Mary wrote a post on her blog, Drunken Lagomorph, about her beloved friend, Harley, who her father had to "put down" recently due to old age. Here is the link.
Christmas, for me, is time for family: remembering, reliving, laughing, crying through everything that has passed before, everything that has meant something to you during the past year or, yes, past decades. This something does include--for those of us who profoundly respect the lives, the souls of our four-legged friends--the death of a friend.
When I think about the dogs I have loved and lost, I'm always drawn to reread a quote that Barry Lopez included in his book, "Of Wolves and Men." The quote is from Henry Beston and it reads, in part: "For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they moved finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."
The two pictures, above, are two of the last pictures I took of Calvin who passed two years ago from the affects of lymphoma. Mary's post about her beloved Harley has inspired this post which is for all of you who love your four-legged babies; who understand the intensity of respect and devotion that our four-legged friends are due.
From my journal:
Calvin was diagnosed with Lymphoma about four days ago. I had thought he was not "himself" for over a month or more. It's so important to act on first impulses with the children. the lymphoma is apparently a quick killer, in that the internet tells me that, on average, death occurs within one to two months of diagnosis. I was so angry yesterday when we got the referral to the oncologist from Dr. Leach and David called and they said they were so swamped that they couldn't see him until Monday. God, this is my Calvin. My little boy who is dying of cancer. Each day the cancer digs deeper into him. we need quick, definitive action. If chemotherapy will prolong a good life for him, then we need to do it quickly. We cannot wait because the oncologists office is "swamped" after the holiday. Jesus!
Well, I'm really not very good at this. In fact, I'm really lousy at this. Just returned from the oncologist. Basically Calvin has about a month to live. Six months of chemotherapy would result in only a total of nine months of reasonably good life for him. The redness in his eyes is called something like "ovulitis" and it's actually inflammation of the eye and also blood in the eye caused by the lymphoma. Because of the ocular involvement, Calvin's prognosis is worse than if he didn't have it--or so the oncologist said. The doctor also said Calvin's other lymph nodes are enlarged and his liver and spleen are also slightly enlarged. The oncologist said that since Calvin is so large, six months of chemo would cost about $5,000 for only nine months of quality life. Doesn't make sense. Oncologist sent us home with prednisone. They said the prednisone will make Calvin very thirsty, hungry, but may help with his eyes not getting any worse. Riding to the oncologist I was afraid to open the windows of the Explorer; afraid the cold air would be harmful to him. But, Lord, on the way back I opened the windows up and let him have the joy of putting his head out into the breeze--flying like the birds...
David seems to be taking this better than me. Maybe not...
God bless my little boy, Calvin. My sweet, little boy...
Much sadness last night. David said his friend Leesa called him and she started crying when he told her of Calvin's prognosis. She called back shortly after that with another friend, Janet, on the line and they all had a great three-way cry. I cried alone. I have no friends with whom I can share such deep, hurtful sadness. I think about the 30-40,000 people who have died in Iran as a result of the terrible earhquake in the city of B... The grief of the families.... The loss of life and homes and futures. Calvin's imminent loss is, for me, no less than the loss a parent must feel for a child. He is our child. I will do the prednisone today and watch him very closely for side effects.
New Year arrives with Calvin doing well on the prednisone. The hemorrhages in his eyes have cleared up and he's developed a voracious appetite. David and I have decided to do walkies today. Don't know how many more walks we will be able to take Calvin on. We have also acknowledged that we must understand Melissa is NOT sick and must treat her accordingly or as "normal" as possible. Melissa has been very clingy lately in the front yard. I'm sure she understands something is up. Jim McIntyre had to put his 13year old Mason (a black lab, I think) to sleep. Very sad. Also, Marla's pig--Twiggy the Piggy--passed last night. She was twelve.
No, I'm simply not very good at this. Calvin has over the last several weeks begun to weaken. He will play and fool around in the front yard for a while and then he'll just sit down and stare off into space. Then he'll lie down. After he rests a bit, he'll get back up and play a little. Sue wants to have him over to play with her two Goldens. We've decided nto to do that. Too much stress on his system. I even wonder if continuing our "walkies" three times a week in the park is really too much for him. But, he loves it so...especially riding in the Explorer with his head out the window in the breeze. As close to flying as he can come...in this life. Woke up about 2:45 this morning. Very agitated about something. Got up and went downstairs and, as I always do first thing, look out the back door to see if the kids are ok. This was the first time Calvin has been out of his house at that hour (the times I've been up). He was lying on a blanket, just looking around. He was not asleep. I went and got my robe and came back downstairs and gave him one of the huge milk bones we bought last weekend and Melissa got just a rawhide stick. Even at 3am he was absolutely voracious. At times he appears to be doing so well. At other times, it is obvious we're losing him. This is not easy. I have not and do not believe I will ever be able to reconcile the inevitable. I am not good at this.
Well, my boy has made it this far. He continues to tire fairly easily, but still loves the ride to the park and the walk through the park. The other day I was petting his tummy and happened to run my hand over his front leg arm pit. His lymphnodes were as hard as rocks. Does that hurt? For Calvin, pain was defined by his triple pelvic osteotomy (twice) when he was not yet a year old. So, swollen lymphnodes may be insignificant. Today, however, was the first day since he has been on the prednisone that he did not inhale his breakfast. He waited until Melissa was done with her breakfast, he finished off what she had left and then he ate only the few goodies in his bowl, leaving 95% of his breakfast uneaten. I'll watch him through the day.
Finally called the oncologist day, as my boy is moving past his 60 day threshold. I wanted to know what we should be looking for from here on out. Julie called back and was very nice and understanding. She asked if his lymphnodes had gone down with the prednisone. I told her they hadn't. She then said that what we're probably going to see is the nodes in his neck beginning to obstruct his breathing and he will be coughing a great deal. Also the neck nodes may obstruct his throat in such a manner that he's no longer able to swallow food. She also said that the enlargement of nodes in his stomach or intestines may cause problems with his bowel movements. She also said that he will become more and more lethargic. God bless our little boy.
Our boy wouldn't eat his cheese (with prednisone) this morning. So, I tried wrapping the prednisone in bread, his other favorite food. He wouldn't eat that either. He wouldn't touch his food. Melissa seems to be terrified of Calvin. I had to give her her breakfast in her house. Also had to take water to her. She is so confused, depressed. Yesterday I babysat my grand nephew, Aidan. His mom wanted to see Calvin so she went to the back porch. I was holding Aidan and just stepped out on the step to the porch and Calvin leapt up and got Aidan's foot in his mouth. Didn't draw blood, but left a little scrape. Jesus! Don't know if I should continue giving him the prednisone. I think maybe we'll have to make a decision Monday. (Today is Friday.) Have contacted a mobile Vet who will do in-home euthanasia. I don't want him passing in the Vet's office. He is such a strong little boy. He has fought this for so long.
On March 14th, 2004, a Sunday at approximately 11:30 a.m., our boy was euthanized. John Grout, our contractor and dear friend, had done work for a vet and John actually arranged for the vet to come out to our house. Our boy was ready. I only regret that he became frightened by the sound of the electric shaver. David and I held him. He passed quickly.
Hmmm... Tammy Wynette singing "How Great Thou Art," came on just as I worte the last sentence.
Good-bye Harley. You'd do well to hook-up with Calvin who loved to fly. I'm sure he'd show you the ropes.