My thoughts today are on end-of-life issues for our ancient dog. She’s a 17 year old husky, and they’re not supposed to live this long. We thought she was a goner about a year and a half ago when a friend who was watching her sent us a message that Lizzie had had a seizure. By the time we got home she seemed normal, and when I took her out for a walk the next day, she was her usual perky self.
Since then we have been expecting her demise. Each morning I hold my breath as I look to see if she is still breathing. Recently she has become more arthritic and incontinent, and as I clean up after her I swear we need to do something. Then I take her out for a walk in the snow, and something within her revives. She’s a husky, after all. Snow is her milieu.
Last night at a party I had a conversation with a man who has lots of experience with aging dog issues. When I asked him how to make the decision if and when to have a dog put down, he said that whatever we decide is going to be OK with the dog. The dog isn’t going to ask for one more day, one more week, or one more month. He teared up as he told me about Ole, a faithful companion who had grown old and unable to lift his rear end. He said he knew that Ole wasn’t going to judge him for his decision. He said his way of dealing with having to put Ole down was to write a letter to himself. Today he sent that letter to me. In it he wrote about the joy and unconditional love he had experienced from Ole. He concludes by writing:
“If he could, he’d say “Please do for yourself what I won’t be able to show you anymore–love YOU and know you’re perfect, and not just a little bit. And start right now, with this decision. I totally trust you. ”
As I read that letter, I teared up, too. This is not easy. Lizzie is a husky, not given to the kind of demonstrative love other dogs might show. She has always been a bit aloof, but recently she has become more affectionate, nuzzling me to pet her. Lynn says, “Is she saying, ‘I love you. I love you. And I don’t have long to live, so pet me,’ or is she asking to go out?” We never know. Are we her faithful companions?
OK, I’m going to end this on a lighter note. What do you get when get when you cross an insomniac, an agnostic and a dyslexic? Someone who lies awake at night wondering about the existence of dog.