We said goodbye to Lucy (Lady Lucia) today, less than two months from her 16th birthday.
Since March 4- when she developed focal seizures- our schedule was pretty much dictated by her.
When Lucy decided it was time to wake up, we woke up. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've slept past 6:30 am in the past ten months.
The household schedule was arranged so that someone was always around at 9 am and 9 pm to administer her seizure medication. And we never left her alone for more than four hours.
From 7 pm to about 10 pm, her place was on the living room couch, where she'd watch tv and snooze. When she thought it was time to go to bed, we went to bed. And the next day, we'd do it all over again.
Things changed on Sunday. She didn't want to eat, and was only mildly interested in the cheese in which we wrapped her drugs. She spent the entire day under my desk. Her occasional excursions to survey the back yard stopped.
Yesterday she stopped drinking water and making her bathroom trips.
This morning, she woke us up at 4:30 am. I took her downstairs and put her out in the yard with the other dogs. Instead of her usual morning constitutional- walking the perimeter of the yard, inspecting the fence- she laid down in the snow at the end of the patio and didn't move. She didn't even correct the Shih Tzu puppy when the little one started barking at her and licking her face.
I picked her up and brought her inside. She sat stoically next to my chair, her old, cloudy eyes unfocused and yet looking at something. I said her name, softly. She wagged her tail, but her gaze remained steady.
I'd seen that intense, focused stare before, and my heart sank. She was concentrating on the next place, her destination. And it was time.
She was quiet during the car ride. She wagged her tail when the lady in the white coat entered the room.
She gave us sloppy kisses. Her mom held her close, and, with a relieved sigh, we felt her leave.
Dogs' lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you're going to lose a dog, and there's going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can't support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There's such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price. Maybe loving dogs is a way we do penance for all the other illusions we allow ourselves and the mistakes we make because of those illusions.
When you have dogs, you witness their uncomplaining acceptance of
suffering, their bright desire to make the most of life in spite of the
limitations of age and disease, their calm awareness of the approaching
end when their final hours come. They accept death with a grace that I
hope I will one day be brave enough to muster.