I drove away, a bit disappointed that I couldn't have stayed for a spontaneous, pre-Valentine lunch with my honey and son. But glad for that not-so-bad-after-all loopdeeloop on the Baltimore beltway to retrieve his house key.
The sun was shining, my new "do" felt great, I was looking forward to making progress on set decoration with my class, and then enjoy the evening with Paul at small group.
But first, I had to stop at home.
I began mentally listing what I had to do before heading to school.
-put the dogs out
-bring the dogs in
-give Reilly a big bowl of water
-give Brownie a measured 1/2 cup to slake her insatiable thirst. I always hoped it wouldn't come out the other end before I could take her out again.
-tether Brownie with her leash to the kitchen table leg.. (She would howl if I crated her, but couldn't be trusted on carpet.)
- put a clean blanket down for padding if necessary
-thaw something for dinner
-change into painting clothes
- grab my teaching stuff
Once more, upon entering the house, I wondered how long my old dog, Brownie, would hang on. At 14, she was growing increasingly weak in the joints--particularly her hindquarters. It took her several seconds to get into a sitting position. I imagined it was painful and wished she could tell me. She often shivered and her teeth chattered. I read that that can be not just the obvious sign of being cold, but that kidneys aren't working, and/or a dog is in pain. When she'd lie down on the purple blanket, I would cover her back with the surplus. A few times when she was shivering uncontrollably, I lay right down beside her on the cold kitchen floor, pull her close to my body, and snuggle her till the trembling stopped.
I pulled all the chairs out so she would not get tangled. I blockaded the entrance to the family room so she could not reach the carpet if she tried. The obstacle course in the kitchen was stressful to me; I always felt apologetic to the family or friends (if I dared let anyone in). I was always tense, always worn out, and yet could think of no alternative for her care. Who would take an old dog and do what I do for her?
But I couldn't just put her to sleep, could I, if she was still eating, drinking, enjoying the leaf piles in the back yard, responding to my touch, rising up from a nap when I'd come into the house? How would I know when it was "time"? I knew from experience that dogs give a sign. I trusted God that I would know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I'd get my clue from Brownie herself, and thereby have peace in my heart that she was telling me to let her die.
But today was not that day. She looked okay. Tired, in pain, but still seeking food, water, and my attention. (The rest of the family didn't like her. She was truly my dog , and knew I would pet her and talk to her and give her food, water, and blankets for comfort. I was the only one she followed around.)
Her declining health required all my energy. My priority had become to keep ahead of her accidents--or clean up behind them. Her kidneys were failing. She ate heartily, and tried every which way to drink every drop of water she could find. We had to make sure the bathroom door was always closed.
Maybe the question was, how much longer could I bear the burden of caring for her? No sooner would that question enter my mind, I would feel guilty.
This question burned within me every time I entered the house, but moreso when I left. I dreaded