Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Last Jeep Ride

Monday was a sad day for our family. Hubby and I decided it was time to let our beautiful, twelve year old German Shepherd, Xena, go. She had not improved over the weekend. Her back legs had finally given out. She could not stand or walk. If anyone has had to make this decision for a beloved animal member of the family, I'm sure you can understand emotions are still raw.

My husband and I reluctantly loaded Xena up into the Jeep on Monday morning. The vet's office had told me to have her there by 9:15am, it would be a 30 minute trip. Over the phone I felt a dash of hope after explaining to the woman taking the call, what had happened to Xena over the weekend, but this young lady didn't really know the situation. Still, that little glimmer of hope will sustain at times of uncertainty.

I won't go into details, not necessary. I've gone over and over the entire event too many times, and of course, still cry when I think about everything. All I want to remember is that even up until the end, as Hubby and I were holding her, Xena left this world quietly, without protest or stress. She seemed comforted by the fact that her "mom and dad" were there with her.

Hubby was affected quite profoundly by this loss though we had been expecting this decision in the end. I believe he kept hoping for a better outcome. The vet told us of possible options to keep pain down, but at her advanced age, Xena's quality of life would probably not be the same. Organ issues would probably surface within a short time. For Xena, that would have been torture so we decided to release her. We said our goodbyes. We held her and stroked her as the injection took hold. We took her home to bury her, by the creek, under a tree. Hubby said he wanted her home where she belonged among the trees, hills and woods she loved.

Xena always loved to ride in the old Jeep. We had a 1980 Jeep for many years and until she could no longer jump up into it, Xena enjoyed even short rides around the property. We had bought a new Jeep last year. Hubby told me yesterday, as we were burying our friend, she had taken her last Jeep ride. Remembering the moment we placed her in the back of the Jeep, I do recall a glint of something. A brightning of her eyes. She didn't struggle. She was relaxed. Even as we drove down the country roads, Hubby sitting beside her, me driving, she seemed content, raising her head often to look out the window.

We will always remember our "wolf dog" as we came to call her. She had always been a beautiful silver/black and we were often asked if she was part wolf. She had grown larger that most German Shepherds and because of her size, was often referred to as a he. She was a furry little black ball when she was given to us 12 years ago. Our sons grew up with her. I told Hubby, it's almost a symbolic event that she had to go at this point in time when both our sons are venturing away from home into the world of grown-up life. Xena had always been wonderful to kids, especially our sons, though she could be rough with wandering neighbor dogs. She was never agreesive toward people who were accepted on our property. There are so many little stories about our dear friend I'm sure we will talk about in the coming days. Right now, the emotions are still raw and it's hard to bring up her name without shedding tears.

After we had buried Xena, I remembered the horses needed to be turned out into the front field. The guys had pretty much been ignored over the weekend with all of us attending to Xena in one way or another. Oh, they got groomed, and they got led out to their evening graze areas, but basically got put on the back burner.

As I walked with my guys to the front field gate they each walked on either side of me. Bo was very quiet, a little unlike him when he knows he's going to the other field. He will jostle Spirit, or give him "the look" to make Spirit get behind before being released through the gate. I took notice of their quietness. I had been crying a little. As I stood in front of the gate, getting ready to unlatch it, I felt the gentlest of nuzzles, from Bo, on my hair and back of my neck. He seemed to be giving me his own reassuring kiss. I stood there for a few moments hugging him, then hugging Spirit. Neither one moving just allowing me to use them for comfort. I unlatched the gate, both walked out slowly and quietly.

The little dogs, Maggie and Lucy have been staying by the house. They have not been running up into the woods since Xena collapsed on Saturday. Maggie has practically been at Xena's side the entire time. Maggie is an Australian Cattle Dog-mix full of endless energy, but she chose to remain close to her "sis" during the day. Even Buddy, our cat, who has always curled up with Xena on cold nights, lay close by the garage during the two days, sometimes walking in to rub up agains Xena. Animals know things, they are intelligent, and regardless of what is said by some experts in denial of animal emotions, in my experience, they are just as affected by events as we are, just in a way that is different, a different language.

I'm feeling kind of random right now, words not quiet evolving as I'd like. But I wanted to remember Xena this morning for the wonderful friend she'd been to our family. We will always miss her. She definitely captured a piece of my heart in the 12 years she shared our home.

Though we will no longer see her pawprints around our home, the pawprints she left on our hearts will remain forever.

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