Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We called her Shredder for awhile

A good dog falls ill
I weep and sleep by her side
Lucy, please don't go!
This is one of my favorite pictures of Lucy because you can see so much of her personality showing through. Notice the dish that she's carrying around? That was classic Lu. She was constantly picking up dishes and carrying them around, even if they happened to be filled with water! Her need for a "security dish" led to the purchase of subsequently larger and larger dog dishes in the hopes that they would be too heavy, once filled with water, for her to pick up. HA! We finally had to resort to ceramic for water. Naturally, we never had to worry about her picking it up and dumping her food because she inhaled it as soon as it hit the bowl.

Notice also that her tail is wagging too fast to see it? That tail was legend. For instance she was a natural born drummer and when she wanted something she seemed to have a supernatural ability to find the most drum like (hollow sounding) item in the room. Then she would stand next to it and wag her massive tail with rhythmic intensity, earning her the nickname "Her Tailness."

She didn't wag her tail,
so much as wield it, drumming
the loudest surface

This is a nice picture because you can kind of see that her left ear flap is missing. Plus, as Alwen sometimes points out, you really need a white background to properly photograph a black dog. Lucy LOVED the snow, omg, first snow fall would find her rolling in it, burying her face in it and snuffling, leaping and running to forge a snowy new dog path where the earthen one used to be. We don't know how she lost her ear flap, she came to us that way, but she was always sensitive to loud noises, howling in perfect pitch with police, fire and tornado sirens.

She sang for sirens
my baby girl with one ear
her tail was legend

She was such a loving and playful dog, I was trying to just get a picture of her here, but there's another one taken at the same time with PJ in it and he was about two. When he was outside, she was outside. She was my Nanna dog, always watching out for the babies.

One of my favorite stories to tell about her involves my Mom's late dog, Matilda. Matilda was a rather high strung girl, being a mix of border collie and Australian Shepard she seemed to have all the spookiest qualities of both breeds and she clearly on edge around small children. One evening, Lucy was sitting on a chair in the family room, Matilda was between the couch and the coffee table and PJ was on the other side of the coffee table blocking her escape. Matilda started jumping back and forth behind the coffee table looking for an exit and I was preparing to jump up and rescue her but Lucy beat me to it. Having properly assessed the situation already, she heaved a resigned sigh and got out of the chair, placing herself between PJ and Matilda, thereby offering Matilda a means of escape. It was brilliant to watch and I praised her like crazy, but that was just one of many instances in which she would endear herself to me.

Now, don't get me wrong, she was far from perfect! She had serious food aggression issues and would tangle with any dog who got too close to her dish, or even if they were eating from their own dish and she decided she wanted what they had. When I fed her and Hairy (Mom's new dog) in the morning I frequently had to stand between them to keep her from eating his food after she finished hers! She was also not very nice to the cat and sometimes she would growl at her just for walking by. When I had the audacity to leave the house without her she frequently rewarded me by removing the trash from my room and strewing it throughout the house. She was a very large lab as well, at one point reaching a top weight of 105. This was too much however and I was obliged to put her on a diet. She didn't like that idea much so, not long after that weight was taken we started walking several times a week to help her trim down. (The irony was not lost on me that the life I saved might be my own.) We continued our walks, 3 times a week weather permitting, until the Monday before she died and the last time she was weighed that week she was quite trim at 85 pounds.

So that was how it ended. We went walking on Monday, the week before Memorial Day, and she was gone on Sunday, May 25th. Before we were done with that last walk, my walking partner and I were commenting on how much both dogs were slowing down (she has a 13 year old lab/greyhound mix) and that we would have to start leaving them home because it was just too much for them anymore.

