The other Journey
Our Golden Retriever, the one with lymphoma, is going downhill more quickly than I had anticipated. It has been a few weeks of unexpected emotion. We are animal lovers, I would say, yet had not elevated the importance of our pets beyond deep fondness, I guess love, appreciation, protectiveness, and wish to take good care of them and give them good lives. Beau was the largest example of that, as our adopted, rescue dog. I've described our challenges with him, I think, along with my concern that he would possibly hurt a child somewhere along the way (he was aggressive towards small children) if we were not careful. Then he was diagnosed with this cancer. Another dog of ours has been living with cancer for nearly two years, and is fine (another story). Perhaps I was in denial. But when Beau got sicker so fast, I was very impacted by his decline. Seeing him weak and wobbly when just a week, even a few days ago, he was running around, stealing the stick away from my dog as usual, brought the fragility of life right to my face. He is a very joyful dog and seemed to love his life here. I wish I had taken a picture of him lying on the floatie in the pool, keeping cool in the hot afternoon. It was just this past Saturday, and tonight he can not quite stand. I am crushed that he is losing his happy existence; he reminds me that death is inevitable even for me. Tonight when I got home from work, he seemed fairly energetic. We got a ball and headed outside to see if he could run after it a bit. I tossed the ball just behind him, so he would not have far to go. But, Lisbon, the jealous alpha dog, came out of nowhere and attacked him, biting him over and over. I finally got Lisbon off of Beau, and closed him into the house. I got Beau up on his feet, gave him the ball, and tried to soothe him over. He suddenly got a strange look in one eye - it is hard to describe - like it disconnected from him. I do not mean it separated physically, I mean it did not seem to coordinate with him. Then he stopped walking, turned down his head, started shaking all over, and crumbled down to the ground. (Sigh) So, here we are, trying to do what we can to make him feel better: hand feeding him some food (he was interested), water, carrying him outside to pee, pain meds, and carrying him upstairs and onto the bed. I do not understand. He has a shallow bite wound, but no physical injury from the fight that would cause this. I am guessing that he was already so physically compromised by his illness, that the attack was very stressful to his body. Emotionally, I was so distraught at seeing him attacked like that, I felt ill myself. sick at his suffering; sick at the apparent cruelty; sick with anger. The vehemence of my anger at the dog who attacked him was so strong it surprised me (he's just a dog, after all - he did not understand). If I had something heavy within my reach at the time, I may have even hurt him, I was so angry. Where did that come from? So, all of this longer than really necessary story is about ... life, and its loss, the effect a creature can have on me, how I am more susceptible to it than I thought (Beau has really been a pain the neck at times). Also, I have been extremely fortunate in my life in that I have not suffered any significant losses. So, I feel this. I recognize that this is a dog, who would have died several years ago if we had not adopted him, whom I myself had considered putting down when he nearly attacked my infant granddaughter. I know others have suffered from MUCH more significant, soul crushing, life altering losses. That is not this. Yet, I feel this. This creature who has endured suffering at the hands of his former owner, and possessed his own grace and sweetness despite it, has given a lot of himself in the few years we have had him. He deserves acknowledgement. He will be missed.