Monday, November 8, 2010
So if last week wasn't stressful enough, this one topped it. My own progress here has been stifled by my dog's poor health. Last night, I made the painful decision "put my dog down," as they say.
Euthanasia. That's the word that had been pummeling around in my mind for the past two weeks, since my dog experienced her latest bout of cluster seizures. Yesterday, when she experienced yet another, and even before that -- because she warned me what was coming with her labored breathing -- I knew I'd be taking her in to see the vet again, the vet specialist. And I suspected I'd be making this heavy decision very soon.
What I didn't expect was the latest diagnosis?
"Were you aware that Clooney has heart problems?"
I said I was. "She has a heart murmur. Yes, I know."
"Yes, because of that, it seems her seizures may have brought about heart failure. We believe Clooney is experiencing heart failure. That's why she's been having trouble breathing. The fluid in her lungs is the result of that."
The vet went on to explain how blood travels through the body, which way it's supposed to go, what happens when a heart murmur interferes with that, how Clooney's heart had been working way past overtime to try to keep up, and on and on. I tuned most of that out. I just heard: Seizures. Fluid in her lungs. And now heart failure!
You can imagine why I'd have to finally realize I need to come to terms with something: My dog IS going to die. Either I let her go peacefully, or she continues to suffer. When you look at a precious life that way, the decision is already made.
So, I rounded up support -- my boyfriend, my daughter, my pet sitter who has become the surrogate mom for Clooney. We all went to the vet clinic together, and we all said goodbye to my pet. And we all watched her peacefully slip away. It was very fast, seemingly pain-free, and I think she was ready. Before her final minutes, when we were still hanging out with her in the patient's room, she had yet another seizure, albeit a small one, leaving a puddle of pee on the floor because she'd lost control of her bladder. It was as if she was telling me something I already knew. She was ready.
I took her for one last walk in the parking lot. She didn't really seem to be there, or know why she was there. She was moving back and forth, not going anywhere. But it was something she loved to do, and the vet suggested it might be a good idea for me. This was Clooney's life: Walk. Eat. Sleep. Walk. Eat. Snack. Sleep. Some playtime in between. Her favorite things. Oh, and eat some more.
That dog could put away the food, up until her very last day. The morning of the final seizure that had me placing her on the beach towel, the one I used to dry her off after her bath, on our final road trip to the vet, she had had no problem eating. She took her medicine easily, especially since it came with a big slice of banana, and she ate her breakfast -- in seconds, as always. You'd never know she was as ill as she was. You just wouldn't suspect it...
Until a few hours later when she came hunting me down, trying to get my attention. I was upstairs looking for a photograph I needed for an essay I was writing. And there she was, out of breath -- or having a hard time breathing. I told her I'd be right there. She left to go lay in the sun but couldn't get comfortable and came to me, scratching at my leg, trying to get my attention again.
She was experiencing the beginning of what would have been very painful heart failure -- a slow death. I didn't know that then, but I knew she was not feeling well. I picked her up and took her downstairs with me and laid her in the hallway, cupping her furry face in my hands, telling her, "I think you need to go to the vet. But Mommy has to get dressed first." I left her there while I dressed in the other room, and must have gotten up, because then I heard her collapse seconds later. She was near the front door. When I reached her, she was in the middle of a seizure that left her screaming for help. She'd had so many of them by now, and there was nothing I cold do. I was used to those. But her breathing. I could tell it was so difficult for her. I watched her rib cage move in and out, pushing her body so far away from itself that I thought she might explode. I waited for her to recover enough that I could give her another dose of Phenylbarbitol -- the drug I was told to give her more of should she seize again.
I then called the vet and let them know I was bringing Clooney in. They were ready when we arrived. It would be hours later, after they'd had time to examine her, do more x-rays, and get her comfortable, when I'd be told that she was in heart failure mode. At that point, I knew what I would have to do. But I wanted someone to tell me. I wanted to be sure.
You can never be sure. You just have to do what Cameron discusses this week in Chapter 7: Trust your intuition. You just have to take some risks in life. Last night, I did that. And now I believe my dog is at peace.
What does this have to do with The Artist's Way? Not much, other than this is what I've been coping with this week. And that is why I've barely written a single sentence of Morning Pages. And I only had my Artist Date because I was out of town on a shortened visit for an assignment to write about Civil Rights. So I guess you could say I lucked into that.
So this will not be the week that I motivate you. It was not the week that Cameron motivated me. It will be known as the week I survived the death of my dog. And that's pretty much it. Chapter 6 discusses Recovering a Sense of Abundance. And I did experience that on an assignment level this past week. One of my editors sent me 4 assignments in one day. But that's hardly anything I care about right now.
In Chapter 7, which maybe you've read by now, the focus is on Connection. What an appropriate topic for me this week -- a little serendipity there -- as I am reminded of how our connections with our pets can sometimes supersede our relationships with our human companions.
In the weeks ahead, it will be a challenge for me to focus on those assignments I was given. I will be missing my dog. These will be the days that I notice she is no longer sitting at my feet, underneath my desk as I type. She will no longer jump up and paw on my lap to get me to let her outside for a potty break. She will no longer escape the front door and run down the street to our friend who watches her when I am out of town. She knows exactly how to get there and will go there, if given the chance, as it's there that she gets to socialize with her other doggy friends. But she will no longer do that. And she will no longer be waiting at the door for me when I return home from a hike or a meeting or a bike ride. She will no longer jump in the shower after me so she can lick the shower floor. When she was younger, she'd lick my legs dry first. Funny dog. And she won't be there wagging her tail when I open the pantry door because she thinks she's getting a treat. She always got the treat. But I won't be buying doggie treats anymore. These are things I will be thinking about in the weeks ahead. Probably not too much about what Cameron has to say, though I will continue the reading and do the work as best I can. And I will post here. I will go through the motions, because I'll probably need it. Please continue to post your own thoughts so we can keep the dialogue going. I'll probably surprise myself with how much happens, because, life will still go on for me.
I will not be getting another dog, so don't ask. Clooney was an unexpected guest, the pet someone else had tossed away. She'd been a street dog when she was put into our backyard more than 11 years ago. We had a good life together. She was fun. She was obnoxious. She was sometimes aggressive. Okay. A lot of times. She was feisty. And when my divorce happened, I got custody of her. She was a very true companion during some very difficult days of my life. She experienced anxiety when I did. She was happy when I was--and even when I wasn't. She slept with me. She ate some things she wasn't supposed to eat. She dragged in mud when I'd rather she didn't. She once brought a few dead birds into the house. Ewwww. She signed the wet concrete slab I mixed and poured to hold an outdoor water fountain with her paw prints. She was always there, waiting for hugs and kisses and loved to be held. She was a pretty faithful companion, and I'm certain she won't be replaced. I've no need. Because of my traveling schedule, it wasn't always easy to leave her, especially in these last months. And it was often quite expensive. So, no new dog for me. I'll spend my extra time with my grandbabies now, because that's what I've been told I'll do. :-)
And, today, despite my intense desire to go curl up in my bed and hug a doggie toy, I have a deadline to meet.
I hope your day and week gets off to a much better start. Keep progressing. There's no good reason not to.
(Photo of Clooney above was taken two days ago at my neighbor's house; we both knew it might be the last)
Motivation for Mondays is a part of a weekly Twitter party called #MotivatedMondays initiated by Lorrie Shaw, a professional pet sitter, a regular pets contributor at annarbor.com, and pet blogger in Dexter Township, MI. Together, we post a combination of inspirational notes, links to motivational blog posts, and tips to help kickstart your week ahead. Look for us online every Monday morning--and throughout the day--if you need to kick start your week or want to share your own motivational thoughts.