'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

30 April 2010

He's Just A Dog

I don't know what to do.

Trooper is fading and I can't do anything to stop it. Thin, he's gotten so very thin. He pants heavily when he's not sleeping which is what he mostly does now. He's totally blind. He navigates by memory, which is also going so he gets lost easily both in the yard and in the house. He spends minutes both drinking and peeing. A lot of water passing through his system. His bowels gurgle a lot. I sit or lie on the floor next to him and rub his belly to quiet the rumblings and give him ease. His balance is off. He is lightly incontinent when he sleeps hard.

He still eats. I did have to restrict his treats. We're mostly down to just biscuits but he eats them. It gives me hope. For a minute. Then he lays down again and starts panting. His heart races and he acts like he's struggling to get enough oxygen. He takes his medicine, laying on the floor, his cloudy eyes unseeing but still Trooper's. I move him gently when we're done.

He tries, he tries so hard to be the dog he was but he can't. Not anymore. No matter how hard we both want him to be. Oh, for one more day in the field, romping and playing fetch. One more wrestling match on the living room floor. Barks and tugs and growls of delight and enticement. One more nap on the bed together.

My wife, daughter and I hugged each other and cried as we watched him panting, panting. Hoping but knowing.... Recognizing that we're witnessing the end days of his life. How much time does he have? Days, months?

Trooper was born on November 30, 1995. That makes him almost 14 1/2 years old. I held him in my hand when he was only 5 days old. He was meant for me and I was meant for him. Non dog people will not, can not understand. Dog people are only too aware of the passage of time.

For those who say he's just a dog I say No He Is Not. Trooper has been my constant companion for 14 years. We've never spent more than 2 weeks apart when I had to leave for training or a school. We travelled together. We hunted together. We learned and grew together. He's my pal. He's my dog and I'm his boy. That is out pact. I know that as surely as there is a God that Trooper loves me as I love him. He is my friend, my confessor, my constant companion.

Now he's passing, slowly but surely as a sunset, and I'm crying as I write this. We're going in to see the Vet tomorrow morning if his doctor is available. Monday if he's not. What will I hear? What can my breaking heart take? I'm afraid to take him. Afraid to go. I don't want to lose him.

I won't let Trooper suffer but I also won't end his life one second before I must. Call me selfish. A silly, selfish man. I cannot bear the thought of my empty house. My empty truck. My empty heart.

We're in hospice mode. I watch him carefully. It is my turn now. I am his guide. I take him gently by the collar and lead him to his needs. I sit on the floor with him, stroking his fur and head. Scratching his belly. Watching and listening. Fearful. Knowing. I leave the house only for errands I must perform or a trip to the gym where I try to blot out my fears and tears by driving my body beyond it's limits. I have animal friendly wipes I use to gently clean his fur. I stay near him always. He's calmer and happier when I'm close. That is all I have left to give to him and I will give it to the last.

My sleep is fitful. I stay up til the wee hours when I'm sure he's made his last trip outside for the night. I go to bed only when I must. My dreams are vivid and disturbing.

My grandchildren know what we've told them to try and prepare them for their first leaving. They know that Grandpa is sad and why. They are my sanity now and I thank God they are here.

What price love? Heavy. The price is so very heavy. It is the price of a broken heart. Sadness, denial and dismay. It is a price that nearly cannot be borne.

It is a price that must be paid. It cannot be set aside or passed on to another. It is my debt and I am surely paying it.

I write this now because surely I won't be able to after. Trooper deserves so much more. I was never the man I should have been but it wasn't his fault. He helped me become so much more of a man than I ever would have without him. How will I ever stand it? How can anyone?

I am a bottle in a sack, awaiting the drop of the hammer.



Sew Bee It said...

He was such a turd, coming into the house all boundless energy and teeth. To say he's a little brother would be the truth, and I wasn't completely happy with this fluffy invasion. But for him it was different. For him I was as much his defender and protector as any in the family. I was pack, I was important, and we found our peace. Life will be less special without him and I will be forever grateful for the lessons of patience and forgiveness that he taught me. By being patient and forgiving.

Ed Rasimus said...

Dogs bring so much into our lives and it is indeed a heartbreak when the time inevitably runs out. Trooper sounds as though he has had a great life and you have both benefited from the shared love.

You will cry when the moment comes and swear that you will never go through that again. Then in a month or two or six, you will be seeking a furry companion to give you the good years again and help you to forget the sad times.

Listen to your vet when the time comes.

Me said...

Been there. It's something all dog owners have to face. It's tough, but when the time comes, you have to do what's right for the dog. And having had to take a long-time K9 pal to the vet for that last time, and having lost another to a sudden, stupid and preventable accident, it's actually easier and better to have the time to say "goodbye" and be there with them.

I have to think that these dogs will be waiting for us in Heaven. I can't imagine any place being paradise without my departed dog buddies, nor can I imagine anyplace not being paradise so long as they're there.

Deep breaths, my friend. It's hard for you now, but for the dog, it's just over. And as much as it hurts, just remember all of the good times and I think you'll find that it was still worth it.

Jack said...

So sorry. I've been there and it hurts. Take comfort in the good happy life you gave your friend and the joy he brought to you.

Anonymous said...

He will be waiting for you to cross the Rainbow Bridge together.

Daphne said...

I'm so sorry, Six.

LauraB said...

How I ache for you - me, the one that absolutely was NOT going to have a dog, damn it, no.

Now? Every sneeze, every nibble at his tail has me worried for some strange illness. And I know, completely, that when the day comes it will be me, not my husband, that will have to do it...

In the end it has to be what is best for Trooper. Just as it will be for our Ranger. Is he still having a happy life? Or is he staying only to save you a pain that will come? Is he showing you a mercy that you need to show him?

No one can know. All we can do is our very best. Just as those dogs of ours always have.

Give him an extra hug from us...

Pop said...

We have been where you are right now. Words will not make the pain go away. I guess we shouldn't compare dogs to humans, but they are true friends and the passing of a dog is like losing a good friend. Time will heal the pain but I know you will never forget Trooper. Please follow your vets advise. When our Sammy went blind and deaf the vet told us that she would be ok with help, and she was, but a year later when she had a stroke they told us it was time as she would starve because she couldn't eat. Even so it was not an easy decision and I still cry to this very day. But I know I couldn't have watched her wast away either. We'll pray for you and Trooper. God has a plan and a special place for him.

Love You

dick said...

Benn there too many times and I feel the depth of your pain.

When Trooper's ready, I'll have Murphy, Angus, and Max meet him at the gates to welcome him home.

Borepatch said...

They're never just a dog. I regret being away on vacation when my German Shepherd went on his last run.

Good luck, and be strong for Trooper.

Kanani said...

I'm so sorry.
It's not easy.
Horrible, dreadful time.
Not much more to add except big hugs all the way around.