Saturday, August 21, 2010

It never gets any easier

I've been spoiled in my life. I have had a few dogs. I grew up with grandparents and friends who had dogs. I remember my grandparents dogs all lived until they were very old. My friends dogs also lived until they were very old. To me, it's almost normal for dogs to be16 or even 18 when they pass away - from old age. Things start to fail, and you do the merciful thing. That's what we did for Ditka and for Grish.

It's not easy, no matter the situation. But after we lost Grish last fall, and at the time, Athena and Hobbes were just 11, we thought we had at least another 4 years before we had to go through this again. But Larry as another hole to dig in the backyard. I'm not ready for this.

He's not old yet, but he's suddenly sick. Hobbes has a tumor in his lower jaw. I thought it was a tooth infection. And what's the first stage of grief? Denial, right? I asked the vet to do a biopsy. I should have known, as soon as she stuck the needle of Lidocaine in his mouth - it wasn't an infection. Certainly after she removed some tissue, if I was in the right frame of mind. But then it quickly moved to Bargaining, right? Instead of admitting to myself that an infection would have drained, I'm still hoping that the test results come back Monday with something other than cancer. Something treatable. I don't know what the third stage of grief is, but Exhaustion is in there somewhere. Which is where I am.

Assuming this is a tumor, his only option is a very expensive surgery to remove part of his lower jaw, to remove the tumor. That leaves me with an old dog, missing part of his mouth. Some people may judge me for choosing to put him out of his misery, instead of doing everything in my power to keep him alive. but I'd only be doing it for me. I'd be deforming my dog, simply because I can not bear to part with him.

And I can't. But i can not put into words what this dog means to me. My good friend, and former roommate actually put it succinctly; "He was an asshole in the beginning, but turned into such a good boy."

Anyone who did NOT know him when I first got him has NO idea. I can't even describe. And me, the crazy dog lady, I used to sit on the carpet, hugging him, telling him that if I was at the end of my rope, if I couldn't keep him, than no one would. I knew if I gave up on him, he'd bounce from shelter to shelter. So I HAD to figure it out. I had to make it work.

It took 3 solid, torturous years, many chewed up CDs, shoes, and many other items. It was nights wearing ear plugs, it was 5 mile runs just to tire him out, it was obedience training, crate training, and then one day, he just changed. After 3 years, he realized life was a lot easier if we all just got along.

And that we did. He sleeps on my feet in the winter, and keeps me warm. He follows me everywhere. Now that I am married, I know that Hobbes will be the last of "my" dogs. That No matter what, Larry will be the alpha, and all dogs will look to him, instead of me. Don't get me wrong, all the dogs love me. But Hobbes is MINE. My buddy. He sticks with ME. He's laying by the couch right now.

SO, all the rules change when a dog is facing his last days. They get to eat whatever they want. They get to break the rules. Hobbes is eating chicken and rice, but mostly because it hurts to much to eat regular food. Like Ditka, he'll probably split a pint of ice cream with me before he goes. We'll have a last day together, we'll go hiking, we'll snuggle. I'll cry, he'll know.

I told Ditka, in his last moments, to save a spot on the couch for me and Hobbes, that we would join him again one day. I had no idea Hobbes would be there so soon. So they'll keep that couch good and warmed up for me.

This is Hobbes and I, back in his asshole days. Looks like I am squeezing the life out of him, but I like hugging my baby bear. He was a pain, but it was all worth it.

I'm surprised at how many serious pictures I have of Hobbes. He's such a goof, but he could be so serious at time. He's still pretty young in this pic, as most of his face hasn't started to grey yet, just his little chin.

This is Hobbes trying to love on our cat, Schroediger. When Larry moved in with the cat, Hobbes thought this was his new toy, and he wanted to hug and squeeze is and name it George. He still loves Schroed to this day.

For soem reason, I have a lot of pictures of the back of Hobbes' head. But really... how many people take a picture of the back of dog heads? I do, I want to remember this side of him too!

Here he is more recently, hanging out on the back porch with me. He's squinting into the sunshine. You can see his fuzzy black muzzle is mostly grey now, as well as around his ears. I don't know what to do without my buddy. He goes into the cellar with me, when it creeps me out, he does farm chores in the dark with me, sometimes when I get a little freaked out at night. He's my shadow when I want one, a pillow when I need one, and just a loyal friend. My Hobbes, my Baby Bear.