard you either."

She sleeps in the basement, and every morning she stands at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for the energy to come up. And each morning it takes just a little bit longer.

There is a tumor growing on her side. It is cancerous, ugly, the size of a softball cut in half. I took her in for surgery to remove it. They did a chest X-Ray, standard procedure before surgery, and found a spot on her lung. They said it was probaably more cancer. They sent her home and said to bring her back in a few weeks for another X-Ray to see if it had grown.

That was four months ago. I didn't take her back. At first it was just busy-ness, and maybe a little procrastination. But then I realized I didn't WANT to take her back. I don't want to put a 15 1/2-year-old dog through major surgery that will only prolong her life a short while without adding quality.

Sometimes these days she'll lie and whimper, for no discernible reason. But mostly she seems comfortable.

What I want for her, right now, is to just let her hobble up the steps each day, one more time, where I'll feed her treats, and she'll sleep in the warmest spot, and then she'll curl up under my chair and let me rub her belly with my foot.

When my time comes, kids?

Do the same for me.