This is not a funny post. Today was a bad day. My vet told me to do a good day/bad day jar for a couple of weeks, but I don’t really need it.
Death is stalking my household.
Thanatos waits patiently in the shadowed corners of my living room while we watch movies and bark quietly at neighborhood kids or invisible monsters in the back yard. Badb is hanging out cross-legged on the floor under a desk in my office, casually flipping through books in my library, content but staying close.
If I’m lucky. Persephone is working on a new spot with Thor: one with enough toys that they can steal from each other again.
I know the sensation of Death lingering in my house. I’ve done this already.
We are getting to the point that “tired” is more than just sleeping between meals and an exhausting barking session. It’s a look in the eyes, a distinct need for comfort that forces failing legs to keep trying to push 110lbs up the stairs so he can sleep near a person. It’s the sad expression when I pick up the leash, and half-hearted attempt to get up only to lie next to the open door, because the urge to pee isn’t strong enough to bother going out even though it’s been nearly 12 hours.
He’s not ready, but I think we’re within a week or two now. Taking responsibility for another living creature is a double edged razor. The vet says the timing is up to me. What that really means is I’m no longer monitoring and caring for Chewy to provide him with quality of life, but quality of death. Some would argue there are many reasons to make that choice on his behalf – send him on before he suffers, the expense involved in waiting, the disruption to my life, moving on.
Responsibility is a heavy burden because it’s SUPPOSED to be heavy. Who the hell am I to determine how much of his life to cut off? People who bring up the expense involved are talking a bout the vet bills, the pills, the time involved in waiting for him to struggle back inside twice a day. But the real expense is the waiting, the burden of choosing when to invite Death formally instead of letting her hang out, because at some point the suffering is just enough. But I am only a caretaker: Chewy will let me know when he hits that point. Thor did.
We, people, humans, are so afraid of Death visiting that we’ll do damn near anything to avoid it. Dogs are different. They’ll fight to survive until it’s time, and when it’s time they’re just…ready. They’ve done their jobs here, they’ve loved and protected and forgiven, and they let you know they’re ok.
My vet is truly a fantastic man. When we let Thor go, he warned me what might happen – convulsions, bodily fluids, scary and awful struggling against the soul slipping from the body. He told me so I wouldn’t be surprised, so I could stay in the room and be a comfort instead of a basket case. NONE of that happened with him – in fact, he give a little sigh of relief and just slipped off his body like an uncomfortable jacket that’s gotten too tight.
I want that for Chewy, too. I want an easy death that relieves him from his broken down body and gives him freedom to bark at ALL THE THINGS. I want Thanatos to give him quiet sleep, and Badb to take him on a long, leisurely walk. There’s always the chance that won’t happen, that his passing will be somehow scarring. I hope not.
I suppose I’ll find out in the next couple of weeks, because I know this countdown.
He stole a loaf of bread today while I got coffee. He was so proud of reaching it I can’t even be all that mad, even though it was MINE MINE MINE. Cheeseburgers and treats will be the order of the days ahead, and a lot of sitting in the grass so he can just hang out and do what he loves best – watching over the neighborhood. Until it’s time to stop.
Yes, I could say Tuesday is the day and we could be done and save me the emotional stress of Death becoming my temporary roommate. But that’s not my job here. I’m not afraid to wait with him. I’m not afraid to make the decision or lie with him on the floor in the vet’s office, or let him go.
When it’s time, I will ask Death to walk my dog gently, and kindly request no more visits for a long while. Until then, we’re sitting in companionable quiet, listening to Chewy’s quiet breathing while he dreams.