Thursday, July 31, 2014

And After The Storm, The Calm...

I feel so much better this week. I feel like Arnold's spirit has really moved on, and yes, to a better place, which I was not so sure about last week when I sensed his restless presence, like he was unwilling to move on without me, like he still wanted to say goodbye.

And now, I'm slowly gathering all my energies because, well, there's so much to do as far as work is concerned. Maybe if I can transcribe fast enough and decide who I'm going to interview fast enough and sort of juggle a million little niggling things, as well as read whatever I am supposed to read, whatever I want to read, I'll be OK.

Not there yet, but getting there.

I feel blessed to have the friends I have...I could feel their prayers holding me up or letting me ride on waves.

Elliott waits for me to come home and then he's eager for his walk. No time to sit and chat or rest or read a book. Just change my shoes (if I need to) get his lead and pooper scooper and a plastic bag (in case he needs to poop, which he rarely does because he would have gone out on a walk earlier with Dadda) and we go the long way, which he enjoys so much more...his walks having been seriously abbreviated versions recently.

Then I shower (or not), put on jammies and crash on the sofa...trying to read a book, write a letter and watch a silly movie (or box set) at the same time. It doesn't work, naturally. I end up having my attention pulled by whatever's going on on the screen, no matter how silly. (So today the TV is silent as I read Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit. It's either that or The Nature of Investing.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hey Arnold, I Love You So

I cleaned the hall and mopped the floor late last night. And I dusted the top of the TV cabinet which had been caked in dust for weeks. I would see it, and want to do something about it and then not. Sometimes I would trail my finger along the dust and leave an indentation. And then, not do anything dust, upon dust, upon dust. And fingermarks.

And I sort of hung Mum's picture up so she could smile at me more clearly from over the TV set.

Today's been a sad and strange day. I know I have to get back to work. So I sort of did. And I can do that with no emotion, nothing else to pull at me.

And maybe tomorrow, I can write the letters I have neglected to write because my dog was busy dying and I didn't have the heart to. I didn't have the heart to do a lot of things.

Both Elliott and I know he is definitely gone. He's left no shadow behind. That is a good thing, I suppose. I wish I knew he was happy now, running free in some fragrant field somewhere, wagging his tail, being loved by angels...everyone strokes Arnold's fur, it's just so soft.

It was soft when he died. I cut some off before that. As a keepsake. And I have his collar. His bowl, Elliott can take for his indoor now Elliott has an indoor bowl and an outdoor bowl.

And except for certain weeping jags, I feel OK. I feel sort of hard and flinty and emotionless. I'm wondering about that. Arnold came into my life and opened up my heart. Is it set to close up again?

Hey Arnold, it was time to go,
Hey Arnold, I loved you so,
Hey Arnold, I love you so.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

He Was Not Mine

I had Arnold put down. How horrid that sounds. And yet I tried to make his last day as peaceful and memorable as possible. Well, more peaceful than memorable. Wheeled him through the park. Tried to express his bladder (yes some pee shot out but I don't think I nailed it). And then I wheeled him around the circuit, the full circuit, instead of cutting it short like I do most days, and he lay on the trolley and watched the world go by.

His breathing so laboured. His eyes so weary.

He could no longer walk, his back legs were paralysed and atrophying. He could barely crawl, pushing his way forward to his bowl or off his bed if he wanted to pee or poo. But with the paralysis, he lost control over his bladder and his bowels - he simply could not move them.

And yet I hesitated. I didn't want to put him down until I was sure he was ready to go.

Maybe he's been ready to go a long time and I was the one holding on?

I didn't know, I couldn't know...every step along the way I kept second guessing myself, as my friends and loved ones gently tried to suggest, provide support and guidance...and I, I was not sure.

I called Gasing Vet Hospital yesterday. Dr Melissa called me back in the evening. She made an appointment to come over this afternoon. I could hear the hesitation in her voice. I know she knew how much I loved him. Love him.

And today, after lunch, while waiting for her call, I put his head on my lap and he went to sleep for a while, a few minutes of blessed oblivion...his sleep is mostly disturbed these days. I would wake to find him staring, either straight ahead or at me. Have been sleeping in the hall. Allowing everything in my life to unravel as I grappled with what was too big for me to grapple with.

This huge heaving mass of pain.

And I loved him. How could I kill what I loved? How could I not wait for him to go naturally, in his own time?

But when would that be?

