Thursday, July 16, 2009
My friend, Shadow
We found him through a poster hung on the bulletin board at Big Bear.
“Mixed Lab/Boxer puppies. Free to a good home.”
As it turned out, he was priceless.
For fourteen years he was a part of our family.
He either traveled with us, or waited faithfully guarding our house for us until we returned home.
He never complained about anything, except for the not-so-subtle reminders that it was time to feed him. He usually waited for visitors to carry around his big, metal dish around the room, as if to say "Dog on strike! They never feed me!"
The days of playing fetch, or tug-of-war were over long ago. When we went for walks, you could tell that his spirit was much more vibrant and playful than his body would allow him to exhibit. Getting up the stairs was a burden and he sometimes needed a little help to surmount the challenge.
I knew the time was near a few months ago when a construction worker left the gate to the back yard open. My daughter let him out late at night to do his business, but then couldn't get him to come when she called. She woke me up at 3:00 am, because she was afraid that he had died out there. When I went out and found the gate open, I knew he was out running the neighborhood again. But this time was different. I walked around the block until I realized that I wouldn't find a black dog in pitch darkness, and he wouldn't hear my soft whistles. I went back to bed. He was barking to be let back in within an hour. When you're 81 in dog years I guess running wild just doesn't have the same appeal as it did when you were young.
His body was ravaged.
Five years ago the vet cut out a big tumor. The tests came back. It was cancerous. We didn't get it all. The damnable stuff came back; slowly, but inexorably, like....well, like a cancer. It was on his chest, which made it difficult to walk, or lay down, or climb, or run. But he never complained.
He started having seizures about a year ago. The vet said it was way beyond what he could analyze or treat and suggested we take him to the University Vet clinic. $800 later they wanted to do more tests: MRIs, CAT scans, consults with heart specialists. We took him home with no suggestions or treatment. He was glad to be home.
The worst was his incontinence. Usually during the night. In the morning, I would come downstairs and clean up the mess, with him standing nearby with an embarrassed & apologetic look on his face. Very undignified for such a handsome dog.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend told us about some vets that make house calls named, oddly enough, "House Calls." I made an appointment. Yesterday they came out. We started explaining everything that was going on with my dear friend. The more we talked, the clearer it was that there would be no medication that would clear this up; no pill or special food. Then she mentioned that the arthritis was probably making it very difficult for him as well. Arthritis. I hadn't considered that. It would certainly explain why his back legs shook when he was just standing there. And why he seemed to sink, lower and lower as he walked by.
The vet gave us some options. Pain meds, seizure meds; but they all had some nasty side effects.
There would be no hospice, or pain management. He had suffered in silence. And he had seemed very content, even if he only got five minutes of petting or scratching a day in return for 23 hours, 55 minutes of pain, he was willing to take that deal. But we had to decide for him that it was a bad deal.
The vet helped him to go to sleep for the last time. They shaved a small place on his leg and started an IV. We were petting & loving on him to the very end.
Some things God allows to be a mystery to us, unanswered. I hope that when I arrive in heaven, I will find my Lord Jesus waiting to welcome me. And you will be by His side.
Goodbye, my friend