Monday - Bibi
She won't stop panting. It's 1:20am and she's been laying down all night on her bed but she's panting. Being a dog is a lot of work for her lately. She's 13+ years with an active mind and failing nerves.
This morning she couldn't get up from bed. When I helped her she couldn't stand on her own. When she made it down the hall she was like a beginner stilt walker. Teetering from left to right and all I could do was be there as a safety net. She's still very proud and gets Cujo mad when I give her a hand.
Right now I'm out of her view so I hear her complaining. It's exactly how humans pout when they don't get their way. Grunts and moans and whimpers and body shifting. She is trying to get up but doesn't have the full strength to do so, so I hear her slipping back down.
I just tried to help her and she got mad and was bearing her teeth. It's like this 24/7. Next to working in a toll booth and washing skyscraper windows I don't ever want to work in a hospice.
But for my loyal Bibi, I was fully ready to play nurse as long as she wasn't suffering. But I started to think how do you define suffering. Is it just outright pain and sorrow where you simply are in agony, or is it also the slow and steady decline and eventual loss of what was once a rich and bountiful life.
There still are beautiful moments where I see her completely at ease, snoring or running freely in a dream. It's quite impressive how fast her lame legs sprint on the other side. Those moments are what I have held onto, but maybe she really does want to be on the other side.
When she struggled this morning in the garden with simply balancing her body to pee, or when she collapsed and dragged her body through the dirt like a broom, I recognized that as a form of suffering.
She wants to be in the room I am but can't get to it always. So to help out, I try not to move around too much. And if I do leave, I try to return in a blink of an eye before she can prop herself up. I stay in the living room a little longer, instead of going to bed. That's a form of suffering for me. So when I finally get into bed, I hear her in the other room working to catch up to me. When she finally makes it to the bedroom she's so out of breath, she stammers to her bed with exhaustion. That's a form of suffering.
I sneak out of the house with Bootsie because she can no longer go on walks. I feel like I'm having an illicit affair behind my first dog's back with my second.
I had custom wheels made just earlier this month. They were supposed to help her walk through the park but now she uses them simply to steady herself while she eats breakfast and dinner.
She cannot control her No. 2's and leaves presents all over the place. That's definitely a form of suffering for all parties. And don't even get me started on less-than-solid gifts. What's happening lately is especially fantastic and that's the pooping and her trying to get up but falling back on top of it routine. So she then grinds all matter into the floor and her fur and leaves a horrible mess. Bounty and Fabreze are my best friends.
I called Dr. James today to let her know that I'm thinking about a way out for her. When I picked up the phone, I had no idea that I was so prepared to realize it this soon. I thought I wanted to just test the waters, but instead I cannonballed. When I started to talk to her the words just flowed out of my mouth. All that I kept trapped inside while I waited for the "sign". And before I knew it I had made not only one, but two appointments to administer the lethal dose of anesthesia. One for a week away and another for the day after tomorrow, in case things get dire.
I don't know what I was expecting as a sign. Maybe profuse bleeding from an organ, uncontrollable vomit and diarrhea, limbs falling off. I obviously expected something quite dramatic, maybe an exploding eye, massive seizure or a neon sign pointing down on her dogbed. That's when I realized that the sign was not for her, but for me to divorce myself from the guilt of having to play god. The fact is that to your pet you are God. There's no way around it.
When you're gambling the rule is to quit while you're ahead. Why can't that be the rule when you're nearing the end of your life. Why must you wait until your pockets are empty and the loan sharks are at your door. Why am I waiting for the Jaws soundtrack to start playing before I act as a responsible friend.
Quality of life. People say that it's time to put a dog down when quality of life has diminished. Worse yet, people wait until it's completely gone. But today, watching her sleep after the morning struggle, she looked so comfortable once settled, and I knew that I wanted her to go out with that feeling. Not penniless and alone.
Maybe I should be sadistic and watch Marley and Me. I don't think I'm ready for that.
I could keep throwing money at the situation (the hospital knows that I've financed more than my share of stethoscopes over the years), but ultimately I'll still have to make the decision, since that's the agreement I signed when I brought her into my life. Dr. James assured me that any time after today wouldn't be too soon and that I've done an amazing job for her. This is the last gift that I can give to her.
We'll see how things progress in the next 48 hours. But this may be the biggest thing that's weighing me down. I'm at the point where I either take control or have it continue to control me. Bibi's the one panting, but I may the one running out of breath.