Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Days you don’t forget

Why is it, the mind stores bad days, so much better than the good ones? Take my wedding day, it went in a blur, and though I can remember plenty of it, nothing is clear and vivid to the point of taking me back, conversations forgotten and no odd details stick out. But when I think of bad days, I can recall what I wearing, what I was doing if the day suddenly became bad, words spoken and stumbled over, peoples expressions, and all the details that felt so unwelcome. And they stay so clear.

Or maybe that’s just *my* mind. That’d be about right, getting stuffed in the memory stakes.

Today isn’t a good day, though I guess it’s not as bad as the one that’s coming. And as I keep telling myself, it’s not like a person died, and I knew this day would come. I’m just not ready yet.

Which is kind of ironic, as I swore I’d never feel like this again. Never let myself get so attached to a dog, that their demise (not even occurred yet) makes me sob.

I think for the first few years I managed to stay distant. I think that’s why Ryker’s so obedient, always trying to please. Because I wasn’t a very nice mom in the beginning. Not that I was nasty, I just held back and didn’t love him as much as I could.

In fact maybe it was for more than a few years. I lost my last dog, Simba, just after he turned seven, and his death hit me really hard. Ridiculously hard. And I remember breathing a sigh of relief when Ryker turned eight. He wasn’t Simba, and he wasn’t going to die so damn suddenly on me.

And I realised I was glad he wasn’t Simba. As much as I loved my last dog, he was a bugger. As a puppy he was always getting car sick and I was always apologising to people for the way my car smelt. Then there were the walks – though ‘walk’ may be stretching it, as that bloody dog used to take off at high speed the minute anything interesting appeared on the horizon, he didn’t give a damn whether I was chasing or not – he was the boss.

But not Ryker. Four months of dog training every Monday evening, and the snip, gave my new dog a new attitude. And me. In his life Ryker has twice threatened to walk in the other direction when on a walk; the first time he was a tiny puppy and wanted to join three little dogs playing, but they were a closed group and turned on him when he bounded up. Even today I can laugh at the memory of him hurtling back and past me, tail between his legs and yelping, to the safety of the baby buggy! The baby (R) wasn’t in it, but the buggy had a tray on the bottom, that when he wedged himself in, it offered protection.

The other time was a just a couple of summers ago; Ryker was pissed off with me because we got to the beach late and you have to be off by 10am, so the walk was all of ten minutes. I headed back to the car, but in a moment of defiance he ambled the other way, pretending he didn’t hear my calls. But he shifted pretty darn quick when I started the engine and began backing out the car park!

Now Ryker’s eleven, but it seems he won’t make twelve.

I suppose I should be glad of the warning, and being given the time to say goodbye. Except I’m not. Because this time, the decision’s falling on me.

Not that I plan to make it. The vet said kidney failure wasn’t painful, so I don’t see why I should have to put him down. In fact, it seems downright absurd as to why the vet would suggest it. And then my mother suggested it. It seems strange to me. Surely that’s what you do, when all else has failed? Anyway I’m not going to dwell on that, after all, if the day comes when I feel I have to make that decision, I guess I’ll have reasons to be considering it.

We’ve started him on tablets. For cats. I have no idea why, just doing what we’re told may give him a few more months. And he’s taking human stomach ulcer stuff, and I think that’s to help with keeping his food down. Poor old sod is looking like a bag of bones. But at least he ate tonight; half a tin of some non-protein stuff the vet gave us, warmed and on a plate (as I have a theory he likes being treated as a human ;o))

The children have been told. R asked stupid questions, though they probably weren’t stupid, just irritating when you’re trying not to cry. P recounted some gruesome stories about other peoples’ family pets, to the point where I had to tell him to be quiet. J bit her lip in an effort not to giggle, right up until she realised I was ultimately saying Ryker is about to die, then she said she’d say a prayer and not stand on him anymore. S sang. And I let her. If it bothers her, she’ll grasp what’s going on when it happens.

Goodness, I’m tired tonight. So tired I’ve even stopped crying. How silly is that, to weep over a dog. But then, I realised something today, Ryker and I spend more time together than any other members of this household.

Have I ever mentioned he suffers from separation anxiety? He was diagnosed before he was a year old, and I giggled when the vet told me. Sounded ridiculous that dogs could suffer from something so human as anxiety. But we did listen and adapt to the advice, mostly because we were heartily sick of the destruction Ryker caused when left alone. Two lino floors, two sash windows, back seat and seat-belts, dog cage, several sets of remote controls, numerous door frames and doors, and the camcorder. I’m not counting the shoes and underwear as we couldn’t keep up with the count. At first we tried drugging him, same sort of stuff they give hyper-kids, but he still destroyed things with the added bonus of him peeing everywhere too.

So instead we adapted. Never left the house without him, and chose parking spaces based on shade value. He follows me everywhere, though he knows to wait outside the bathroom and bedroom.

What will it be like when he’s not there? I must remember he’s just a dog. I keep looking at him thinking there must be some mistake. He doesn’t look that ill! He looks tired is all. And skinny, he’s much too skinny. Hard to imagine it was just a year ago I was thinking he looked tubby. But then I think that every Spring, due to the mixture of less walking time and my baking fests, which I don’t tend to do in the summer. Not that I feed him many treats mind, but he’s a great vacuum-cleaner and smart enough to follow the children around when they’re eating. The summer popsicles just don’t have the same fat content.

Blimey I’m going miss the old fart. Though maybe not the farts. Then again, who will I blame now?

That was a joke by the way. Honestly, it’s very rare I’m that ashamed.

That was also a joke.

I like jokes when I fee like this. My humour changes and I find myself amused at the silliest things. Guess I should take that as a good thing, laughter cures all and all that.


Blogger Tim-tambolini said...

Oh, Jona, no one knows more than me what a struggle it is to loose a dog. I too had a dog, my first dog, who also suffered from kidney failure. I managed to keep her going for three months after diagnoses by feeding her no-protein food, but eventually I had to make the decision to put her down. Her quality of life started to deteriorate. I know you don't want to hear that it might come down to you making the decision. Just one word of advice; that no matter how painful it will be, please accompany Ryker to the vet on his final day. I had a friend of mine take my best friend, Bella, to the vet for me and I've regretted it ever since.

I got Bella, a German Shepard, when I was 17 in rebellion against my parents. She went everywhere with me and saw me through many experiences. My father transported her from New Brunswick to Saskatchewan 6 months after I moved here. I don't know what I would have done without her here with me those first years. I had no family here, so she was a reminder of home. I had her cremated and her urn sits on top of my TV.

Dogs have a way of warming our hearts when we are sad or lonely. They accept us with all our flaws and are loyal to the end. Ryker is very lucky to have had you as his owner.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006 10:11:00 pm  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

But you know it won't. I am very sorry for you and Ryker.

Take all the time to cry that you want. All the kids will understand. And maybe join in.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 12:40:00 am  
Blogger mm said...

Oh, Jona. I'm still feeling the hole Phyllis left over the holidays. I drop something in the kitchen and I have to clean it up myself now. :-)

As far as I'm concerned, you make the decision when you can see Ryker's quality of life has decreased to the point you know it's time. You'll know. And the days leading up to the end are worse than the end itself, at least it was for us.

Good luck with this difficult, difficult thing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 1:57:00 am  
Blogger rdl said...

Oh Jona,they really are apart of our families. We had to put our old dog, Sam, down 2 years ago and i think it was the hardest thing i ever did; and I still miss that dog and we still talk to him. We even hate to admit it but we think he was (?) nicer than Jackson, our new dog( who had separation anxiety but seems to have gotten over it). But you will know when you have to do something, if you do.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 3:38:00 am  
Blogger Who is this Dave? said...

You already know my dog (who somehow managed to live to the age of 16) died 18 months ago. Part of the reason why I won't replace him is that I don't want to face that sort of pain again. But, of course, I'm also cutting myself off from the companionship too.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 7:20:00 am  
Blogger Sam said...

I lost so many dear doggie friends over my life and every time it's wrenching and every time I say 'Never again', and then I find I can't live without a dog. Our last dog died in my arms of leukemia and my daughter (aged 5) cried for ten minutes then dried her tears and said, "when are we getting a new dog?" (we waited a year)
Kids are more resiliant than we are, I think.
So, we've always had dogs and I count the time spent with them as precious, because they don't live as long as we do. But they give us so many wonderful memories to enjoy.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 6:50:00 pm  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

It hurts, I think, because at some level they're our children, and nothing (I'm told) hurts worse than that. For me, such things make me think about how I am to my wife and son. So I guess if the whole experience serves to draw you closer to the ones who live on, Ryker's passing won't be completely senseless.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 8:41:00 pm  
Blogger Caryn said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. Ryker sounds like a very special companion. My cat's 10½, and I already dread the day he's no longer with me.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006 9:27:00 pm  
Blogger g said...

I'm sorry to hear that Ryker is ill. Ryker's not a pet. He's part of the family.

And often old dogs take on a particular role, and hold on, because they feel they must. It will be important at some point to let him go. To release him.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 10:32:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a 14 year old husky and I am amazed each day that she is still with us.

Our dogs have always died a natural death, well except for the 1 year old lab that died of heat stroke in Alaska.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 11:54:00 pm  
Blogger rdl said...

Jona, it must be going around, as you know from my recent posts. we don't mind hearing it if you just want to vent but if not that's ok too, just take care of yourself.

Friday, March 24, 2006 2:26:00 am  
Blogger Daisy Mae said...

I am so sorry, I can only imagine how bad you must feel. Our dog had heart worms when he was 5 and we thought we were going to lose him. I cried everyday for a week until he came home. A month later I was back to yelling at him to get out of the kitchen.

Friday, March 24, 2006 1:50:00 pm  
Blogger Amanda Matilda said...

I'm so sorry about your dog. I'd feel the same way. Take it easy,

Saturday, March 25, 2006 3:10:00 am  
Blogger Monique said...

We lost our dog last summer. I resisted all advice to put her down, and just as we finally reached the decision that it would be the best thing for her, she died on her own. It was painful, but she was suffering at the end. She had separation anxiety too, so I can relate to that as well.

Sunday, March 26, 2006 4:10:00 am  
Blogger oopseedaisee said...

There is nothing silly about crying over a dog. These furry critters absolutely become members of our families just as surely as our own children do. We just lost our old boy Copper last month. He was 15. The kids dont even remember life without him around. My oldest son said it felt like he lost a brother.
I was very upset when it became apparant that he had cancer. But when the time came to put him down we were ready. Once he got so that he would no longer eat and or walk down the stairs. It seemed like a relaese from suffering, the day we took him in. Although it was painful to say good bye, it felt right. I only wish we had this option for our human loved ones, when death is inevitable.
Enjoy the time you have with him. You will certainly find you appreciate it.

Sunday, March 26, 2006 9:30:00 pm  

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