Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Long Farewell ... It's Not Quite Time

Those closest to me know that the last two weeks have been extremely trying. My 13.75 year old Westie, Mac, is failing rapidly. He has been increasingly restless and uncomfortable. Throughout his little life, he has had periodic skin and ear infections, and recently, these have been slow to relent in spite of various vet-recommended treatments and holistic remedies.

Keeping the dog comfortable has been my main goal for the last couple of months. Last Friday, after three nights of Mac scratching himself and pacing the floor for the better part of each night, I had to break the news to my daughter that I felt we should put him out of his misery.

After seeing Mac over the weekend, Angie agreed with my assessment. "I don't want him to suffer," she said bravely. Her childhood pet was lethargic and uncomfortable on Sunday. She was here all day and only got him to play for a few minutes. The rest of the time Mac slept or laid down in some discomfort.

Angie arranged to take today off work so we could take Mac to be put to sleep. Her husband was not working today as well. I was available since I'm not working. The three of us had planned to take him together. But the best laid plans were not to be, not this day.

Oddly enough, Mac rose from his sick bed early, at 7 am, whereas lately he's been sleeping in til noon or 1 pm. He was alert and interacted with Nate and Angie as soon as they arrived. He walked around the house, went outside a few times, and ate breakfast, lunch, and a snack. He was a happy little guy, even wagging his tail for the first time in about a week. The transformation almost left me speechless. It was as if he was a different dog than he'd been for the last ten or so days.

We discussed and debated for a couple of hours. In the end, we cancelled the appointment because none of the three of us felt good about taking an extra perky, happy dog to be put to sleep. "Stay home and enjoy your dog," said the kind woman at the pet clinic.

We acknowledged it won't be long before our final goodbyes are said. We are all emotionally exhausted. Mac is weak and has developed a twitch that ripples through the top third of his little body. His hind legs are failing. But today was not the day for Mac's final farewell. He still had a few things to say to the girl he loves best. He made his "self satisfied" noise when he sat on her lap, and put his paw up on her leg to let her know he wanted her to pet him. Just like the good old days, before Angie moved away to live with her husband, Nate.
Maybe this is a long-shot but my personal theory is Mac didn't want Angie to see him off to the Rainbow Bridge, that place where pets go to await the arrival of their owners after this life. Mac and Angie forged a special relationship at Mac's puppy-hood and it has grown from there. I read this week that although Westies are sociable animals and relate well to most people, they do have a favorite human. I'm sure Angie was his favorite. Mac didn't want his favorite human to experience any pain or sadness. He wanted her to remember him as loving and loyal and strong as ever. And I am sure she will.

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