Sweetie, a few years ago in middle age, before she lost her eye sight
February 22, 2016
I open the bedroom curtains for my first look at the new day. It's sunny and a pair of cardinals perches in the bare branches of the snow ball bush next to the fence. Several finches chatter noisily in the lower branches of the same bush. I always wonder how such tiny creatures can make such a big noise.
Beyond the fence, a transparent white vapor hangs low between Black Oak Ridge and Wind Rock Mountain. Ever since I was a little girl, I've felt there was magic in the sight of clouds descending to touch the earth. The cloud feels like an omen; it's going to be a good day.
My old dog, Sweetie, is sleeping next to my feet. The first thing I do every morning is nudge her to see if she's still alive. She's still with me but she had a rough night, which means my husband and I also had a rough night. Every time she roused to pace, pant, and cough, my husband and I roused too. None of us got much sleep.
If she has another bad night, I suppose I'll have to sleep in the living room with her. My husband has to get up and go to work and can't afford to keep losing sleep. And besides, I'm the one she wants to be with. She knows she's my dog. We're sisters. In fact, while everyone else calls her Sweetie, I call her 'Sister Dog' most of the time.
I think she's always been my dog, in a million life times before this one. In fact, I'm pretty sure that in some of our lives together, she's been the mistress and I've been the dog. I recognized her as an old friend from the first moment I saw her picture on the internet. I printed the picture and brought it to my husband. "This is my dog," I said.
She was two years old then, just a slip of girl when I got her. And she was SO beautiful, a Black Lab / Irish setter mix. I thought she was the most beautiful dog I'd ever seen. She still is beautiful, but ancient, weak and sick; fourteen years old with diabetes, arthritis, thyroid disease and blind.
The last time I took her to the clinic, the vet asked me if I had considered euthanasia. "Oh no,", I said. "Not yet. But what do you think?"
And then the vet kindly noted that Sweetie had just wolfed down the two pieces of jerky she'd been offered while in the examination room. "As long as she still has an appetite and enjoys food, I don't think it's quite time either," she said. The vet's words felt like a reprieve. But I know, in my heart, it won't be too much longer.
The other day, Sweetie and I were sitting together in the foyer. I had just taken her outside and after several attempts, we'd both given up on getting her up the steps in this split level house. "Sweetie," I said, "If you need to die, it's okay. I'll be alright. I love you more than any dog I've ever had, but if you need to go, I'll understand." And though she's completely blind, she gazed intently up at my face as if she were looking right into me and I know for sure that she understood every word I said.
She'll let me know when she's ready. She's not ready today. But she may be tomorrow.
Be Well and Good Luck,