Death of a pet: Requiem Lolly
This day had been coming for some time, perhaps from the day he was born in June 1993 when my youngest daughter was 3 years old. On the day of his arrival, my youngest slept on the kitchen floor with him for three days. We all took him for granted, yelled at him for mischief and sometimes secretly wished he would vanish when he got into trouble. We didn’t really notice him aging probably because we didn’t want to. Occasionally I would ask “How old is Lolly?” No one seemed to know.
He was thirteen years old this month, about a year more than usual for standard poodles. Ultimately it became impossible to ignore the ataxia, incontinence, blindness, deafness and confusion anymore. Today I took him to the vet had held him in my arms as a deep, peaceful and permanent sleep took him. It was one of the most wrenchingly painful experiences of my adult life. I wept unabashedly. I had no idea how painful it would be all those years hoping something would occur that would save me from the decision I had to make today.
It was the right thing to do. There was never any question about it being the right thing to do, but that reality did not assuage the searing pain. I tried to bargain with myself to put it off. Today he looked a little brighter. Maybe he would hold on long enough for someone else to step into my position and feel the pain. Maybe the Vet would prescribe something that would make him feel better. Maybe this was just a temporary bug he’s accumulated somewhere and he would perk up in time. Maybe this was only a bad dream and we would both wake up young, vital and in the prime of our lives.
All the same manipulations families of ICU patients make with themselves and their doctors. I begged myself to take him any way I could get him, even if he was in constant pain and discomfort. Anything is better than dead. I would accept his pain so my pain would be lessened. I cursed the guilt I felt over boxing his ears in the past for raiding the garbage can. After it was over, I wanted him back and I cursed myself for the finality of my decision. And I understand better why families of moribund ICU patients make the same bargains and manipulations with themselves and their physicians.
But the reality is that cruelty and selfishness is not a substitute for loving, compassion and endearment. And it is a hard reality to explain to yourself when the alternatives to death whisper sweetly into a receptive ear. It was the right thing to do but it was so painful that avoiding the pain can easily become the object instead of stopping the pain. Lolly found peace and so will I. But not soon.
(Please don’t clutter bandwidth with condolences. Not necessary. I know all your feelings on this and I appreciate all them in absentia)