I really, really hate to say this. My little dog of 17+ years is dying. I can feel it. I can see it. I've been watching him age in a hurry over the past few months, but last week he began a more rapid descent. His cataract eyes seem all of a sudden to be quite blind. His ears still show sporadic signs of reception, but his hearing seems to have turned almost entirely inward. He trembles, he frets. His perception is off in all ways. Izzy is not in touch with the world anymore; he's in some alternate reality. He climbs steps that aren't there. He sometimes sits and stares up expectantly at people(?) I don't see. It's hard to walk him, to guide him, to interact with him, to watch him. He's needed to wear The Cone of Shame recently, not because he's in trouble, but because he mindlessly works different parts of his body, especially his feet—lick, lick, licking absently until he wears away the hair and irritates his own skin.
He's been a great friend, and sometimes an almost equally great menace, but mostly a friend. He's a creature of fun and mischief and intelligence. There've been times when I fully expected him to open up his mouth and speak English. Before he started falling apart, he could dance like a biped, shoot rubber bands, snowplow, do tricks for packing peanuts, skateboard with Rob, eat cat truffles by the dozens (if given the chance, which happened rarely and only by accident), count, offend female dogs and small children without ever losing his innocent friendly smile, function as a doorbell, beg for lit matches, run from citrus peel, and charm old ladies. I miss his maniacal daily rip-snort through the house. I miss taking him for canyon walks. I miss the crazy beautiful vibrant creature he once was, knowing that he is not long for this world, and that he is not going to recover from this current sickness—at least, he's not going to go back to the dog he once was.
I've been praying this week that the weather would be sunny and warm and dry so he can spend most of his time outside in the backyard without The Cone of Shame and occupy himself with grass and smells and fenced-in wandering. We've had a nice stretch of weather. If I could have my wish, Izzy would quietly slip away while curled up and taking a lovely sunbath. He stays so shivery lately and he's so frail. Most of the time he seems kind of oblivious to us, but yesterday I sat with him a while out on the lawn and stroked and massaged him and spoke gentle appreciative words into his deaf little ears. He did seem to appreciate it. Ugh. I don't want him to suffer. He's been so wonderful.
I've been remembering how sweet he was when Gram was here with us, dying. For days he lay with her on her bed, still as can be, which was totally unlike him then. He got up only for drinks and food and walks, and then he was right back again, snuggled in close to her. On the day Gram died, and the gentlemen from Berg Mortuary came for her, we sent Izzy to the back of the house so he wouldn't get underfoot. Later that evening when we were sitting around, so solemn and sad, he came and sat before us, staring us down. We asked him, "Izzy, where's Gram?" (He loved being asked "Where's [so-and-so]?" and then leading us to the person, grinning with pleasure, and waiting for his praise.) He answered without his usual energy by quietly going to the front door and looking out toward the street. We asked him several times on other days and always got the same answer. He never wanted to go back into Gram's bedroom afterward; acted as if it didn't exist. He's a smart little guy. I felt he knew. He knows death like I do.
I remember how he'd do the same thing with me when I was going through miscarriage. I'd lay on the couch and he'd lay on the floor wedged against the sofa or cuddled up with me, if I'd let him. I think of these things, these kind moments when he was a comforting instead of a wild presence, and I wish for him to be comforted now. I don't know what to do for him. But I will keep praying for sun, till he goes. Sorry to all of you who are ready for spring rains. Those can happen at night, while he's indoors, okay? That's the only concession I'll make.
I'm thinking of my poor pooch every day, naturally, but earlier this afternoon I found a little poem I wrote a few years ago after he'd run away from home and come back. While we were on a vacation he'd escaped from some family members' house when they weren't watching him (he's a slippery fish). We came home to no dog, and to all-around panic. I printed about half a million flyers and we wallpapered Provo with them. A few days later, a kind lady across town called and said she had our dog—she hadn't seen my flyer, but she'd phoned about his tags and gotten our home number. She told us one day he'd simply pushed her front door open and come sauntering in. She said he communicated very clearly to her that he needed help and that she was supposed to get it all sorted out, the end. She did, and were we ever grateful.
So here's a shaggy poem to celebrate a lovable friend who will certainly go to dog heaven one of these days soon.
5 May 2006
A dog with a nice disposition
who greets you in the morning
with love and a ready wag
is not unlike a flat stomach.
Maybe neither will last all your life.
They’re easy to take for granted
until you think you might have lost them.
If they come back to you,
you smile again at sunup
and give them an appreciative pat.