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First Person Personal

My personal views on a variety of matters ranging from popular culture to quantum physics to religion to politics to history to bushido to ... well, whatever I feel like, really. Warning: we all have agendas. Trust no one totally, myself most specifically included. Email me at wbrerwolf at gmail.com

Thursday, November 10, 2005

And my dog died

One of my dogs died over the Labor Day weekend. Y was a miniature schnauzer and weighed about twenty-five pounds. He was very affectionate and loving, always ready to cuddle. Like most of his breed, he was very powerfully built and energetic. We inherited Y when his previous owner D died of complications from AIDS. My wife was D’s primary caregiver and I helped out some, mostly by taking care of Y and doing some muscle work. D left him to me in the will with the understanding that Y would be buried with him when the time came.

I first met Y before S and I got married; he was about nine weeks old at the time and S was babysitting him while his owners were elsewhere. S’s cat C immediately started to stalk Y.

Y was very (and justifiably) wary of C. While he was a bit bigger and his bite was worse, he did not have claws and was always more of a lover than a fighter. I warned S against leaving Y alone with C. S, as per usual, ignored me.

When we got back to S’s apartment, C had backed Y into the corner next to the outside door. Y had made a heroic effort to dig under the door to get away. The linoleum had to be replaced because of this.

Y lived a very full life for a little dog: he was part of at least five households, with ours being the last. D, before his final illness, was deeply involved with care giving for other AIDS sufferers. I think that D, a natural scholar, was studying how to face his own death. Y was by D’s side throughout all this and I believe that he was a great comfort to the people that D was taking care of and I know that he was a great comfort to D.

I don’t know if Y ever understood what was going on around him. I mean, I know that he knew that a lot of people were sick, but I don’t know if he knew that most of the people in his various households died and that the other dogs died or were relocated when their owner’s died. I think he just thought that people and other dogs kept abandoning him. He didn’t mind being left with new people, but it seemed to make him nervous to be left alone for extended periods of time.

Y had an amazing talent for getting along with other dogs. One day Y got away from me and ran up to three Rotties that were being walked by their owner. I knew the dogs were guard dogs and each one was at least a hundred pounds of solid muscle and bone. I thought that I was going to have to bring Y home in a plastic bag and spend the rest of my life apologizing to S for letting Y commit suicide.

All three Rotties sniffed Y and their tails started wagging in unison, as if to say, “Aren’t you the cutest little dog!”

I have only run into two dogs that weren’t at least willing to tolerate Y, and I think that both of those dogs were dangerous and should have been put down for public safety reasons. Even if the other dog was much smaller than Y, Y would befriend it rather than try to be the “big dog”.

About a year ago, Y had to have major surgery because of problems with his pancreas. Strangely enough, Knoxville has a vet who specializes in pancreatic surgery, and we were able to fix Y up with her. It cost a lot of money, a major contributing factor towards our current financial mess, but we hoped that it, along with switching Y to a prescription diet, would buy him another five or ten years.

It did not.

In late July, Y started to refuse food. We thought that it might be his teeth and switched him over to soft food. This worked OK for about a week, and then he started to refuse it and began to occasionally vomit. My wife is, among other things, a very skilled professional cook and she started to cook his food from scratch. This worked for another couple of weeks, and then he started to refuse these meals as well as vomiting what little he ate. We scraped together enough money to get Y to his vet.

I believe that Y realized that he was at the end of his life because of the expression on his face when I took him to the vet. He normally enjoyed his visits there, but this time he seemed to be very unhappy to be left.

The vet kept Y for two days and ran several tests, rehydrated him with an IV, diagnosed liver problems and attempted to treat him with various medications, all to no avail. Y was more alert, in less discomfort, but was still dying of liver failure.

The vet called and told us it was time.

My wife and I went to the vet’s office and they brought Y in. He was very glad to see us and we played with him for perhaps a half-hour and took a few pictures. Y was almost his old self, except that his skin had taken on a yellowish color indicative of liver failure. The vet told us that we could take Y home and let nature take its course or we could end Y’s life immediately.

We decided to have him put to sleep while my wife was holding him and I was stroking his head. We did this because we did not want Y to suffer and perhaps die alone, with neither my wife nor myself around.

We were impressed with how quickly the drugs worked. Y apparently felt no pain and was dead between one second and the next. I think he was a little surprised, but not afraid when he died. S told me afterwards that if she knew she was dying, this was how she wanted to go, surrounded by loved ones and quickly, with no pain.

Just in case some parts of his central nervous system were still sending in reports, I held Y in my arms for about twenty minutes while S was preparing the coffin and his shroud. S cut Y’s sleeping blanket to fit and we wrapped it around his little body with strapping tape, then we put him in a cardboard box that I had picked up for the occasion.

S had wanted to bury Y’s bowl with him, but we forgot to bring it. Later, S had me break it with a hammer and scatter the pieces above Y’s grave. It is amazingly satisfying to pulverize a ceramic bowl when you are feeling sad. Maybe this is why so many of the Ancients buried broken utensils with their dead.

We got a plant for cover, just in case anyone should ask why we were digging in the graveyard and then fulfilled D’s request, burying Y in between D and his lifemate’s graves. Y liked to sleep in between two people he loved; I hope he is happy there.

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