Thursday, July 27, 2006

Not Long Until The End

We adopted her in the fall of '93 and named her 'Bluejay' officially, 'Blue' for short. The reason was threefold. The Toronto Bluejays were currently competing in the World Series and were about to win it. Also I was a big fan of Don Cherry at the time - this was prior to his degrading into a senile idiot - and his beloved dog's name had been Blue. Thirdly it was an easy transition for the puppy who'd been named 'Lu', short for 'Lu-lu' by the sweet old woman with Alzheimer's who'd insisted on selling her over a paranoid conviction that this hyper little Red Doberman puppy would surely soon scratch the eyeballs clear off of her other pet - an old pug-faced, bug-eyed Boston Terrier named Cinnamon Saint Magoo Antoine - or 'Goo-head' for short.

Cinnamon Saint Magoo Antoine! Is that great or what? This is my second favorite name of all time. It follows this moniker at top spot: Belhap Sattlestone Wirldess Ag Miracloat Roo Conanson. That's the villain-of-sorts from a marvelous short story called Not Long Until the End by delightful sci-fi author Larry Niven.

Our Obedience trainer was the first of several knowledgeable Dobie fans who tried to gently enlighten us that our Doberman named Blue was actually a Red Doberman, not a Blue Doberman. We already knew that of course. (A quick lesson on Dobie coloration - Reddish brown ones are officially tagged 'red' while rare gray ones are referred to as 'blue'.)

We were thoroughly puzzled though when a family, visiting from Australia took the opposite tack. They took a keen interest in our pooch and immediately began calling her 'Blue' without even being introduced!

"But how did you know her name?" we begged.

"It's obvious," they said. "Anyone with red hair gets nick-named 'Blue' - at least where we're from. It's like calling an elephant 'Tiny'. Don't you see?"

I do see of course. It is obvious, though why - is difficult to express.

I must brag for a moment. She's one hell of a dog. Thoroughly obedient. Smart as a whip, with a very extensive vocabulary. A fierce watchdog and hopeless lap dog rolled into one.

Walks, treats and ear-scratches are her favorite things. And she's been given them every day. We've been accused of spoiling her. Not true, I say. She's earned her privileges.

Perhaps her fourth favorite thing - at the time we all lived together - were the weekend mornings when we slept in - the two of us - crashed on the queen-sized bed together. And when she would rest her head on me and we were very very calm, I would whisper, "You're my beautiful girl. Yes, you are. You're my beautiful girl." And I'd pet her softly. "You're my beautiful girl." And we'd drift off and sleep the morning away.

Now, just a few days until her 14th birthday, Blue's looking like she may not make it to 14 - or rather that she really shouldn't make it - if her masters have the sense to let her go when the time is right. She's got a thyroid condition, arthritis, a heart murmur and cataracts. Her equilibrium is damaged, she's covered in benign tumors (we stopped having them surgically removed) and she's almost deaf. The latest problem arising last Friday is grotesque. She developed an ungodly volume of blood pooling up inside the flaps of her ears, making a hideous mockery of her head.

Last Friday my former darling and I agreed - or so I interpreted - that the time had come to put an end to things. But I was stuck at the office with severe pressures and critical deadlines and no car besides. I was spared the task that we long assumed I would be the one to perform.

"No," I said. "I don't need to be there. Go ahead. No, I don't need to say goodbye. Just give her a hug for me." I hung up the phone and remained in the conference room, alone for awhile. I'd known enough not to take the call from my own desk - that more privacy may be needed. There were two or three false starts leaving the conference room. Halfway down the hall each time my breath fell short and I retreated to the meeting room to pace the floor again and gather composure.

The deed was not done after all. I spent the bulk of the workday believing she was gone and making peace with that. But my ex, Blue's primary guardian, is an emotionally stunted 41-year-old adolescent who can't handle stress of any sort without throwing a monumental fit of distress and despair. Blue underwent a surgical procedure instead and now her head is wrapped in a tight bandage for the course of two weeks, the end of which will prompt further analysis and another day of reckoning - and almost certainly another nervous breakdown of biblical proportions from the ex.

