Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Journey

For the past couple of years, the Matron and her family have been tending to this dear geriatric dog. Jekyll is 16 1/2 years old!

Vision and hearing were on a long slow descent until about one year ago when both abandoned him altogether. Sometime over the summer, he lost the ability to smell, too. She kids you not. Hold a dripping piece of meat under that dog's nose? Nothing.

In August, Jekyll was still stumbling around the house.

Merrick: "Jekyll is still doing okay, right?"

Matron: "Just okay."

That was then. This is October in Minnesota. The temperature? 39 degrees. Yes, the trees blaze and roar but behind that bluster, winter waits. In Minnesota, old dogs die in autumn because their bodies know what's ahead.

Matron's vet: "October is the hardest month of my job."

October first.

Tuesday afternoon, Jekyll lost the use of his legs. Instead of standing, he fell over. The Matron spent a good time watching and assessing, noticing another new problem: shaking. He was shaking. Sign of pain in dogs.

She called an immediate family emergency meeting and put Jekyll in the middle of the living room without a word. After about two minutes of watching the poor guy struggle, Stryker and Scarlett started to cry. They knew.

Merrick: "But Jekyll's doing okay, wight?"

Matron: "Honey, he's dying."

Death for this dog has been a slow steady journey: the Matron has been fond of saying that he's sleeping his way toward death. Uncannily, that is now what he is definitely doing.

While the vet was called on Tuesday afternoon, it turned out that their family vet who makes house calls was out of town for a week! This meant that instead of putting the dear friend down immediately, the Matron and her family were forced to wait and regroup.

This turned out to not be a bad thing, because guess who stood up to eat yesterday morning? And today?


Otherwise, he sleeps, tucked into his dog bed with blankets and a favorite toy. The Matron dearly hopes that the next time she looks up from her laptop, the deep hoarse breathing coming from the dog bed will be silent. The shaking has ceased since he's stopped even trying to move (except for food).

They found a vet who can come to the house tomorrow.

For now, she is keeping this bedside vigil, honoring the life that slept by her side for nearly 17 years! The gentle spirit who welcomed three children as his own pack-- all three naked babies presented to him to sniff and lick and learn and love. The dear friend who once ate an entire 5 lb bag of flour. And never ever failed the Matron in his love.

She promises you this, Jekyll: she will not fail you in your final hour of need. She loves you.


Sue said...

He's such a lucky dog.

The Other Laura said...

Oh, I am sending some loving thoughts for all of you...

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry. He's such a fortunate dog, to have spent his life with you.

Hay said...

Oh Jekyll. Much love Matron and family. A tough few days ahead.

~annie said...

Sending a gentle scratch behind the ears for Jekyll and hugs for your family.

Kizz said...

Poor puppy. Safe journey you good boy.

And to you and yours MM.

Anonymous said...

Sad times. But that is part of love, isn't it? Give him a scritch behind the ears for me, too.

Anonymous said...

Here's to your peace, Matron. Yours, your family's and Jekyll's.

Becky said...

What a good boy! Here are some hugs for you guys and especially Merrick.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I'm sorry you're going through this. It is so hard.

Irene said...

A big hug for Jekyll and you and your family. My 12 year old cocker spaniel is not doing so well either. I think I know the feeling.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Big hugs all around. I hope y'all have a peaceful evening. He was lucky to be with such a great family for so long.

Michele R said...

Jekyll knows.
My thoughts are with you guys.

Karen said...

Hugs ... and a few tears, I am thinking of when I will get to this point ...

thefirecat said...

Yes, Jekyll is dying. And yes, Jekyll will still be okay. You CAN have it both ways. (And they say it's a dog's life.)

Love to all in that household, no matter how many feet they walk upon.

Glennis said...

Oh, my, Matron.

This is very hard. We lost our beloved Malamute in August of 2007. He was old, deaf, and terribly ill, and we were going to board him at the usual place while going on our usual vacation, tickets bought already, paid for. But even though we'd made the arrangements months before, by the date, he was too ill - the kennel wouldn't accept him.

So we debated whether to put him to sleep before we left, but it seemed too heartless. We found a sitter who was a vet assistant.

It all seemed great, and we left, and kept in touch by phone.

But then LA was hit by a real heat wave, and his poor body couldn't take the heat. The sitter said his temp was elevated, she tried to pack him with ice and wet towels, but he died. Then she had to deal with disposing of his body. She was quite upset.

I still don't know whether we did the wrong thing or not. While I was calling our vet and finding out about scheduling euthanasia, he was lying on the floor by my feet. If it hadn't been so hot, he might have survived and we could have been with him at his final moment. But it didn't work out that way.

It still makes me cry.

We had another dog, a "loaner" from friends who'd moved back east and couldn't take their old dog. We actually thought he'd go first, before the Malamute, but he didn't. We had him for 2 years, but in August of 2008, it was the same dilemma. So we scheduled the house visit for Mr. Lumpy. He went peacefully, with us patting him.

And I still wonder if we did the wrong thing.

We are thinking of getting a dog again, now, finally after a long period of doglessness.

It's such a terrible responsibility, but so rewarding, too. They are our companions, and all we can hope to do is do the right thing by them. But it's soooooo hard.

SUEB0B said...

Oh, dear old dogs. They break our hearts. Bless you all.

Becky Brown said...

Oh, honey.

My own sweet geriatric friend passed last fall ... I have been there. My thoughts are with you and the pack.

But an entire five-pound bag of flour? I like his style.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how you can bear to write, much write so well. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Losing a family member is never easy. You just have to think of the good memories. I lost both my dogs last year to old age and our 2-month old kitten over the summer to a neurological disease. All were difficult. How quickly they become family members. My thoughts are with you and your family.