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The Philosophy of Juice & Crackers
A HEART THAT'S BREAKING
21 July, 2015
I've been pretty philosophical about Sheila's lymphoma diagnosis since the vet gave us "weeks" 27 days ago. The medicine cured her swollen leg and perked her up. She started behaving like her old self. The smile was back. She ran into the house for treats.
Maybe the meds had given her a new lease on life.
I was still fairly philosophical about things. She'd had a long, happy life. We loved her a lot, but she was an old dog and it would be very sad to see her die, but I could cope. But I never really believed she was close to dying.
That was before this morning.
Two days ago, it seemed as if she crashed. She got up moving like...well, me, moving slowly, painfully and sank immediately into her favorite spot, outside on the patio. She wasn't interested in her breakfast. When I went out and gave the dogs treats before I left, she didn't come running for a treat and when I brought it to her, she took it in her mouth, then dropped it and let it lie between her feet.
She still came into the living room to sleep with me at night, but no longer by my side. Now out on the big part of the floor. In the middle of the night that night she was sleeping on her side and I thought she might have died.
Last night she again was not interested in her dinner, though took several big pieces of my ham steak. When I tried to slip in a cream cheese covered pill, which she had been begging for for many days, she dropped it and then wasn't interested in anything from my hand any more.
This morning when she woke up, she went straight outside under her bush without looking at anyone. She has been there ever since. The other dogs had their usual pieces of my toast (which never fails to bring Sheila in), but she stayed outside. I took her a crust of toast and a piece of egg and tossed it at her under the bush. She picked them up and put them between her front paws, then growled when Polly tried to steal them from her. Later, she got up and walked away and Polly got them anyway.
I had not yet made a vet appointment (I was going to go in to see about her foot, which she has been eating again), but sitting there, watching her, I thought maybe today should be the day.
That unleashed the floodgates. I have not yet made the appointment, but I wrote to Ashley who offered to come with me. But I know Walt would like to come, if he agrees with me that today should be the day. I am heartbroken.
Walt said he had been thinking the same thing, so we have an appointment for 5 p.m., for the doctor's assessment and then decisions made about what to do. There is a spark of hope, but I'm not counting on a last minute miracle.
Sheila, noble to the end, made the decision easier. She just walked in, heavily, and stood there, head bowed just panting. Didn't even want water. She wouldn't come when I called her. Just seemed to try to decide what she wanted to do. She looked so sad. Then she walked back outside to lie down again. It left no question about the quality of her life today.
I feel like I used to feel going to the dentist's office, before I met Cindy. Butterflies that won't quit, and that sick "I want to throw up" / "I don't want to do this" feeling, yet knowing I must do it. She has been a good and faithful companion for 11 years. I owe her a painless end to her life.
We loaded Sheila in the car. Sheila has always loved riding in the car. She stands up at the window and just sticks her nose out. She did that on a 2-3 hour drive once. When we went to the vet last time, she sat by the window, but didn't lift her nose. When we put her in the car today, she lay down on the floor. Walt and I petted her on the brief drive.
When we got out she peed copious amounts on the clinic greenery in the parking lot, then we went inside. There was a woman with a cat in a carrier. Sheila stood right next to the carrier and displayed no interest in the cat whatsoever.
They are very solicitous. They put down a blanket for her on the floor of the exam room (though she preferred to lie on the cool floor). They brought all the financial stuff to us, so we could pay before it was done and leave without having to talk to anybody. Considering that I was crying, that was probably best, though kind of a "Loved One" sort of touch.
The vet came in with a tranquilizer to relax her. He started to explain the process and we told him she was about the 8th dog we had put to sleep at that clinic. "We were here before you, in fact," I told him. He arrived in 1974, we arrived in 1973. The vet before him was the one who put our first dog, Mutt, to sleep. Mutt had so many medical problems toward the end of his life and when it came time to put him down, they didn't charge us for it. Today they charged us $180. Death isn't cheap, even for dogs.
The vet left us with her while she fell asleep. I took off her collar (Walt had earlier removed her leash). We both told her good bye and what a good dog she was. There is a reason they keep a box of tissues in the exam room.
Then came the final injection. "This part goes quickly," he told us, unnecessarily. By the time the syringe was empty she was gone. When we had Toby put to sleep, he was on the exam table and I had my hands on him. I could feel his spirit leaving. With Sheila on the floor and me unable to get onto the floor, I didn't have that experience. We said our last goodbyes to her lifeless body and quickly left the office. The staff averted their eyes when we walked past. As I said, they are very solicitous.
We talked about Sheila and all our former dogs on the drive home, then greeted Lizzie and Polly, who don't know that Sheila is gone. I put a picture of Sheila on my iPhone Wallpaper.
Ned arrived with a ham.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Good bye, old girl. You were a wonderful companion.
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