Perhaps this procedure will prove effective. If not, there are two further options. A more serious and costly operation that she might very well not survive - or else - you know. The sleep.

She can still pull herself to a standing position after considerable effort. She still makes it up or down short flights of stairs with few collapses - on the occasions that something above or below captures her interest and no one is quick enough to come lending assistance by guiding her weakened hips. She still meanders over to you and presents her neck and back for a good scratching. She still staggers into the kitchen in hopes of a biscuit or a simulated bacon strip whenever any human treads there. And she gets one every time now.

How does this all sound? Like a dog that should be put down or not? I've lost any grasp on objectivity.

I am resigned to the notion that her life is complete. That she's well into bonus time. I just want to do the right thing. I'm told that pet owners should not be present at the time of departure. It can be traumatic. I understand that. But I'll have to be there anyway. I can't abandon her to be executed by strangers.

I'll whisper "You're my beautiful girl," and she'll sleep. And I'll hold her tight when her nerves go haywire and her body spasms and my heart gets ripped out. I just think it has to be that way.

She'll be buried on my parents' farm. They offered without my asking.

I always said I wouldn't want another dog after Blue. Because she's too special and deserves to be missed. But if I ever do get another dog I will name it in honor of Blue. Not by giving it the same name. That wouldn't be right. Blue can't be replaced. But I will honor her nevertheless. I'll do it right. If I ever get another dog it will have to be a blue Doberman this time. And of course - I'll name him Red.


1 comment:

Dave said...

Whew....that brought back some good and bad memories. I haven't seen her in quite some time and maybe it's best to remember her as I do.

The good:

The way she would park her backside on a couch and keep her front feet on the ground. Loved that pose.

Her love of the water. I remember the times at the various cottages we've been to and seeing Blue play in the lake until sheer exhaustion set in....and even then it was tough to get her out.

The way she would look at a coffee table covered in tempting food as she walked by, knowing damn well that she could devour whatever she wanted as soon as those damned humans would look the other way.

Not sure if this is a good one or not, but it makes me laugh...her "silent but deadlies" which brought about the joke that she should have been named Iris.

The bad:

Of course it reminded me of having to put Emmet down. I was never a cat person, but that little guy won me over and became my best little buddy. I used to love how I would lie on the couch and he would crawl up on my stomach with his paws on my chest and face me and have a little snooze. I cherished those little moments. As the years went on and his body began to give out we still held on to hope. I will never forget the day we took him to the vet for some blood work and they told us that he was not well. There were options for hospitalization (again), surgery (with very iffy results) or the kindest option for Emmet (ironically, the most painful for us) was to have him put down.

We were left alone for a while to discuss our options, and as you know, we decided to put him down. It tore our hearts out. I felt like we were letting him down. Not doing everything we could for him.
We told the vet our choice. He was prepared with that little tube in his leg and was brought back in to us. We wanted to be with him when he passed on. The vet inserted the needle into that tube and in just a few seconds Emmet went to sleep with us petting him and comforting him as best we could. And we cried. Cried and continued to stroke the body that held that gentle spirit we loved so much.

As much as we loved that little guy, and as much as it tore us apart, we had to let him go. It didn't seem right to prolong the pain he was in. He had a great life. It started out badly with his first owner, but he found himself in a home with a lot of love. He was about 20 years old, which is amazing for a cat.

It hurt so bad to have to do it, but it was the right thing to do for him. It wasn't about us and our needs. If that were the case we might have done things differently. Honestly, finances played a big part too. Was is smart to spend a few thousand dollars for a surgery that couldn't guarantee results? How long would he have after that? How much pain would he endure. The fear and loneliness while he was away from us. No, we had to do it for him.

It's a tough call, and it hurts, but sometimes love does that.