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Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Long, Slow End

Right now, there is a dog upstairs with me in the office as I type out these words. Her name is Molly. We call her Molly McButter, because, really, she basically looks like a stick of butter. When we adopted her from the Morris Animal Refuge, she was called "Miley", but we weren't going to have that happy horseshit. So we changed it. She didn't get it for a little while, but then, she did.

Right now, there is another dog in this house, but Finley isn't upstairs with me in the office. He's downstairs, in the living room. Incessant panting and sporadic yelps that echo up the staircase indicate that Finley wants to be up here in the office with me and Molly (well, okay, probably just with me) but it seems that Finley's upstairs days are over. On Thursday night, for the first time since he came bounding stupidly into my life in March of 2003, he and passed an evening on different floors of the same home.

If you could affix a lighted taxi sign to his hind quarters, it would flash "Out-of-Service". His back legs just aren't functioning anymore. They are atrophied, quivering shadows of their former selves. In the morning, he cannot rise up of his own strength. I have to scoop my hands underneath his big old gray butt and force him to stand up, while he tries to brace himself on his two front legs, which are going, too. I won't pretend that, once, I didn't accidentally shove my finger into his cornhole. I washed my hands five times that morning, but that finger smelled for hours.

Recently, the situation has crept perilously towards untenable, especially considering the impossible-to-blink fact that we've got twins on the way, and they are going to require scads of our time and attention, and having an ailing, failing dog on our hands, who is miserable, unpredictable, frequently unmovable, is, well, troubling.

On Friday, I thought Mrs. Apron and I were taking him to the vet for the last time, and that all we would return with was a leash. But that didn't happen, partly because Mrs. Apron declared herself unready to part with our big, gray friend. Partly because the vet encouraged us to try a last-ditch effort of Tramadol, anti-inflammatories, a new diet, and glucosamine supplements.

Is this going to reverse the damage that 13 (or is it 14, or is it 15?) years have done to deteriorate this dog's muscle tone, will it reverse or at least stabilize the probably severe joint pain he is enduring at every moment? I don't know. I have lots of doubts but, really, I don't know.

And maybe I'm a coward for not insisting that Finley be put to sleep in our arms as we sat on the floor of the vet's office and cried ourselves blind, like so many other dedicated and foolish and lovestruck pet owners have done before us, and will continue to do after-- but I don't know about that either.

I suppose that every pet owner ends up writing something like this, sooner or later, or, at least, they think about it. They feel it. They go through it. This is something you must go through as someone who loves an animal. I've owned a dog since 2003, but I've never gone through this-- the end.

The long, slow end.

I don't know what this is supposed to look like, all I know is what it's supposed to feel like. I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing, to protect my dog, to protect my wife, to protect myself. I don't know if I am to follow doctor's advice, or defy it.

In her post about this, my wife went back in her memory and shared on her blog memories of Finley, from when he was young and spry and fun.

I can't do that. I won't let myself go there. It's rather the same way that I won't take out old pictures of my wife and I, when we were new to each other-- not because we were happy then and we aren't now, but because I'm too afraid of looking back. When I was a boy, I would bring my baby album to my mother, climb up on the couch with her and say, "Mommy, let's reminisce." I had a vague notion, I suppose, of what the word meant, but I didn't realize that you can't really reminisce until you've grown old enough to experience memories in a more tremulous, fragile and, oftentimes, painful way. When you get older, I guess, there is that knowledge that what's passed cannot be repeated-- not the expression or the sentiment or the emotion or the circumstance. You can look at wedding pictures and you can even go back to the place where you got married, and it can feel good, and it can feel sweet, but it will never feel the same way it did on October 22nd, 2006-- it just won't.

And you can go back to the dog park, too. But Finley has to stay in the living room.

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