“A TIME FOR ALL SEASONS”
It is never easy to make a final decision for your pet. When we choose to accept pets into our household, we also choose to eventually make a decision as to their quality of life. This is extremely difficult. However, as difficult as we find it is to let our pets go, it is even harder for the person watching the light fade from their eyes as life slowly ebbs away. This responsibility and courtesy, we owe our pets. The sick and feeble deserve to be relieved of their pain.
Last weekend was one of such a dreaded decision. Our house pet Indian Creek Energizer (Bunny) went to her final resting place. Bunny was approaching 16 years old. My constant companion for all these years, it was no longer an option to keep her “alive” for ME! She turned her nose up sliced wieners, raw venison, her favorite Pedigree, chicken, rice, and other special offerings. She even lost her taste for fried fish. That was when we knew.
My husband of 50 years explains he did it for me. I understand this. That Thursday I bathed and blew Bunny dry. I cuddled her before leaving to judge the dog shows that weekend. My heart broke as I walked away, knowing Bunny was fading fast. It was just a matter of time.
It is normal procedure to locate favorite toys and blankets as time shortens. Bunny, being deaf and blind, had few teeth left. We did the Rimadyl route and ceased heartworm and flea treatments. Her life was a delicate balance and they seemed to have an adverse effect,
As many small breeds do, her trachea began to collapse. She choked and spit up. We at one time called Bunny “Old Iron kidneys”. Now her fastidious potty habits were slipping. Her breathing was distressed and we suspected heart problems. Despite her infirmities, she continued to be alpha bitch to the end.
My husband and I often discussed it was almost Bunny’s “time”. However, upon my arrival home, the fact it was over and done, stunned me. Greeted by a stressed out husband, he says to me. “This was a bad weekend!” To begin with, the neighbor’s cat who tends to gamble on nine lives with a flagrant disregard that amazes us all, crawled up to sit on my husband's truck tire and ends up with a broken leg. This same neighbor asked my husband to take their goat to the vet. Complying with their wishes, the goat died before he could get there.
Boarding an old race mare for over 30 years, her deteriorated condition and painful movements (when she does move) prompted my husband to call the vet. The vet suggested it is her time to go. Her owners, concerned for her well being, did not want us to find her “down” in her paddock. While here, my husband asked the vet to examine Bunny. His prognosis is grave. Bunny’s time is now. Thus, my husband made the final decisions. He dug a large hole with the backhoe to bury Melanie’s Pride next to Jalapeno Rose, another race mare we boarded for years. He dug a smaller grave next to Poco Bolo de Fuego, Bunny’s lifetime buddy. They rest near the pond under the oak tree with all our furry friends. My husband engraved two small stones to mark their graves.
Personally, I feel any time an animal remains on his or her own turf when death is imminent is a plus. There is comfort in familiar surroundings. They avoid the stress of waiting in a veterinarian’s office. Sitting on the floor that evening, our dogs gather around my husband. They sense the loss. Dynamics are changing.
When it comes time for my husband’s beloved cattle dogs to go, I am the person taking them to the vet for euthanasia. They return home. We bury them with the rest under the big tree. This is our gift to each other.
We each must find our own way. My friend has a German shepherd and Golden. Both well up into years, they came down with cancer. Both are treated with chemo and radiation. She keeps them on a Barf diet and wraps herbs, vitamins, and medication into cheese balls. Having her yard sprayed yearly, too late she learns chemicals can trigger cancer. Perhaps a certain amount of guilt enters in to this situation, however, being a nurse, and nurturer, and town person, she looks at life differently.
There is an old saying “Any day above ground is a good day!” I am not convinced of that. After $15,000.00 worth of treatments at the University, the old Golden looks at me with pleading eyes, begging to be relieved of her suffering and pain. The German shepherd breaks down in the rear quarters. Temporarily cancer free, he now has neurological problems. The Chihuahua perks right along with an occasional bout with kidneys due to teeth going bad. My friend pulls rugs up from the floor due to incontinence. She builds special steps and takes precautions for safety. The dogs plug along, day after painful day. I do not know the answers. I am not sure who she is doing this for, her beloved pets, or herself. I do not make judgments. I simply sympathize and ride with her to the University for the animal’s treatments.
Country folks like us live with life and death on a daily basis. We watch wounded wild animals struggle to exist. We see the balance of nature. We understand “survival of the fittest.” There IS a “time for all seasons”. We accept the inevitability of the death of all God’s living creatures, both large and small. Quality of life is very important to us. We do not like to watch the “walking wounded” and are often relieved when a coyote dispenses the final courtesy.
I am not convinced there is a right or wrong way. Each person must look “death” in the face and make the decision for him or herself. There is no easy way. I recall Bunny standing and barking at my reading chair for her dinner. I was NOT sitting it in. I was in the kitchen. She merely saw the reading light on and smelled my presence. It was heartbreakingly funny. I picked her up and directed her to her waiting food bowl. How she knew when I moved from one room to another, I will never understand. I would leave the computer room and go into the living room. Shortly after, she would shuffle in and lie at my feet.
I still look for Bunny. No longer will her little fuzzy butt sit on my surge protector and shut down my computer. The wind no longer blows through her brilliant red coat. Yet, somehow I know she will wait for us someday with all the other furry Indian Creek animals. Free from pain, her eyes will sparkle. Without a doubt, when she arrives, this 13” sheltie will establish her position of alpha bitch and rule the others with her tiny “iron paw”.
One cannot replace a friend such as Bunny. When people come to me to buy a new puppy with pictures of their faithful companion, I suggest they buy another color and sex. There is no way another dog will fill the “paw prints” of something so loved. We should not even try. We should value every animal for his or her uniqueness. Bunny is gone now. In my litter of 3-week-old shelties, there is a tiny male. He snuffles with a cold, the rest are thriving. He is worming his way into my heart with his courage and determination to live a full life. My husband sees it coming. He says. “Here we go again. I guess it won’t eat too much.” These words have a familiar ring. I heard them once before, so many years ago.………………………… Rest well, old friend. We miss you dreadfully.
In honor of Indian Creek Energizer “Bunny”
The tide recedes and leaves behind bright seashells on the sand,
The sun goes down, but gentle warmth still lingers over land.
The music stops, the melody goes on in sweet refrain.
For everything that passes, something beautiful remains.