Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A gentleman's dignity

Two years ago Buster, our 13-year-old yellow lab, scared us all into thinking he was dying. He did the same thing this weekend. He couldn't get up, and when we did hoist his bony hips up, he walked sideways, like a drunken sailor, and then fell down again. We'd been through this before, but this time it seemed more serious. Dennis and I had "the conversation," and proceeded to prepare the kids for the worst. This, of course, brought the absolute hysteria (and questions about doggie heaven) we should have expected from children at the idea of losing a loved one. Surely, this is it.

Much as I hate cleaning up after that dog and would love to have a patio free of dog slobber (dog hair, dog FOOD...you get the idea), I AGAIN found myself taking his rickety 83 pounds (down from 95 in the zenith of his dog-manhood) to the vet for the same treatment, and choking back tears, wondering if this was the final trip for our good-for-nothing gentle canine friend. It's irrational, I know.

But no, he STILL is not dying. Maybe just his joints are. He did respond to the treatment, but not as dramatically as the frolicking pup he became when he got steroids last time. He's just old. After his shot, he was able to creakily walk the yard, with all the decorum he could muster, patiently tolerating my help. A gentleman to the end.

We know his time is short. Well, we don't know that. For all we know, ornery as he is, it could be several more years. But it is shorter.

When we got him, back when the big kids were all preschoolers, back when he was busy digging to China and chewing all the plastic toys in the back yard, we thought hazily about this, knowing he probably would not make it through their high school years. We imagined a wiser, mellower Buster who would be there for them, listening with long velvety ears and sad brown eyes. We didn't imagine that he'd be mellower because he couldn't hear very well, or because he couldn't see much at all. We certainly didn't imagine he'd have trouble walking to greet the children who had counted on his faithful, though hairy, company throughout their childhoods.

I used to scoff condescendingly at people who cried over their pets, but now, unashamedly, I'm one of them. The last three days, I've helped Buster get to his feet, and I've tried to keep him on them long enough to walk around the back yard so he can regain some muscle strength. I even brushed him yesterday. A gentleman deserves that dignity.

Here he is, on back yard patrol, in happier days.

And for the record, I do tell our kids they are going to see our pets some day in heaven. I figure the worst thing that can happen is that they are disappointed when they get there, but I don't suppose that will last long.

18 comments:

Rachel said...

Our children are still all young and I'm currently campaigning to get a golden retriever puppy for Christmas. I think I'll just have hubby read your latest post. My mom told me I'd see my dog in heaven too when I was young and I still think he might be there. Ya never know! :)

Leslie said...

Never have I ever read anything written so eloquently about a dog. And that's really all I have to say about that. =)

Barbie@ Mamaology said...

We too have a faithful dog. A 9 year old lab. She was our baby before we had babies. And even though I get VERY tired of cleaning up after her I will sure miss her when she is gone. And I sure believe she'll be in heaven. As of right now I can't imagine it being HEAVEN without her:)

Lauren@Baseballs&Bows said...

How sad! I am not really a pet person, but you wrote that in such a way that he just seems like part of your family. I hope you will have several more years with him and that they will not be painful!

Qtpies7 said...

Actually in Ecclesiastes, it says that we don't know whether animals go to heaven or not! So, you may be right, it doesn't matter at the very least, right?
I personally don't think so, but this was a huge debate we had years and years ago, and thats the answer we found.

Munchkin Land said...

Oh, I just LOVE dogs, that's probably why we have two of them! =) I'm sorry yours is not feeling well. I know it'll be hard when its his time to go. But just think of the wonderful memories you've given your kids. =)

Julie said...

A couple of years ago when my then 5 yr old asked if Snickers (our now 12 year old basset) would go to heaven my husband told him "no". I kicked him under the table. His theory is animals don't have souls so therefore they aren't in heaven.

Yeah, yeah. Whatever. I try to stick with the more vague answer of "Well, the Bible promises us that we will be happy in heaven and that there will be no more tears so we just have to trust God to know what will make us happy."