And in the meantime, he grew weaker and weaker and suffered so much.

Mike told me that there would be no pain at the end. That he would just fall asleep. That helped.

And so the Dr Melissa called to say she was on her way. I could hear the hesitation in her voice. Perchance I had changed my mind.

But I hadn't.

We discussed cremation options. I wanted him cremated by himself, not one of those mass jobs which they offer.

And then she came.

After the call, Arnold who had been sleeping peacefully on my lap was agitated. Did he know? Or had he picked up something from my energy?

I tried to calm him down. I called whatever Gods may be, whatever angels may be, to calm him down, to let him go, in peace.

And when she came...with an that van...I opened the gate and they came in and I was unsure of where to arrange him so she could get on with it...finally we opted for the green bed which is open, the lawn bed. I held on to the back portion of his body because the veins in his back legs had collapsed...and she would need to find a vein to push in the anaesthetic.

She pushed in the needle and looked at me: "Are you ready?"

I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. I was already weeping freely.

And she depressed the syringe....slowly he ceased to breathe. She waited awhile and checked his heartbeat, his pulse.

And she said, "He's gone."

I collapsed sobbing and could feel Dadda's hand on my back trying to comfort me.

Arnold's eyes were wide open.

Finally at peace, finally free of pain.

He had fallen asleep.

He brought us joy...we loved him well. He was not ours. He was not mine.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

And then, there's the inevitable

Arnold can no longer hold it in. He peed in the on the floor, on the trolley as I wheeled him to the park and wheeled him back, in the park, back home of the floor again, and later on my car seat. Right now, I'm covered in his pee.

He had an acupuncture appointment today and she looked grave when I told her he had rejected his favourite food yesterday - the chicken rice chicken. Right now after his acupuncture, he's sleeping. I feel reluctant to wake him up but I do need to get him to the vet.

I have finished two stories and I just need to finish one more for the pullout.

I will have some tea, take a shower (or maybe take a shower first) and then haul him into the car for another visit.

Dr Suzy advised me not to get it done at the vet (if I have to get it done) but to ask if someone could come over to the house. There, in the quiet, surrounded by those who love him (mainly me), he can go peacefully. And not filled with trauma with people watching, at the vet's.

She said, be strong, be a man, do what you have to do.

I have to write stories. Make appointments. Figure out story trajectories. And put my dog to sleep.

The unravelling has begun
and the heart resounds
with the gentle sounds
of someone weeping
you go creeping into night
I watch you leave
and know I can't follow.

You were never mine
but I don't know
how to let you go.

There's convenience, and then, there's love

It seems that nothing and no one I love is ever convenient. Arnold just peed on me. He didn't mean to. He was struggling to get away from me as I lifted him and held him tight and kissed his forehead. I think I may have to consider diapers or a pee pad. He can no longer control his bladder...that was the one thing he had left. And now he doesn't even have that.

I was going to put him to sleep yesterday. I had convinced myself that it was for his own good. Though there was still life left in him. Life left as he looks wearily at me, eyes full of love. Life, as he leans his chin on my feet, my ankles, whatever he can get his little head on. Life, as I wake up to find him wide awake, staring at me.

I will have to take off these clothes and jump in the shower. Again.

But no matter. I am not going to have him put down, put to sleep. Whatever the argument for it.

Yesterday when I decided to do it, I got a text. Saying the doctor could see him at 8.30 at night. After which all the vets would be closed except for emergencies. Putting a dog to sleep is not an emergency. It would buy him another day.

I stared at the message on my phone. I was at the post office, paying for some stamps before I went to buy Arnold's final meal, chicken rice. He loves the chicken, he loves the barbecue pork, the roast pork. But the message came through and I texted back.


And that bought him a day.

Except that it bought him more than that. The acupuncturist was horrified that I had even considered it. She said, Arnold was not in pain, in distress. Yes, if I put him in a corner and ignored him, that was a different case. But I didn't do that.

I wheeled him out to the park and sat with him. I stroked him and talked to him. He enjoyed some food. Yes, he was not recovering, he was not doing as well as he could be. But that was no reason to kill him. Would I kill my grandmother because I thought the quality of her life was not worth it? Would I kill my grandfather? My father? My mother? Anyone who couldn't do all the things other people could?

Who's to decide?

I was sobbing when I talked to her.

And after I decided, I stopped crying. I, who had been crying all day because of the thing I was contemplating...he was so precious and I loved him so much and this thing, this awful thing...this thing I had come to see as my duty, but how could it be my duty to hurt him, to put him away?

