Sunday, April 6, 2014

The light in her eyes

Sometimes you can see the future.  It doesn't require anything supernatural, sometimes the dominoes are just stacked so clearly you can see exactly were they are going to fall the moment one gets pushed.  That's how on Monday I could see where I was going to stand on Friday.  I didn't know it was going to be Friday but I knew it was going to be soon.  I tried to stop the dominoes from falling but some things move with far more force than I have the strength to push against.

I wrote before about my dachshund Jackie (who is not technically "my" dachshund) and how the people who do actually own her have been talking about having her put down because of her age.  I would hear none of it because while her body may have been aging the spark of life was still burning very strong in her.  So I've been doing everything I can to make sure her age doesn't manifest in ways that gives anyone ideas.  I made her a big landing pad of pillows and blankets by my bed so she can sleep there and still jump off the bed without injuring herself.  When she started having little accidents in the house I made sure everything was cleaned up nicely before anyone else could see.  When she didn't want to chew her dry dog food anymore I started adding some wet dog food to it so it goes down easier.  Stuff like that.

Lately though it's been getting harder.  It's like she suddenly became a lot older the last couple of months.  I think she was getting dementia because I found that the reason she was having accidents in the house was not because she was incontinent but because she seemed to get lost in the house.  She would walk towards the doggie door and then take some wrong turns or get turned around and just end up going in the wrong place.  Last week she wandered into the garage and got locked in there accidentally and usually we would know because she would start yelping until someone came to rescue her but if I didn't go look for her she might have stayed there all night.  So I started carrying her outside and turning on a light whenever it looked like she needed to go, and then carrying her back to bed when she was done so she wouldn't wander around the house and end up sleeping on the cold floor.

So this Monday afternoon when she started throwing up everything she ate I could see the future.  I knew that I was going to have to take her to the vet and that once we went to the vet she was never going to come back home again.  So I did everything I could to stop that first domino from falling.  I got her some puppy food, figuring it would be both nutritious and easy to digest and for a little while it looked like it worked.  She perked back up a little and kept it in.  But only for a day.  By Wednesday she started throwing up again regardless of what I fed her and by Thursday night she showed no interest in food at all.  Not even her favourite treats, not biltong, not cheese not peanut butter could get any reaction at all from her.

Friday morning I left her some milk before going to work, hoping that she would at least get some sustenance that way but I could read the writing on the wall.  I knew that my choices came down to either taking her to the vet and risk having her put down or keep trying to fix her on my own and watch her slowly starve to death and as much as I hated the first option I couldn't bear the second option at all.

When I came home, she looked terrible.  She had lost so much weight so fast, she was just skin and bone and a potbelly.  There was some kind of green puss coming out of her eyes and she hadn't even touched the milk but she had somehow managed to throw up even more even though she clearly had nothing left inside.

That's how I ended up on the exact spot I saw myself a standing at the beginning of the week.  With Jackie on a cold table while a sympathetic vet is explaining how dire her condition is.  Apparently she had developed pretty severe diabetes, her blood sugar was off the scale - the scale only went to 34 where healthy is under 6.  The diabetes had led to some infections and complications.  To save her would take a week of hospitalization while they tried to save her liver and kidneys followed by 2 shots daily for the rest of her life.

That is how it all came down to me.  See, Oom Eddie may be her technical owner and he is from the generation where euthanasia is the default treatment for all canine maladies but he's not a forceful or a decisive person so he asked me what I wanted to do.  I have owned 4 dogs in my lifetime, 3 of which had to be put down for various reasons, but I never had to make the call.  My parents took them to the vet and just informed me afterward.  Back then it seemed harsh but now I wished I could make this someone elses problem.  I couldn't though, I was the one who was there, I had to make the call.

So I had to be honest with myself, that the light in her eyes was not what it was a year ago.  The happy little dachshund who would jump out of bed at 5 am on the coldest morning even when she had been sleeping very snuggly had started to not wake up anymore, even if I turned the lights on.  The Jackie who would shamelessly and insistently beg for a piece of whatever I was eating, whether it was a sandwich or an apple had become less and less interested in food.  The spark of life in her that I cherished so much had started to dim, leaving her slow, confused and lethargic.  So should I save her?  I wanted to. So much.  But I knew no amount of treatments would give her more than just a few months more.  I didn't want to save her for her sake, I wanted to save because I didn't want to say goodbye.  I tried.  I saw the future, I saw how increasingly inevitable it became, I tried to tell her goodbye but the words would never come out.  So I made the call and told the doctor to put her to sleep.

It was one of the worst days of my life, hugging my dog for the last time and trying not to openly weep in front of a vet I just met.  She was nice though, she gave me some tissues.  The procedure took so long at first.  She was so old that it took the vet 5 tries to find a vein.  Jackie, tough girl that she was, didn't cry out once.  Then, right before she got the shot, she looked right at me for the very last time.  How I wish I could say that it was something cliche like that she gave me a knowing look or a comforting look or a look of understanding but it was none of that.  She looked at me with her eyes full of green puss and the best I could say was that she didn't look scared.  Maybe just a little confused.  Less than a minute later she had fallen asleep for the last time and the doctor confirmed that her heart had stopped.

I don't know if I made the right call.  Losing Jackie has left me with a big open wound inside and when I think about her the sadness and loss suffocates me.  As I have descended into an increasingly hermit like existence lately (I have a beard now!) she was the once small piece of warmth in my life.  Even when she snored loudly when I tried to sleep, or farted noxiously when I was trying to work on the computer, I loved her.  Loved her when she pestered me for the corner of my toast and I loved her despite all the stains and puddles I had to clean up and the fact that she was constantly licking everything.

She would have been 15 this coming Saturday.  Still feels like it all went by way too fast.


GumbyTheCat said...

I'm so sorry buddy. You know I went through pretty much the exact same process with Gumby - right down to trying not to start weeping in front of the vet. But unlike you, I pretty much knew all long that I was making the right decision. So just to let you know, YOU MADE ABSOLUTELY THE RIGHT DECISION as well. Not just the right one, the only one as far as I'm concerned.

And after an appropriate amount of time, do get another dog, or cat even. I certainly don't regret getting Stimpy, although she in no way makes me forget Gumby. We're both people who need a companion animal in our lives, and I'm sure you would find a lot of happiness with a new puppy or kitty. I mean, how can I resist this:

Be well my friend.

Eugene said...

That kitty is ADORABLE! Thanks, I needed to hear that. I was actually thinking about your post about putting Gumby down around that time, it was one of the big reasons why I decided to stay with her to the very end. So thanks for that too!

Tania Maree said...

Ai Geno. So jammer om te hoor. *stywe drukkie*

Eugene said...

Dankie Tan, ek het dit nodig