The next morning, John was getting ready for work when he said, "I'm worried about Lu, she didn't ask for breakfast." This was earth-shattering news. An un-hungry Lu must be a very sick Lu indeed so I made her a vet appt for that very afternoon. She kept coughing and I kept thinking that she had something in her throat but the vet said no, there's no blockage, but to she had some sort of respiratory issue going on. She said, "If it's a virus, it might get worse before it gets better, but it might be something else so lets try these anti-biotics." Well, she got about two anti-biotics in her that day and the next day she started vomiting. Keeping the vets words in mind I watched over her for the next day while she seemed to get worse and worse, hoping that she would improve. Thursday was really bad and I thought I had better take her to the vet again on Friday, but then on Friday she seemed to perk up a little and she stopped vomiting so I thought maybe she had turned the corner. I kept a close eye on her that day and when she decided to go outside at 10 pm, I followed her with a bed roll to stay by her side. Eventually she came back in, but she always wanted to be close to her pack and I didn't want her to feel like she needed to climb the stairs to do that, so I slept on the couch that night in hopes that she would find that comforting.

On Saturday morning she started vomiting blood. By Saturday afternoon I had called the emergency pet hospital and found out that it would cost several hundred dollars to have her seen by a vet and even more hundreds of dollars should we decide to ease her passing. Did I want to make an appointment for a euthanasia? Did I want to have her admitted? No, we talked about it as a family and we didn't think that was a good idea. I have enough medical background that I knew what would happen if we took her in for an exam. They would declare her dehydrated and want to admit her, pumping her back up full of IV fluids. We would not be able to be with her there, she would be alone and probably frightened. We decided to wait it out and continued offering water, but she was already too weak to drink and whenever she did, she would just vomit it back up with a bloody, fowl smelling chaser. It was time to talk to the boys. Ebo, being 16, already knew what was going on and no, if we took her in the middle of the night he did not need to be awakened, he had already said his goodbyes. PJ was oblivious to what was transpiring and naturally devastated when we explained that she might not make it. After all, he had known her his entire life. We comforted him and explained that we might have to help her die because she was suffering and we didn't want her to be in pain. No, he agreed, that would be bad.

Around 11 pm I was exhausted and decided to lay down for a minute. I got back up just a few minutes later and I don't rightly recall the reason at the time. But I went downstairs to the kitchen and when I turned to go back up, she just gave me this look that said, "I'm frightened!" and I knew it was time. It's a strange thing to suddenly know. You never really know how you are going to react in this type of situation and when I contemplated the possibility of her death I wondered if I would know. How would I know? Would I be strong enough to do the right thing when the time came? I don't know how I knew, I just knew. I simply said, "John, it's time" and I called the emergency clinic to tell them we were on our way.

We took her bed out to the back of the car. We carefully spread a sturdy blanket next to her to use as a stretcher and gently lifted her onto it. We carried her out to the car, comforted her and took her on her last ride past the park. I went in while John sat in the back end of the wagon with her. I was filling out paperwork when they went out with a stretcher to bring her in. I will never forget the kindness on the faces of the vet tech, Eli and the vet, whose name escapes me now. I will never forget the look on Lucy's face when they brought her in on the stretcher, confused and frightened until she spotted me.

We waited in an exam room while they installed an IV hook up to administer the euthanasia drugs, I wanted to stay with her but no, I could not. They would bring her right back, they promised. That was the moment when I knew I could never have left her there in that condition, knowing that she was dying, I could never have let her die alone.

The vet said, "you can take as long as you need." We said "I don't think we want to wait, she might be in pain." The vet nodded grimly in agreement. I will never forget that the color of death is a bright turquoise or teal, almost a neon Parrish blue, it was such a pretty color, how poetic and ironic. I bent over the stretcher, tilting my head sideways to look her straight in the eye. Her cloudy black eyes, once so clear and brown, looked back at me. Gently stroking the top of her head I said, "I love you, baby girl" and she was gone.

I loved her so much
I am weeping as I write this
how can she be gone?

Haiku comes from pain
sometimes, other times from joy
this much I have learned.

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Blogger Alwen said...

She was a good girl. It's so hard when they've been with you so long. I'm petting my Ajax-baby with my foot for you.

8/27/2008 7:35 PM  

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