Of course it would have been convenient. I had taken the day off to do it.

But I couldn't.

And I didn't.

There's convenience (although it would have been convenient, not nearly, not even close).

And then, there's love.

And love will just have to do for now.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Oh my! It's July!

Arnold is lying on the floor, his back feet pressed up against mine. I think he's asleep but when I check, his eyes are wide open. He hardly sleeps now, and even then, not for very long. His eyes remain open and he breathes and he breathes.

He grows weaker by the day. About a week ago (maybe longer, I don't remember, all days blur into each other) I bought him a trolley to take him to the park with because he's too heavy for me to carry for long distances. Not that it's a long distance to the park, but I find myself staggering if I have to carry him more than a few feet.

I'm not that strong and my knees are beginning to give way. So I load him on the trolley and push it carefully over the rutted road, trundling along, trying not to jolt him too much. People look out of their houses and see me going past, a now familiar figure? Cars drive past and stare. And Arnold, who resisted the trolley at first, has grown quite used to it. He knows it will take him to the park. Where he can pee in peace. He does not like to do it in the house. His bladder, he can still control. His bowels are beyond him.

But luckily he makes firm turds, and I scoop them up with old serviettes and toss them into the toilet. And flush. I used to toss them into the dustbin until Dadda stopped me. "They smell, Jenny, don't you have any common sense?"

Apparently not. Which is why I would have to end up living alone. I would drive anyone else, anyone who hasn't known me since I was born, or more importantly, anyone who hasn't loved me since I was born, crazy.

When we get to the park (once in the morning and once after I come home from work), I lift him off the trolley and set him on the grass. If he cannot keep it in, he starts peeing then and there. If he can, he gets up and stumbles awkwardly for a few steps. And then he squats down to pee, balancing on his now useless feet...and then he falls.

Some days he can barely lift his head.

One day, I slept in Dadda's bed while Dadda slept outside cos he wanted to watch football. And Arnold slept outside too, but I heard a heavy thunk and woke up and came out. I lifted him up and he stared at me. His paws were cold. So I went back, gathered my duvet and cuddled with him on the two-seater, under my duvet. He fell asleep like that. Deeply asleep. And I stayed there, my legs curled in, with Arnold against my tummy, waiting. Until he woke up. Except that he didn't. He just slept and slept. Eventually I lifted him to the green bed and went back into the room. But I couldn't sleep.

These days, I am tired, my eyes hurt, my thoughts are fragmented and I can't sleep. Not really. Not deeply. Most days, I stay on the sofa, with Arnold (and Elliot) somewhere close by. But Arnold senses that he does not have much time left. He stays awake. He stares at me. He likes to lay his head on my feet or my hands when he knows I am going to leave.

"Stay," he seems to say. "Stay, I want to remember you. Please stay."

And I leave but I don't really. I am uneasy elsewhere, longing to be back home, if only so I can share his air, as I flit about, restless soul trying to do this, wanting to do that, writing a letter, leaning back to think, putting the letter away unfinished because I can't concentrate. Reading a book, and then deciding to stop because I don't really like the book, it's as fragmented as my thoughts and what I need is coherence, coherence, and I've finished Sir Arthur Quiller Couch and maybe I can read the rest of his stuff on Gutenberg or perhaps, Newman's Idea of a University or one of the other books he quotes so much or one of the books that Helene Hanff bought from 84 Charing Cross Road which obsesses me at the moment when little else does.

Arnold, little plaintive dog I found dying on my neighbour's doorstep with the hole in the head full of maggots, the fur all wet from a thunderstorm...lying there, weary, hungry...Arnold who crawled into my heart like a Maggot and never quite left it.

Arnold, who grows weaker every day, no longer responding to the acupuncture or the Chinese herbal medicine or the raw food diet or the attention.

If he wants to say goodbye, if he wants me to hold his little hand as he moves off into brighter fields, running, barking happily, chasing butterflies, reuniting with the mistress who left him (or died), I'll be here. I'll hold his hand. I don't do death well. I don't know how to.

I lack the patience and grace that I read about with other people. I stumble forward jerkily, say the wrong thing, in the wrong tone of voice.

Lead kindly light, amidst the encircling gloom. And lead my little doggie forward. Gently like falling into a dream. Sweetly, like a kiss from someone you love.

Lead thou him on.