Monday, February 16, 2009

Good-bye Old Friend.

Well, we lost our old dog this week. Chrissie was a smart old girl with a silly smile that she was practically famous for among our friends and family. She's been a part of our family for many wonderful years, but her time ran out much to our great sadness. We're going to miss her a lot.

I hesitate to tell the story of her last hours. Partly because it's still really fresh in my mind and it's hard to talk about, but also because it sounds made up. If someone else told me what I'm about to tell you I'm not sure I'd believe it myself, but I tell you it's absolutely true. My son was there and he's able to remind me that it wasn't in my head.

She was almost twelve years old when we were told she had cancer. What do you say when you find out a thing like that? We couldn't really afford to shell out the kind of money they were asking for the surgery and they told us that at her age the surgery was at least as risky as doing nothing. Many older dogs don't recover from the anesthesia after a surgery of that sort, and we were aware that at her age she would probably never fully recover even if she did live through it. In the end we decided just to bring her home, pray for her, and give her the best life we could for the rest of her life, however long it would be. She did well for about a year.

A lot happened during that year that I'll skip over. Not all of it was good. We did however get to baby her and pet her a lot, spoil her and give her extra attention. Then about Christmas time she began to slow down pretty drastically. I actually thought she was getting arthritic. She was active and happy when she was up, or down, it was just going from one to the other that seemed to bother her. I had forgotten somehow, believe it or not, that anything else was wrong.

Then last week right after my birthday she took a sudden and drastic turn for the worse. She stopped getting up at all, and she was barely eating. The last two days she wouldn't eat, and finally she got to where she couldn't hold down any water either. Her breathing was very labored and she was obviously dieing, and suffering. It was horrible, and I knew I had to take her in and have her put down the next day if she made it through the night. She did, and I took her. It was sad. Really sad.

We took her in and they very kindly gave her a pain shot right away. It was the first time in a few days that she really relaxed and breathed easily and it was nice to see. They gave us a few minutes to be with her, and we petted and kissed and cried and snotted , and then they had us leave the room when they gave her "the shot". I asked if they would let me return to see her after she was dead and they said that would be fine, so we stood outside the door while they did the deed.

We waited for what seemed like a long time, but in reality it was probably only about five or six minutes. They came back and got me and told me that she was dead and that I could go in and see her. I went in and she was still and lifeless. It was done. I was walking over to her to pet her one more time and cover her up with her blanket when she started breathing again. She raised up her head, looked at me in the eyes and gave me one of her goofy smiles. She layed her head back down and looked at me for another long minute while I petted her, then her gaze floated away from mine, she went still again and died... again.

The woman that was attending her couldn't believe it as she prepared a second shot. She said she'd never seen anything like that in all the time she'd been there. I'm thinking then why now, and why us? I was afraid to leave! I wanted to know she was dead, I waited to be sure, and even though I saw it for myself this time, I was afraid to leave her there. I had dreams that she roused herself again after I left, and was alone and all kinds of awful things happened.

I don't know why I felt that way. The woman who gave her the shot has told me that she must have really loved her people to come back and tell me good bye and that everything was okay. My husband said the same thing. She was such a pleaser that it would be like her to do that, but that just sounds too spooky and oogy-boo to me. It sounds almost like too easy of an explanation, for lack of a better way of phrasing it. On the other hand, what else could it possibly be? She came back around, met my gaze, gave me her "trademark" smile, and died.

I do not know. Not at all.

So, she is gone and the place feels a little empty without her. Not many dogs are as smart as that one and even fewer are as well behaved. Her funny habits will never be replaced. The kids absent mindedly wait by the door a little extra moment when the puppy comes in, until it dawns on them that she's not coming in after her. She's almost always been a part of our boy's lives. We had her most of Jonathan's life and all of Josiah's. Beth, our puppy, wanders around looking for her in all the places she used to lay. She's pretty lonesome without her, too. It's all she'd ever known. I guess maybe she needs a companion puppy now. Yeah, yeah, that's it. Bethy needs a puppy!

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