Tuesday, July 28, 2009

As she lay dying

Warning to animal lovers, namely sis -- contains content that you will find disturbing. You should pass on this entry. Don't even sneak a peak! I see you looking. Stop and exit out, now. NOW.

Our ancient dog, Sandy, is not doing well. She has had congestive heart failure for years, and it's amazing that she is alive today at the venerable age of 16, or so. I have to say it is a testament to the quality of care we give her. Keep that in mind as you read on. She wandered up to our yard, full grown but young, when I was pregnant with Austin; so her age is approximate.

We do love her, but ... she is one of those annoying pets, that doesn't have an excess of endearing qualities. I know it's not her fault, but she's not adorable like our other little dog. We always thought she was "a brick short of a full load," a loaf short of a baker's dozen, you get the idea ... She always found trouble readily when she was younger. She suffered a spider bite, twice; got bitten by a snake, also two different times; and ran through the barbed-wire fence and suffered a tear that required stitches. (That only happened once.) Her favorite pastime in her youth was finding dead animal parts (usually roadkilled deer) and dragging them into our yard, where she would chew on them or, if they were smelly enough, roll in them.

Her muzzle droops on one side from the snakebite, her coat has two ugly hairless scars from the spiders, and now she's bone-thin because of her increasing tendency to avoid food of any kind. She does not want to eat her pills in any kind of treat these days, so we have to push them down her throat, and she always thinks we are torturing her. She stopped eating solid food, so we bought wet. She started eating less, so we fed her twice a day. She got pickier about the wet food, so we splurged on Pedigree. She decided not to eat that, so we started spiking it with scrambled eggs, bits of meat, etc. to get her to eat. Now, that's not working either.

She was an outdoor dog for many years, but for the past several, we've been bringing her in the house to avoid the extremes of cold and heat, and heat, and heat. Luckily, we have been home most afternoons, so she has not had to suffer through the worst of these 100-plus degree days. She is glacially slow except when trying to dart into the house, almost getting her head caught in the door when we don't see her.

Sandy, the dear, stinks, too! I mean, smells rough. Right after a bath, or not, is pretty much the same. Andrew's room has her distinct odor because he's the only one of us who allows her to sleep in his bedroom. She also sheds hair like she is trying to win a prize for it.

Sandy has gone senile and is mostly deaf. When we are trying to "herd" her in or out, to food or elsewhere, she invariably goes someplace we don't want her. Her favorite spot is the middle of the hallway, any hallway will do, so long as there is lots of traffic. When we are eating dinner, she hovers nearby, staring at me and panting heavily in my direction. I always shoo her away, but she's right back in her spot again next meal. Silly me, I thought dogs could sense emotions!

As if to prove my point about how annoying she is, Sandy just found a way around an anti-carpet barricade (two laid-down chairs) that I thought was impenetrable for a dog that has trouble getting to her feet. Without going into too much detail, let me say that she woke me up at 3 am one recent night with a doggie emergency that trailed all the way down the carpeted hallway, plus was in the front carpeted room. Somehow the linoleum surfaces on the hallway in between were spotless, though. After that, I decided that she could stay on the cool linoleum.

The last annoying pet I had was a cat. Now, how can a cat be annoying, unless you're allergic? But this cat, Mishka, was cloying, which is truly an unforgivable sin in a cat. It would insinuate itself on your lap and then (I shiver in disgust at the memory) it would start licking you, on the arm or leg or through clothing. Over and over, in the same spot. Nothing could dissuade it from the licking. I went away to college, and my parents gave Mishka to an animal shelter.

Now I find myself having this wishful thinking that I hope you won't find too cruel. It would be such a blessing if Sandy did what our three-legged cat Smokey did, and wandered off somewhere to die. Somewhere far, far away. At least to some remote spot in the neighbor's yard. Animals are supposed to sense when they are dying and go off somewhere by themselves for the end. But knowing Sandy, she won't do it. Knowing her, she'll probably stagger in the house one last time -- she is completely fixated on being inside, all the time, no matter if it's a pleasant summer morning or night and everyone else is out -- then give it up.

And then there's the whole issue of burial. It will take a rather sizable hole, even for such a skinny girl. I really hate corpses. They are so ghastly, and they give me nightmares. I just don't know how I will deal with this. Maybe it will happen when I'm at work and the kids are home, and I can get them to take care of the gory details. They're old enough.

I will miss you, Sandy, but please show a little consideration when you kick the bucket!

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