Another One of Those "Learning What's Really Important" Blog Entries.
And then I got the message.
The receptionist came to tell me I needed to call my husband. I knew he wouldn't have called unless it was important...and that gave me a short list of what it could be about. As I dialed, I guess which one of the list it could be. I guessed right.
My husband was crying, asking me if I could leave work early in order to be present while our 16-year-old dog went to sleep. It was time. She hadn't eaten -- not even tuna or peanut butter -- she didn't want to move, and she had diarrhea.
It had been a long time coming. I knew this one had to be my husband's decision. And now it was time. And for the second time in a row, I'd found out a pet was dying while at work.
Everyone was wonderful, and I was soon out of work, and ready to be there...again. The vet asked if I'd ever ben present before. Oh yeah. In several years of working at a shelter? As a longtime pet owner? I told him right away that I knew her blood pressure was low; I'd seen enough dogs in her condition at the shelter and I knew they would have trouble finding a vein. They tranqued her first, and then, after she was sedated they looked her a vein. It took two tries.
I was ashamed of myself for not crying as it happened. Perhaps it was the shelter work that put me in that zone where I became stoic. I cried when I talked to my husband on the phone, and I cried when I asked if I could leave early as I explained, but I didn't cry when it was happening. I think there were a few tears immediately after -- when we were left alone with her.
We got home and my 11-year-old sheltie greeted me -- and then I sobbed into his fur, all the while feeling guilty about why I was crying. I was crying, with my face buried in his thick fur, because I was so glad it wasn't him -- my favorite. Even as I'd called my husband I was hoping, that if it HAD to be about an animal, that it be anyone but Riley.
My husband wanted her ashes. I told him I would find a pretty box -- and today I did. I held it out to my husband while in the store, and he knew right away what I was asking. He began to tear up but managed to nod.
Having pets is rewarding and wonderful, but you do it knowing that they will only be with you long enough to usher you into a new phase in your life. The life span of a dog -- a decade, fifteen years...is not nearly long enough, but just long enough to have them be witnesses and participant in key moments in your life. When the pet is gone those moments seem suddenly more ethereal, less tangible...and truly in the past.
I look at pictures of Cindy when we got her -- she was already 6 and 1/2 -- and she looks so young. She looked like a dirrent dog than the one we took to the vet yesterday.
I remember when she was eight how we found out she had cancer and I remember thinking she was still too young to let her go. So we treated the cancer and we went into debt to do it. And she lived another 8 years. When we'd treated her we were told that sort of cancer usually comes back in about 8 years. Hmmm. I remember thinking at the time that she'd never live long enough for it to be a consideration.
But she had a pretty good life after her rocky first years. She went from shy and neurotic to knowing she was loved and safe. And in the end I believe she knew we loved her.
And that had to be enough.