Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TREMBLING HEART

click pictures to enlarge Today started out beautifully. It was warm at a very early hour and the promise of seventy degrees by noon appeared to be an accurate forecast. I have a remodel project started that is running into the Springtime later than I like and it is a frustrating project. I was heading there mid morning after I returned from a doctor appointment. But first things first. The dogs needed fresh cool water and the bowls needed topped off with food. Homer and Seafoam, the cats, were already up and done with breakfast. They were chasing each other around and over the big lounge chair at the far end of the room. Now to find Julia. I usually go out to the coal shed to get her and walk with her back to the room where she spends the night. I put a deep bed of straw in that shelter especially for her. When the weather was cold; she would be in the room here with all the other guys and myself. As things warmed up, she spends more time out doors. I walked to the shed and searched about in there and she was gone. Had I missed her laying in a corner in the room? I strolled back to my habitat and walked in and carefully scanned the room. Not here. At that point I was concerned. I bolted out into the yard and got down on my knees to scan under the shed where I keep my motorcycle. Not there either. Where then? There was a strip of yard that ran up behind the adjacent store that had a chain link gate at the end. I jogged around the corner and as I faced that gate I saw Julia laying under a bush asleep. Julia is deaf and I approached slowly and from her front so she wouldn't be startled. She did, however, raise her head in surprise. She got up slowly on her usual shaky legs and started to turn toward me when her back legs collapsed causing her to fall to her left. Another attempt to rise resulted in her right front leg collapsing followed by both her back legs. She lay there with her head swaying too and fro, her eyes showing panic and uncertainty. I rushed to her and held her shivering body to me to let her know she wasn't alone. I repeated the words oh no, oh no, oh no over and over again softly while tears poured from my eyes. I wondered why she didn't come into the room last night. I thought she was demonstrating her disapproval at being with the rest of the dogs. I wondered, as I held her, if she was in trouble and needed me. I felt terrible. I gently lifted her front paws off my knee and lowered them to the ground gently. I needed to see if she could follow me into the room where the cool water was. I backed away from her and she watched me. Finally she made the attempt to rise. Once standing, her legs wobbled and she started to walk and went sideways to the left and again to the right and fell down again. I picked her up in my arms and rushed up the steps to where we live and laid her down on her pillows. Her head moved left and right as though scanning an unfamiliar place. She made vague attempts to stand and failed. Again I went to her and held her face in my hands while moving my finger tips along her muzzle to calm her. I could see that she could not understand what was occurring. This great old dog who has probably not had a kind word spoken to her in years; this gracious dog that was cast out by uncaring people; who walked unending miles for a scrap of food and braved the coldest of weather has finally confronted something she didn't understand. She appeared to be touched by dementia, but she was fine just a day ago. Just yesterday she actually ran as a puppy would when I got down on my knees in the yard and feigned play. And now this. I stared at her as I caressed the top of her head. This is so hard! The tears never stopped flowing from my eyes. I am a realist and fairly level headed and practical. Why was this affecting me like this? I was holding Julia and talking to her as if she would understand. Understand!? She was practically deaf. What was I doing. I'll tell you what I was doing. I'll tell you. I guess I look at dogs differently than most folks. You see; I live with them, or they with me if you like. They have emotions, feelings, happy and sad times. They are totally dedicated to he who really cares for them. They are ever loving and bond to "their human" even more so than human friends do. I treat them with more dignity and respect than I do for most people. They have no choices but the ones we offer to them and they make the best of it and return our favors with dedication. No one shall ever treat a dog badly while in my presence. No one! I will take the dog's position every time. They are innocent. Totally. Humans are not. Humans expect dogs to adapt to them. It is the human who should adapt. If you buy a sports car you adapt to it's design. The car does not adapt to you. It can't. You can buy options to change it somewhat. And so it is with dogs. You can find breeds that will increase your satisfaction, but it's still a dog. And a car is still just a car. And here I am holding Julia. The pads on her feet are course and I can only imagine how many miles those hound legs have carried her. My minds eye could envision her as a puppy with her whole life ahead of her, romping in the grass on a sunny day chasing her siblings. And later, probably as an adolescence, something caused a huge, deep, long gash along her side that shows so prominently now these many years later. I run my finger along the mark in wonderment. Poor old girl. I'm trying to get the thought of what must occur out of my mind, but I can't. I even called a friend to ask an opinion and my thoughts were reinforced. I have always stood firm on the side of my dog friends. I would risk my own safety for their well being. I protect and rescue those in need. I am compassionate for them and show empathy for the needy ones. All that and more. And here I sit with this old hound's head in my palms contemplating the taking of her life for her own good. Try to sort that out in your mind. Everything about euthanasia revolves around what's best for the dog. Oxymoron? I'm holding this old hound's head in my hands and I turn her face up toward me and I see that seed of panic in her eyes, ever growing greater. She can't understand why she can't rise up. She doesn't understand why all of a sudden I am putting so much attention out toward her. I hug her tightly feeling her soft hair against my arm. I have been brushing out the winter hair she has been shedding. Julia. Why are you doing this to me? The vet assistant arrived at my place around 4PM this afternoon. I carried Julia out to a grassy spot in the yard. I held her head as the needle containing the sedative pricked her. She let out a brief hound howl as she was startled. After a minute I noticed that her eyes were getting wide and she was shivering. She was in panic. I held her as gently as I could and her panic became worse. She must be thinking "what is happening?" I am feeling the pain for her. She can not cry but I can. And finally she rests quietly with my hands under her head, and suddenly she, in her sleep, start convulsing; her entire body shaking and contorting. She experienced a seizure. She couldn't feel it but it was terrible to watch. The second needle is prepared and the deadly poison is administered. And finally peace overcomes Julia. And I still held her; and I held her for a half hour after it was over. And I prepared a hole in the ground and laid her at rest. And I cried; hard. And I'm damn proud of being able to express that emotion for a dog. A sweet, noble, dedicated and cast out dog has finally found the path to freedom from humanity. I was and am crushed by what occurred today. It was my first time. And I have Douglas, Shade and Happy to live through. I'll not have another dog after them. I can't do it. I won't. The next time you want to get your kids a cute puppy for their birthday; remember what you read here. If you aren't prepared to accept that puppy through it's entire life; don't enter into a relationship with it. Temper compassion and empathy with common sense. I'm learning to do that. Julia; I'll miss you sweet old one. Thank you for your company. I'm sorry we never had our afternoon together, just you and I, down by the lake. And I'm sorry I had a hand in what happened today. I am so very sorry Julia. For everything.