Over the past few months our lives have resembled bad country song lyrics. Not that I’d recognize good country song lyrics if I heard them, but we’ve at least proven that every cliche in a bad country song CAN happen.
While I have yet to be arrested for drunk & disorderly conduct after being found naked in a ditch, I can’t say a mental-fritz moment of that caliber isn’t far behind.
I apologize for not being attentive to the world of blogging but my priority has always been “family first.” And right now, between Heather’s family’s needs and my family’s needs and our family’s needs, I’m being torn in a million different directions. Much like a poodle would be if it wandered between two rabid pit bulls while wearing a sweater made of bacon. That’s me. The poodle. But with extra thick bacon.
Heather’s father continues to undergo treatment for prostate cancer and while it seems to be responding, we won’t have an accurate assessment for weeks. With more than a dozen treatments yet to come, we’re simply hoping and praying for the best.
My grandmother, who had suffered a heart attack and a gaggle of strokes, was essentially booted from her hospital bed because of Medicaid’s policies even though she can’t make it to the bathroom without becoming short of breath. As of this morning, she’s resting at her own apartment and arguing with both human and inanimate objects over how her now-clean apartment has turned her life upside down.
She’s adamant that she can still remain independent and she doesn’t want anyone even insinuating that she requires assistance or needs to thin out her accumulated stash of possessions. I love her spirit, but at some point, she’s going to have to realize that she no longer needs a bag of golf clubs. These are clubs she’s owned since she was a teenager, which means they’re probably fashioned from Mastodon tusks. Which, from what I understand, are excellent for striking golf balls made of monkey molars.
The plan, with or without her cooperation, is to eventually get my grandmother from her apartment way up north in New York to my parent’s home way down south in Texas. The challenge is getting her there fast enough before a) a potty break emergency arises; or b) she is charged with a misdemeanor for caning “the stupid”.
With the Space Shuttle being retired, I just don’t think there’s a fast enough mode of travel for all concerned.
Thoughts have varied, from flying (God help the TSA) to renting a camper and driving her there (God help us all). Regardless of what’s decided, I wish I had a documentary crew handy because the entire experience would make for fabulous television.
As with most sad and cliched country songs, my wife has also left me. Not for some rodeo clown or whiskey runner, but rather to be there and assist with my grandmother’s transition from total control to feigned total control. Heather came home for 16 hours to celebrate our son’s 11th birthday, but had to return the very next morning to continue with “Grams Duty.” In the past 2+ weeks, I’ve seen her for 16 hours, and 8 of those were spent sleeping.
Also? Our van broke down. I can’t say it shocks me, what with the Chrysler emblem on its rear, but it’s not a headache or an expense we need right now.
So, cliched country songs considered, we have job stress, family turmoil, the truck breaking down, my wife leaving, and a refrigerator void of beer ‘n whiskey (not that it’s ever in there, it just seems like a country song kind of thing).
Looking at the checklist, all that’s missing now is the dog dying.
And that comes on Wednesday.
Dory, our lil’ rescue who we saved around this time last year, has to be put down. It’s a heart-wrenching decision, but considering her condition, there wasn’t much of a decision to be made.
We’ve agonized over making the appointment and I must say that it feels REALLY awkward to schedule such a thing. I hated making the call to discuss our decision with the vet but it’s just not the kind of situation that warrants a “pop in” visit.
As many of you will remember, my wife found Dory in a deplorable environment and in poor physical health. She had been chained to a tire in an old barn and left to fend off rats that brazenly stole from her food dish and water bucket. She had matted fur, caked-on manure and mud, and a giant tumor hanging from her ear. She couldn’t lift her head, couldn’t walk without a struggle, and just seemed resigned to fate after years of heartless tethering.
In the months that followed her rescue, Dory seemed to regain some of that canine spirit that had been dampened by years of neglect. We had her groomed, tended to by the vet, and smothered her in love and attempted play. We even created a “Bucket List” filled with reader suggestions to try and give her all she’d missed out on as a pup.
For several months, she rocked her new look and her new home. But things started to change for the worse at the beginning of summer. Already pretty senile we didn’t expect much but we took comfort knowing that we were at least providing her with a better life and a brand new start. Albeit 12 years later than she deserved.
Sadly, over the past six to eight weeks, her condition has worsened to the point where we felt a professional opinion was necessary. Was it nutrition? Could a bottle of something help?
Not unless the bottle had first been dipped in the canine Fountain of Youth.
Dory’s mind is there, but you wouldn’t know it. Nor would she. It’s quite obvious that she has no clue where she is or what’s going on around her. She’ll wander aimlessly throughout the house bumping into furniture and even the occasional wall. Her eyes are glazed over and it’s quite apparent that she’s all but blind.
If you reach to pet her, she only sees your hand when it’s just outside her muzzle, and even then, she flinches. She can’t hear and only acknowledges sound if it’s a loud clap near her head. Even then, it brings on utter confusion, and any voice commands go unacknowledged. Most likely because they’ve gone unheard.
She also has no control over her bodily functions as she urinates and defecates in her sleep, or when walking anywhere but outside. Her urine seems to be attracted to wood floors because it’s a constant battle to keep her from soiling our den. Not wanting to leave her outside, we take her out regularly and even considered dog diapers, a product I swore I’d never buy unless intended as a joke. She has trouble walking once assisted to stand and is now on her second day of not being able to keep food down.
Quite obviously, it’s time.
Although only with us for a year, she became a part of the family. And while she came with more than her fair share of frustrations, we realized that she also came with more than her fair share of abuse. We did what we said we would, we’d improve her life even if it were only for a few months.
said, I don’t care if she only has a month left. Dory is going
to be loved and tended to properly until her final day.”
We’ve prepared the children by explaining the situation, and of course, their hearts are broken. Especially Kamryn. To Kamryn, Dory was her dog, and she’s inconsolable right now.
It wasn’t my intention to tell her yet but our 11-year old son was upset and tried speaking in code about it. He asked why Dory needed to be “put down” (that’s the code) and Kamryn freaked out. He asked her if she even knew what it meant and she replied, “to die.” Needless to say, they both welled with tears.
Somewhere in the deep confines of the still functioning portions of her brain, I know Dory appreciated her new surroundings and her new family. I just wish we had been able to bring her into our home sooner.
I felt very strange scheduling the appointment but there’s no book on the right way to do this, the right way to grieve, or the right way to say goodbye.
I must say that I’ll miss watching her bumble around the house. While totally on accident, she was quite entertaining and I’m going to miss her natural aloofness. Even though we knew this day would come sooner than later, it’s never something you’re truly prepared for.
We were asked if we’d like to arrange to take her body with us and bury her on our own but I find that a little too creepy for my tastes. I know some people do it and are comforted by it. In fact, our neighbor has four self-dug graves of past dogs behind his shed. As for me, I just can’t do it. My hatred for manual labor aside, I’m just not comfortable doing the Pet Sematary thing. The last thing I need is for a Dory zombie to break in, pee all over the house, and then kill us.
Instead, we’re opting for a teaspoon of Dory by way of cremation.
We’ll let the kids decide where to put her, whether it be our garden, at their grandparent’s farm, or at the lake. Regardless of what they choose, we think it will help with the mourning process and feel it’d be the proper goodbye. I don’t really know what all to expect, I just know it’s going to be emotionally brutal.
Her experience touched our lives and we know we improved hers. I just wish it could have lasted longer.
And I say this even after 600 rolls of urine-soaked paper towels.