Saturday, August 9, 2008

Losing a friend

Our animals are not just "our animals", they become members of the family. Members of the pack. Members of the herd. When one gets sick, it hits us just as hard as if they were a people part of the family.

Xena is our beautiful German Shepherd. She has been the best dog we have ever had in our family. Not to take away from the other dogs we have shared our lives with, but she has been special. We've had her with us for twelve years. She came to us as a fuzzy bear of a pup, given away because she wasn't the right color. The people who had bred her parents were trying for white German Shepherds. She, and the other pups, came out black.

Today, she seems to be slipping away. I debated whether to call the vet yesterday morning. But, it's fair week here and it was a Friday so I decided to wait it out. Hubby loves this dog and has been in denial Xena is slipping away. I do understand his pain, but I also want to make the right choice for Xena in her last days.

Taking her to the vet will be traumatizing for her and I think she is in pain as it is with the arthritis and hip dysplasia. I have dutifully been giving her aspirin, twice a day, as prescribed by our vet earlier in the year. I believe a ride to the vet, 30 minutes away would be torturous for her and I don't want to see her last hours in that way.

When she's lying on the hill, her favorite spot in the early mornings, watching Maggie and Lucy run up in the woods, she'll bark a few short barks. At times her eyes are alert, at other times, she seems confused. The confusion is worse when she is up trying to move around. Hubby has fixed her a bed close to the house. Seems Xena no longer feels confident to try to walk up the two small steps to the porch where her bed is located. She can hear us inside when she lays there. She watches us go in and out from the back door.

Yesterday, I noticed both Maggie and Buddy (the cat) were lying beside Xena up on the hill. Maggie rarely does that. Buddy will lay by Xena when the days are cold. Animals know things. I believe they are giving Xena support in their own way.

Last night, Hubby finally said he knew Xena was slipping away. I asked him about taking her to the vet on Monday. He said he wanted to wait and see how she does through the weekend. I think he's still hoping, but he knows it's not just something that will get better by Monday morning.

Xena is twelve years old. We've given her a good life. She's given us her life, her companionship, her loyalty. I just want to allow her peace as she passes but if it appears she is distressed more than is comfortable for her by the Monday, we have decided we will probably take her to the vet and allow the decision to be ours. It's a tough decsion but I try to see it as our final gift to her, a gift from pain and the fear of not knowing what is happening to her. She is confused when her legs don't work the way she's used to them working. I can see it in her eyes. She doesn't understand why her body isn't doing what she wants it to do.

I am still hoping we don't have to take her to the vet because her last hour will be terror for her and that's not how I want it. I hope she will have a peaceful passing, lying on the hill with the sounds of the birds all around.

Animal and human bonds can be just as strong as those between people. Often the decisions we make for our animals are just as hard as for the people we love. We hope we are doing the right thing but never really know for sure.

No comments: