Bonnie has been changing. The relentless barking. Her unwillingness to sit with us on the sofa. She seeks out dark corners and no longer hears me when I call her. She also can’t see well and the other night, one of he teeth just fell out. But she sure does sleep well.
It was vet time yesterday. There was too much that seemed wrong and so un-Bonnie. We learned immediately that her teeth were awful — and considering we had them done twice in a row two years ago, they shouldn’t be that bad. But the teeth of small dogs go very quickly as they age. We have seen in it other small terriers and even though our vets are the most reasonably priced in the area for this work, she’s going to lose a lot of teeth. And she also needs senior dog bloodwork because, as the vet rather gently pointed out (he’s not always a very gentle guy), dogs change, much like aging people change with their years … and they don’t change back.
She isn’t the dog she was been for all the years we have had her, which is from baby dog — 9 weeks — to now. I trained her in the deep snow of winter and she was always the most charming of our dogs.
The vet delicately pointed out that since she is going deaf, is partially blind and to top it all, she appears to be getting a bit demented. Which is probably what all the barking about. These days, all she seems to know how to do is shout.
We need to consider her quality of life, the vet’s polite way of saying “That time is coming around again.”
We’ve had Bonnie longer than any other dog and while I know — knew — always knew — this moment would come, I always dreaded it. Especially because we are getting too old to take on a young pet and too poor to manage old ones.
We’ve got a few months to think about it. To square up our elderly hunching shoulders and get it together.
I don’t think we’ll be getting more dogs. We are now at the point where our dogs are likely to outlive us. We don’t really have anywhere to send them, either. There’s no one to care for them if we are gone.
We have both throughout our lives had a morbid tendency to wait until too late to deal with the end game properly. We don’t want to let go. There’s nothing easy about it and even though we have two other dogs in the house — and I know part of the reason we got Duke was that the other two were getting old. We were not talking about it, but we knew. We didn’t want to know.
I’m quite sure Duke will be our last dog. I swear, he knows. Dogs know a lot.
I’m not going to make this a crying and wailing post. I have been through this too many times. It’s the worst when there’s no lethal ailment to make it inevitable but just a general winding down of a life.
I thought she would live longer. She’s small. I had hoped for a good solid 15 or 16 years from her, but she has been aging faster than seemed reasonable for the past couple of years. I could see it in her coat turning so quickly gray and odd changes in her behavior.
Technically, Gibbs is the same age but seems much younger. I’ve always wondered if he was really the age on his papers. He was kenneled and they lie about their dogs. So I think he’s good for a while … but I wonder how Duke and Gibbs will get on without Bonnie. She has always been the sweet spot between the two boys.
Talk about irrefutable. The passage through life always ends the same way. It doesn’t matter how well we feed them or how sweetly we love them or how they care for us. Time does what time does. Why do the best ones always seem to go first?
I read an article a while back which announced with solemnity and more than a few pie charts, that dogs — our dogs, your dogs, pet dogs — don’t like being hugged. Not merely do they not like being hugged and display measurable levels of stress when hugged, but they really totally hate being kissed and nuzzled.
The article suggests a pat on the head … and a treat … would be much more appreciated. But, not by Garry or me.
I know they don’t like being hugged. It’s obvious. They stiffen and put their ears back when we hug them. They also don’t like it when I grab their tail and refuse to let go.
That’s what all the growling and head butting are about. You can almost hear them sigh, wondering when you’ll be through with this nonsense and get on to the important stuff, namely distributing cookies.
I told Garry about the study. He said: “Tough. They’ll just have to cope. Because I like it.” My thoughts exactly.
Our dogs are disrespectful. Messy. Flagrantly disobedient. They are masters and mistresses of selective hearing. Do I believe for a single moment when we tell them to go out and they stand there, in front of the doggy door, ignoring us, it’s because they don’t understand what we want from them, or cannot hear us?
I’m supposed to think if I stand in the doorway calling them, that they can’t hear me? Or don’t know I want them to come in? Of course, they hear me. They know. They’re just playing us.
From the other side of the yard, they can hear the click when we remove the cover of the biscuit container. Their hearing is fine. It’s a power play.
Since they persist in disrespecting us, they will have to deal with our periodic compulsion to give them hugs, nuzzling, and the occasional (“Yuck! Stop that stupid human!”) kiss on their big black noses. Personally, I think it’s a small price to pay for unlimited sofa lounging, high-quality treats, and silly humans getting down on the floor to play. Not to mention the toys and the balls and those expensive trips to the vet.
We put up with them? They will have to put up with us, too. That’s our deal.
It’s the Human-Canine Covenant. We’ve got their paw prints on file.
Jeff and I got Mao as an 8-week-old kitten in the fall of 1965. We had just gotten married the month before, and of course, we had to have a cat right away. Why a Siamese? I don’t know. Karma maybe?
From the very first day, Mao was Master of All He Surveyed. Although I have had many cats through the years, Mao was the first and by far the most utterly unique.
He was very smart for a cat. For instance, when we were out-of-town, we would have someone “house-sit” for us. No matter who that person was, and no matter how much Mao ordinarily liked them, while we were away, Mao would attack him or her (or them) virtually continuously during our absence. He would hide behind the bushes and attack legs as they tried to open the front door. He would wait around the corner and then pounce. He would launch himself from atop the bookcase, landing on a victim’s head, sometimes causing serious damage.
The moment we returned, Mao ceased his attacks and commenced purring. He figured, I believe, that he needed to drive out the interlopers so that we could return. Since we always DID return, his belief was consistently reinforced!
Mao protected us from bed goblins. If you were on Mao’s “family member” list, he would stop by your bedroom every night. You had to lift the covers so he could walk to the foot of the bed and back up. No goblins tonight? Good, I will go now, and he did.
Mao was the only cat I’ve ever known that perpetrated acts of vengeance hours or days after your perceived offense. If, for example, you shooed him off the table during dinner time, he would wait until you were sitting on the potty with your pants around your ankles and could not chase him. Then he would casually bite your shins. Tail held high, he would stroll away.
Mao patrolled the perimeter of the grounds like any good watch cat should. Every day of his life, he performed it, almost as if it were a ceremony. During his closing weeks with us, he began to patrol in the company of a younger feline, Mr. Manx. As if passing the torch to the next generation, he taught Mr. Manx to walk the perimeter, and inspect the beds, which Mr. Manx then did for the rest of his life.
In October 1978, Mao, who had been diagnosed with cancer some months before, disappeared. We never found his body, though we were sure he had gone off to die. For the last couple of weeks before his departure, we had noticed that he felt different. Where his muscles had been hard, they were now soft. He slept most of the day and moved slowly.
It is many years and lifetimes later. Jeff has passed. I live far from that place where Jeff and I and Mao and all the other fur-people lived. But I remember him. We all remember Mao, the most special cat.
Mao, I am sure you were there for Jeff when he came to the Bridge. I’m sure you will be there for me, too. You and all my other furry friends who I loved will be there together.
But you were and will always be, utterly unique and entirely unforgettable.
THE RAINBOW BRIDGE
I usually try to be funny or at least amusing when I write these blogs. Sadly, this will not be one of them. Yesterday, my furry grandson Banning crossed the Rainbow Bridge. He was a sweet, wonderful little guy. It was only a month or so ago that he officiated at his Mom and Dad’s wedding.
Anyone that has done it knows it refers to a card the vet gives you when your dog dies. It’s really quite beautiful and if for some strange reason you should ever find yourself feeling just too happy or in too good a mood and feel the need to cry your eyes out, just read it. Works every time. I got to thinking about this because there was a copy of it on the wall in the vet’s office.
I’ve always found that term so odd. When you “put the baby down”, you put the baby to bed. But when you “put your pet down”, you put him to sleep. Forever. Never quite understood that.
Anyway, George was my first time going through this nightmare. I just couldn’t do it. To me, I was playing God. I had the power of life and death over another being. How arrogant was that? My then-wife and I agonized for days about when to do it and even if we could do it. We decided to take a ride around the block to clear our heads. When we came back, George was in a coma.
We rushed him to the vet realizing we had waited way too long. We were both total basket cases. And then the oddest thing happened. The doctor who took care of us was a doctor we had never seen before. We had been going to the same vet for years. I didn’t think much about it at the time. New doctors come and go.
I was also too much of wreck to even think about it until later. But here’s the thing. He was beautiful. Not just handsome, beautiful. My ex even said at the time “that’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.”
He did what he had to do. He was incredibly nice and kind to us. We didn’t really notice until later because we were so devastated. We went home, cried for about a week and then as it does, life moved on. One of the only cures for the grief of losing a loved one is time.
So, fast forward about a month or so. One day I get a bill in the mail from the vet. All the bill says is “George – $50.” I look at it and go ‘what’? I was pretty sure I had paid all my vet bills, so I called the vet and asked what the bill was for.
There was a really long pause and the lady at the other end of the phone finally said in a quiet whisper, “It’s for… George.”
I said “Yes I know that. It says so right here on the bill. But what is it for?”
In an even quieter whisper, she said, “It’s for… George. You asked for him to be cremated.”
Apparently, we’d been asked at the time if we wanted George to be cremated and we said yes. I have no memory whatsoever of doing that, I was such a mess at the time. But I had to chuckle. Enough time had gone by that I could see the humor in the whole thing. So, I laughed and then asked her why she was whispering.
She explained most people get very emotional all over again when they are informed of the cremation, so they try to be as gentle and kind as possible. I said that made sense and that was very nice of them. She then said, “And by the way… George is ready.” I said, “Ready for what?”
Again, the whisper came back “He’s ready. He’s here. You wanted to keep the ashes.” Again, no memory of asking for that either. I laughed again and spent a few minutes consoling her because she seemed more upset about this than I was. I said I’d be right over.
So, chuckling at the whole incident and sort of happy that enough time had passed that I could see the humor in the whole thing, I went to pick up George. I entered the office and said I was here to pick up George. Instantly everyone got very quiet and out came the whispers again. I reassured them I was OK, and I paid the bill. Then the nice lady behind the counter looked furtively to the left and the right and reached down under counter and handed me a plain brown paper bag. Sort of like a drug deal. I smiled to myself. For some reason this was just getting funnier, they were all so sweet.
As I was leaving, I asked if the doctor was around so I could thank him for his kindness. I didn’t remember his name. I described him and they looked at me puzzled. No doctor of that description worked there. They hadn’t hired a new doctor in years. True story, swear to God. As the theme to the Twilight Zone played in my head, I left with my paper bag and got in the car. I looked in the bag and there were two things. One, a very plain white box. George. And then I pulled out this postcard with the Rainbow Bridge on it. I read it and burst out in tears and cried my eyes out all the way home.
I’ve helped many more of my furry family to that bridge since then and I will do so again. I didn’t have to make the choice in Banning’s case. His Mom and Dad, David and Katie did. But it didn’t make it one bit less gut-wrenching. They did what they had to do.
Keanu Reeves was on Colbert a while back and for some reason, Colbert asked him what happens after you die. He paused for a second and said.
“You will be missed by the people that loved you.”
There was stunned silence in the audience and Colbert who was literally speechless. He just said. “Wow.”
He was loved and he will be missed.
Say Hi to George little buddy.
Back in another life, I lived in a little house on Long Island, not far from the university where I’d gone to school and at which my husband worked. We always had a dog and several cats. In those days, we let our cats outside. There wasn’t much traffic and everyone’s cats roamed the neighborhood.
One day, while we were out in the yard, we had a visitor, a medium-sized black and white cat. He was extremely friendly. Sidled right up to us, purring, and doing that little head butt that’s so endearing. Maybe he was hungry? Of course, we fed him.
My son fell immediately in love and we said he could keep the cat.
My husband had a passion for the classics. He named the cat Ahab, which he said meant “wanderer.” Princeton University agrees, except the name in Hebrew means “uncle.” Which is irrelevant but I threw it in because I did the research and wanted to do something with the information.
Back to the story, already in progress.
Ahab was a sweetheart, the most laid-back cat I ever knew. My 4-year old felt he needed a bubble bath in a bucket. Ahab purred his way through the bubbles and the rinse cycle then continued purring all the way through dinner and a relaxed evening on the sofa with the whole family.
We couldn’t figure out why anyone would let a sweet fellow like Ahab go. He was young. Healthy. Litter trained, though he preferred going outside to do his business. His coat was shiny and he showed no sign of abuse or neglect. He oozed charm.
Ahab settled in like he’d always lived with us. He got along with the dog and the other cats. Loved children. Loved everyone. We made a date to take him to the veterinarian for shots.
He never went to the vet, at least not with us. The following day, without so much as a “by your leave,” Ahab moved down the block and took up residence with a different family. We were a little wounded. We’d never been abandoned by a cat before. His new family adored him but Ahab only hung around a few days, then moved on.
We eventually lost track of Ahab. He moved from house to house, charming everyone and purring his way to his next home. He never stayed longer than a few days and was always the perfect house guest.
Was he a stray? If he was, it was what he wanted. Ahab was a wanderer by choice.