Last night on the back deck, I looked up that that gorgeous sweep of stars, and whispered to the Universe, “I hate you. I hate you for taking away my beautiful girl, my dog who was the love of my life.” And I meant it. The pain is such that I want the same shot that gave her relief before the one that stopped her heart. I don’t need that second shot because my heart is already broken.
I look out to where her body lies, and all I can think is how that sweet, sweet girl is curled beneath the earth and I can’t ever hold her or touch that soft fur again. I know that I have memorized, recorded in every sensor, cell and nerve of my hands and brain, the feel of her puppy-soft ears and the space between them, the lovely expanse of her throat as she would lean her head back in ecstasy for us to scratch as long as we were willing.
Everywhere are deep and unexpected holes, unhealed wounds that I trip into nearly every moment of my day. In the night I wake to use the bathroom, and immediately am aware that I will not be stepping around her bed; I will not hear her jingle her tags on purpose to let my night-blind self know where she is. In the morning, at first consciousness, the pain is there, coursing all through me, knowing she will not be there, rolled happily onto her back, white belly and legs in the air, and I feel as if the horror that took every cell of her is also taking every cell of me, but I know that my horror is grief, and it will not kill me, though at times that feels preferable. I look anyway, and see that in her place, Violet has drawn her little black and white self across the bottom of the bed, stretched on her back, feet in the air. It is both a smile and a pinch. Could a bit of our Tansy be in there with that other little animal spirit? I believe in nothing, so anything is possible.
Where there was a long, pink-tongued yawn, coupled with a belly-crawl up the divide between us, there is nothing, silence and stillness, only blankets. My hands have no smooth, warm tummy to rub and kiss.(She really didn’t like me to kiss her tummy; it make her nervous, but she learned to le me do it anyway because I couldn’t help it.) When I walk by her “places”, there is no welcoming tail thump or golden-eyed glance my way. The noises at the door are not her, and the sounds I imagine to be her thumps or sighs or groans are only my imagination.
With the moment of intention to leave the house, my senses expect the trotting click of nails and paws to the door where she would wait to go where we go. And last night with the invitation to join Beth and Tim, I stopped cold at the thought of walking the trail to their house without Tansy, who would know exactly where we were going before we even told her. She would run to the edge of her line, right at the path to their house, and look back at us, asking, “Is my collar off? Can I go safely?” and we would say, “Let’s go, Tansy! “ and she would bound across that line and down the trail, leading the way always.
My tea time this Saturday morning is uninterrupted by polite, soft “woofs” to be let in and out, and less polite “’oofs” and eventually sharp little barks to say, “please throw my Frisbee but first get it from me…”. I would really like to have those interruptions back. I want to see her trot out into the yard in her routine to relieve herself, and then, nose to the ground, follow the little Tansy trail she has made around the house over these few, short years.
I know that on Monday when I leave for work there will be no sad puppy face and perked ears at the bedroom window, and worse, when I return, there will be no enormous welcome for me the moment I open the door. She will not wiggle her little happy tail and bustled rump to see me, and when I open the sliding door, she will never again sail off of the top step, all four legs in “super dog” position, invisible cape flying, as she sails into the yard after her Frisbee. That Frisbee rests with her now, and we can only hope that her little spirit is playing with it somewhere in the deep snow or grassy shade. We can hope that she is rolled onto her back with her Frisbee folded between her paws as she mouths it happily. She has lost so many Frisbees over the time we have known her, but this one will always be with her.
We can’t know, but perhaps she is waiting for us somehow, somewhere, content for the time to wait as she would at street crossings… “Good wait, wait, Tansy.” Followed by a treat. Or maybe she has gone on and we will catch up someday and have a joyous, barking, wiggling, face-kissing reunion. Or possibly she is in the kind of dreamless sleep that the sedative gave her, with no awareness of pain or joy, and in the spring, she will wake to find she is a living part of the entire earth, making soil, feeding flowers, giving life to her little patch. Her life force, the spirit that made her Tansy, could be pieced and parceled between all who loved her, cats included. Again, I believe nothing, so I can believe anything. This is both a bane and a blessing.
Today is the first day the sun has shone since she got sick. It seems that there has been nothing but clouds, wind, and rain for the last week. I am struggling constantly with the physical factors; I was so attached to her physical self, along with her human-like personality. To let myself know or begin to imagine what is happening to that warm, darling body I held so many times, is absolute horror to me. It is the thing I most try to block out, but can’t always do it.
It is much better, and a different sort of hurt, to conjure her living self while we run. Though the run yesterday, our first since we lost her, was physically painful, and I felt my insides literally marinating in grief, I did bring her with us, and I watched her run, trot, and pace along in front of us, in all of her different gaits. I saw her glance back at us periodically, golden eyes alight with joy to be doing her “work”. I watched her run off to the sides to sniff and check “p-mail”, and then gallop to catch up and again lead the way with her little rump bustle waving back and forth and her caramel-oreo cookie ears flapping in the breeze.
We have talked endlessly about her, with words, looks, and silence between us. We know without a doubt, and this is true, that we had no choice; we did right by her to send her on her way, to take the pain away. She never deserved even that week of pain that was hers to bear and ours to witness, and the only choices were to watch her continue in it with the hopes the medicine would eventually help, with the understanding that even if it did, if by some miracle long shot it brought a remission in several weeks, she would then have only mere months before the evil would return and put her through it all over again. Tansy did not deserve that, and Doug said it perfectly that day as we held her and made the decision; he said, “Tahlia, I wouldn’t want that for myself.” And he is right. If I was alive, but not living, if everything that made me happy was taken from me by pain and I knew my future was inevitable and brief, I would beg them to let me go.
In the end, she hurt so much there were no more tail wags, however faint, and those golden eyes were glassy and miserable. When we held her in our arms and they gave her first the sedative to relieve the pain, she gave a huge and relieving sigh, her whole body relaxing after a week of tightness and hurt. With that sigh, we felt our bodies relax too, and we felt, at least for those moments, near joy that her pain was over. Her sweet face relaxed into her natural sleep look, her black-rimmed eyes softly closed, not slitted open with angst and discomfort. Her sweet paws were gently resting on Doug’s legs, and I could bury my face in her fur and know I wasn’t causing her anymore pain. We knew in minutes we would be in agony, when she would be finally gone, but for that brief time, we celebrated our decision and her relief.
We will never have to look back and question anything. We gave her the absolute best life any dog could have, though the hours spent at work while she was alone were unavoidable regrets, and in her horribly quick last days, we did everything possible to make her comfortable. And our decision at the end was, without a doubt, the only decision we could have made for her. She had ceased living the life she loved, and it would have been cruel to ask her to fight anymore when the chances were so slim and the future inevitably a repeat of this last week. We loved her more than anything and we told her she could go, that she was a good dog and had done her work well. I don’t know if she heard us or knew how much we loved her, because she expected us to keep her pain away, but she knew for 4 years and 5 months how loved she was.