I personally think that might very well involve some animals. I mean, really, he spent all that effort creating millions of species of animals and NONE of them are going to be in heaven?????

Susanne said...

Oh Katherine, I so know what you mean. We have a little old lady kitty like that. She's about 2 years older than my oldest which makes her about 20 years old. Everyday I wonder if this will be the day.

Very touching post!

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

My boys are getting old, too, and it just breaks my heart. When my Bear started losing his teeth, I was hysterical! He was with me before Big Daddy, before our Buster, and before our girls. And no one has ever adored me like he does.

So I feel ya. And I'm gonna stop now before I start crying.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

I am not a dog person, or a pet person of any type, but that beautifully written post makes me want to go and get one! He sounds like such a wonderful part of your family.

Rhen said...

My beloved Morpheus is an "old man" as well. I call him my eldest child. I got him almost 3 years before we had our first child and at 11 1/2 years old he is really acting old recently. It scares me to think about it. Your big guy has such a sweet face.

All for His glory, ~Rhen

kittyhox said...

I FIRMLY believe pets will be in heaven. Because it just wouldn't be paradise without animals and birds. And lots of them. Why would God fill the earth with them and then not include them in heaven? It's like thinking of heaven without flowers or trees or bodies of water or hills. Family pets will be there.

But without the hair, poo, feathers, litter boxes, vet bills, upkeep, etc.

I can't wait to look up Dolly, my childhood pooch. There could never be a dog I love so much, even though she died (was put down) when I was about 12. I'm sure she was a total pain for my parents sometimes, especially as she aged and became incontinent. But a childhood just isn't complete without a family pet.

My husband never had a dog and I just can't get over how cruel his parents were to deprive him like that! I can't wait until our son is old enough to ask for a dog so we can get one! But it will really be for my husband because every kid should have a dog. Even a 38 year old kid.

I hope your friend lasts as long as possible, assuming his quality of life is good.

Bless his old bones!

Ladybug said...

Our dogs are part of our family and my children adore them. Of course they are trouble and more work for me but I love them too. My daughter has too kiss them goodnight before bed every night!! LOL

Jen said...

I like to imagine they have mansion dog houses sitting next to our mansions. At least I like to think this. Lucky our dog just turned 13 and I say it alot.....I cant believe this dog is still alive. But its he that teaches me lessons.....life is to pressure to wish it away. And of course he is so happy to see us when we get home....

Beck said...

Poor old boy. He looks like such a SWEET guy.

angeleyes Blue said...

It must be that time of year. I got home from work the other day and both kids ran up to me and informed me that Daddy had said that Mittens had a stroke. A Stroke? Where is she? Is she still alive? I went and found her back in our bedroom and they were right... half of her face was hanging on the ground. I suspected that it wasn't a stroke but that the rest of her teeth had gone bad. We had 6 pulled out a couple of years back.

The next mornng I called the vet and asked for an appointment and how much it would cost to put down an animal.

Long story short we had to put her down. I HATE BEING A MOM! It was and is the right thng to do but it is soooo hard. I have done this in the past but I ALWAYS give one last hug and pass the animal to the vet and then I walk out.

My teenage daughter had different plans...She wanted to be there until the end. So we sat there after the shot and waited until the vet said she was gone. AAGH! Never again!

I know in my heart of hearts this was the right thing to do but YUCK!

The other 2 cats are wondering where she is and I think the older of the 2 has some idea that she was sick and now she is gone.

Enjoy your blogging vacation :)
angeleyes Blue

Laura said...

That gentleman definitely deserves the brushing. Good for you on the dogs-in-heaven thing. They are a part of our dear Lord's creation, and I suspect he shall reward them in hiw way for their faithful service as his dear creatures.

So SO glad it was just a scare. :)

Chrystal said...

Rachel...

OK...this comment is not really in line with this post but I just wanted to tell you that I LOVE what you have done with your backyard! Do your beds but up again your fence or do you have some kind of border? I would love to pick your brain for you how accomplished that girl! Or did you have someone else do it. Hmmmmm....

Maybe as an addendum to the your post on your front yard landscaping you should do one on the backyard :)