Lifetimes

On Saturday we euthanized our dog, Magic.  She had been a trusted companion for 15 1/2 years. And I’ve been completely despondent since she is gone.

Magic happy and healthy at 9.

This picture was taken when she was about 9 years old.  She looked like a puppy right through the last month or so of her life.  She used to run with Greyhounds and all other sorts of dogs.  She generally bested them but in the last year of her life she slowed down, becoming almost aloof when she met other dogs.  It was like life had taken all she had, and she could not muster the enthusiasm to fool herself into thinking that life was great enough to wag her tail about it.  And that was, perhaps, the biggest toll time took on her.  As a puppy you could light up Manhattan if you hooked a generator up to her tail.

 

In August, San Francisco experienced the highest temperature it had ever had on record, ( I think it was like 107.) and we are about the same as the City.  That night she couldn’t seem to regulate her temperature, panting through the night.  We were on vacation the following week and worried about her, because she never seemed to fully get back to normal.  She was hardly moving on our morning walks.  She had been slowing down for some months.  Two months ago she refused to go on our long Sunday morning walk on Old Montarra Mountain Road and the local walk to the strip mall seemed all she was interested in doing.  Even that was pretty slow.  Finally she could barely walk.  She fell off our bed in the middle of the night and I started having to carry her down the stairs so she could go to the back yard.  I had been preparing myself emotionally for quite a while.  At 15, how much longer could I expect to have her?  But it was surprising how quickly her health fell off.  As I watched her over the last few months, I couldn’t help wondering if this was what life would be like if all this McDougall and Esselstyn stuff worked as advertised.  Watching that endless bundle of energy become a tottering senior canine who seemed to require all her energy for each step was too much and we made the decision that has caused me all this grief.

For last  or 5 days she looked very much as she does in this picture. Even to the end.  The joie de vivre had completely left her.  I sensed that there would be no return from this dark chasm.

Magic near the end.

I’ve never second guessed the decision.  And I don’t now.  I can’t believe she would have wanted to suffer in pain for another 6 months or a year as her condition continued to worsen. There’s no cure for old age.  But I have been feeling inconsolable since she is gone.  I was trying to understand why and I reached a conclusion.  It felt similar to when my dad died.  I was only 16 and it was the first significant loss I would ever experience.  You know how, in the days following,  you’ll be carrying on an internal conversation thinking to yourself, “That’s interesting; I have to tell {} ( in that case, my dad) about that,” and then, in the next millisecond, you realize you’ll never get the chance to do that.  Then your heart  kind of sinks quickly.  That’s the kind of experience I’ve been having with Magic; all the little things that we did together, and each one reminds me of the loss.  Another similarity that came to me last night is that, if I’m being true to myself,  my dad and that dog were the only creatures who really rejoiced in the fact that I existed.  I’ve had a great life, with close friends, a better wife than I probably deserved and a better son than my dad had, but I  can’t say that any of them felt so joyful about the fact that I was here sharing our lifetimes.  I’m sure there are plenty of reasons for that.  I wouldn’t necessarily have thought it about my dad, even, except that one night while my son was in bed I had the sudden realization that he had no idea of how lucky he was because of the life we were providing him.  And it didn’t matter one whit.  I was so incredibly happy that he was a part of my life that it didn’t matter how big a pain in the ass he was.  I was certain my dad felt the same way about me at 11. And I realized at the very same time that everything we love; people, jobs, pets;  are  a pain in the ass too,  but it is that pain that makes life worth living.   And when my relationship with them concludes I always worry about how much I  gave for them.  In the case of my dad I knew it was not enough.  I was a stupid kid.  How could I know what I was losing?  But in the case of Magic I tried my best.  I often got the complaint from those close to me that I treated her too well, and them not well enough.   So I feel I must have given as much as I could to her.

Now I am in this mode of job searching and finishing Coursera MOOCs.  You’d think I’d be too busy to dwell on the horror of it, but it will take quite some time to adapt to the loss of someone who gave so much and demanded so little.  During the frequent times that I find myself in the doghouse, henceforth I will be there alone.

Adieu, my dear friend.

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