I’m sitting here wanting to do another adventure Out West, feeling the Soul of the Earth under my feet.
Yet . . .
Yet our dog. Our 15-year-old faithful companion. A product of the Earth. Life.
She’s dying. As are we all.
But she’s closer to the end than any of us hope to ever be.
And she needs me.
Her health is failing her. I’m at the point where I need to carry her up the stairs every night, because she wants to be with us.
And then every morning I have to carry her back downstairs to go out. (And then during the day I carry her up and down a few more times, because still, she wants to be with me.)
Because she leaks. When she sleeps for more than a few hours, she leaks urine (and sometimes poo), and we’ve gotten a hand-held rug cleaner just for that.
But I cannot abandon her. I cannot go out adventuring while she is still with us. I cannot cheat her. I cannot cheat me and what I hold dear.
She had been a lifelong (for her life) friend. How can I abandon her now?
Because she needs me. She needs help just to go outside. I cannot head off on another trip leaving her at home alone all day. I cannot even take a longer day hike if it means I will be away too long. I have to stay nearby to help her get upstairs and down. To get her outside when she needs to go. To protect her from her leakage.
So I defer.
I feel trapped. And then I feel awful about myself for the feeling. How awful am I to want to abandon such a lifelong friend, a friend who used to be able to accompany me on my wonderful hikes, who always added to the wonder of being out in nature, in hiking along, who loved heading up and down the hills, sniffing all of the wonderful smells along the path? Regardless, I cannot abandon her. I will wait, instead. I will persevere.
Eventually, if perhaps I have not declined too much in the same way myself, I’ll head Out West again. But for now; I cannot.
I do not have it within me (and I shouldn’t) to abandon her as her life comes to a close. Eventually, we (my wife and I) will decide that it is best to put her down, to kill her (and I refuse to soften the word), because of the agony she will eventually be going through, as her bladder cancer progresses, and her awful hip disintegrates further. But for now it is my duty, my honor, to do what I can for her.
Our loyal companion.
To maintain her as best we can. To help her out. To sustain her. To keep her as comfortable as possible. To keep her happy.
I take her to the veterinarian.
I take counsel from the vet, from others, trying to do the right thing, trying to make sure she is not suffering, but also trying to balance things so that I do not end her life, through my own hand (arg!!!!!!!), prematurely. Not while she is still enjoying what she can from it, snarfing down her food every day. When she doesn’t enjoy her food, when she stops eating, when she does not enjoy being with us, then maybe I can reconsider.
So there is no way I could go anywhere now. Leaving her alone all day.
These days she even needs help getting up. She cannot sit. Instead she lies down, very slowly, very carefully, with her leg splayed out.
When a spirit had died, then it is easy. Then all one must do is mourn. It is the ending that is hard. The period when things are extended. When one can see that the end is coming, but the end is not in sight. Then one must rise up and sit beside oneself. One must gird one’s loins; one must do what needs to be done. One must persevere and provide whatever comfort that can be provided. One must do what is necessary, what is noble, what is human.
Some day I will reach the same place myself. I just hope that others will view me the same way, even when I am peeing on everything, and have bowel mistakes, and am getting uncooperative and crotchety, cannot quite see things very well, or even move around without help.
But for now, I do what I can, and I help her as well as I am able.
Because I, because we, are human.
[Tess is short for Tesserae, which is Latin, more or less, for “Patches”.]