The dog has been incontinent since Wednesday – without warning he just stands up and goes — and since he does not move at all it is doubtful he got into anything. After an awful, disgusting incident Sunday morning, we are keeping him outside until we can gt him to the vet after the holiday weekend… That aside, he rarely seems happy anymore – he hates going outside to go to the bathroom, has his ears down all the time, and really only shows excitement at meal time and occassionally when someone appears. He hasn’t been able to get up the stairs to lay next to us in the TV room for months (he loved laying next to us in the TV room before his hips go out). Sometimes, he doesn’t get up when someone is at the door or even wag his tale and left his head when he gets pets. And Wife M and Daughter L are starting to think of him as less than enjoyable, what with eating his own poop if he is left unattended and incontinence and overall dementia… I think he is happy 5-10% of the time and pretty miserable over 90% of his waking hours… In short, I think it is time to strongly think about putting him down… I’ve never enjoyed owning dogs — they are a lot of work (and I do most of it) and don’t bring me a lot of joy although I love them and consider them part of the family. I don’t feel badly about this – I can’t help how I feel, and I take care of them (I give them pets, I feed them, I pick up their poop and often am the only one to take them for a walk) and the family more than covers for me in the dog love departmentent. But I don’t like the slobber and the panting and the mess and the smell. Luckily, I am not mean to them, and as I said the rest of the family truly adores them, so it is all good. But that said, it is emotional to think of putting the dog down. As I said before, he is part of the family. But is it fair to let him be miserable? I don’t think so. And I truly hope that in the decades to come that if/when I am in a state of dementia my family has the courage — and the legal right — to let me go.
I am pretty certain that if our 12 year old yellow lab were human right now, he’d be wandering around the neighborhood in his pajamas and slippers, he is that confused. Which reminds me of the time my elderly great uncle was playing cards with us when I was 19 or 20 – he was slightly confused during game play, so to tease him I turned my cards around so he could see them, knowing he’d still give me the cards I needed (we were playing gin or 31 or something where one player can benefit from an opponent’s discards). Sure enough, my uncle discarded a card that I needed to win and the table erupted with laughter as I won. I feel badly about that now, 30 years later, watching our confused old dog – it is mean, even in good spirits, to tease someone who is old and confused. We should feel nothing but sympathy for them, and soon enough that will be me (if I am lucky enough to live that long).
Everyone says this, but you never truly believe you’ll ever be in your 40s. And you certainly never believe you will look at 31 years since your senior year in high school. It feels like yesterday, although I havent seen most of my class since graduation (I’ve skipped the reunions, although I enjoyed high school – waht is the point?). Some day soon I will (hopefully) say, I can’t believe I am in my 80s. The sad part is, when I was a teen I *never* thought I’d be as old as 40 (that was an eternity away) but now at 49 I can definitely see 80 on the horizon.
P was a kid from another neighborhood but who’d we bump into from time to time in sports. THere were a million such kids who were long ago forgotten but P was memorable because he was a plus-sized kid (had metabolic issues) who was a fantastic athlete. He scored every point on his basketball team because of a deadly shot and hit long home runs in little-league baseball. When we were adults we played softball with him; he was still plus-sized and still a great athlete – he was a great infielder and hit long towering home runs once or twice every game. Later, he helped lead another team to a state softball championship… He wasn’t a happy-go-lucky guy, but *was* easy going and pleasant to be around, and I never remember him being angry or frustrated, not once… Just learned he is battling cancer that is likely terminal. Bleh. And double bleh.
Our 11-year-old yellow lab T has started getting up at random intervals during the night and walking up and down the stairs before settling back down outside our room. What is going through his mind when he does this? I’m not sure. But a funny new quirk in that funny, quirky dog… 🙂
Our 11 year old lab T is flat out old. Not on-the verge-of-death-not-knowing-where-he-is kind of old, but unpleasantly old. For example, he used to lay at Wife M’s feet, his legs tucked beneath him, his head resting on one paw, lifting his head alertly if anything caught his attention but otherwise silent and still. Now, he lays at Wife M’s feet, his four legs splayed out on either side, his head plopped on the ground, smacking his lips with an occassional belch that seems to come from an unspeakably deep place in his digestive system. The entire display is quite unpleasant, and kills my appetite for breakfast 🙂
When we left for vacation 3 weeks ago, our lab was old but reasonably functional. But in the three weeks we were gone, he aged an awful lot. He barely gets up anymore, even for food, and is having a difficult time finding his food bowl and gets confused that it is okay to eat. In the three weeks, it is like he went from an old person who is a little confused at times to drooling in a wheelchair. He was loved in our absence (our son and our dog-crazy friend watched him) and exercised daily during that time, but it is like the character said in The Sun Also Rises, it happened gradually then suddenly. So it seems to be with our dog’s aging. Poor guy.
Am feeling a little guilty I didnt spend more time with my grandpa at the end of his life, but just remembered something that helps me feel a little better…
In 1982, two years after my grandma died, my grandpa married the widow of a co-worker who had died a few years before. The marriage was a good one – it helped two lonely people who missed their spouses have companionship at the end of their lives, and in fact it helped my grandpa turn away from the booze he’d taken to after my grandma passed.
Fast forward to 2008. Seattle is having a rare extended snow event. There is a foot of snow (give or take) on the ground, it is literally below freezing, and the snow is expected to last a week. I am obsessive about watching the weather, so we were well prepared for the snow, but halfway through the second day my wife said, “I wonder how your step grandma is doing? SHe might be stranded.”
Now, I have not talked to my step grandma in perhaps 5-10 years, and at this time she was in her 90s. She was a bit of a hermit (not in a bad way), and my grandpa had passed 14 years before. I always liked her, and got along with her, but we were not close by any stretch. So my call to her must have seemed completely random to her. “How are you doing with the snow?” I asked her. “Do you need anything?”
“My delivery service couldn’t make it yesterday,” she said. “So I could use some groceries.” She gave me a list of perhaps 20 items, so I put chains on the car, we packed up the family, and made the trip to the store then the 30-minute trip (60-minutes in the snow) to her house. She was very grateful, and we spent an hour visiting with her before returning back to our home and playing in the snow. It was a wonderful day, all things considered.
So I’ve been feeling a little sad today, but this memory brightens me a little bit. When we can;t tell someone who is gone how much we appreciate them, the best we can do is to extend a hand or a heart to someone they loved.
For a little under a dollar, I purchased a bouncy rubber ball, the size of a racquetball. Now every morning I take it with me on my walk, and it has made my walks so much more pleasant. Instead of thinking about random things, I just focus on that little ball, bouncing it to the ground and catching it again. Bounce, catch. Bounce, catch. Bounce, catch… Before I know it, my walk is over. Or, better yet, I’ve walked for miles more. This morning, I walked 3.5 miles and I swear it was not more than a minute-long walk. Very pleasant. And healthy. Like meditation without the effort of meditation 🙂
My wife found photos from son R’s (who is 18 now) 7th birthday, when we took a group of school friends bowling. The photos were adorable and hilarious – kids running up the lane, holding balls nearly as big as they are in some cases, gobbling pizza at a festive table… All the kids — who we still see from time to time except for the ones who are off to college — looked sooooo young. But gosh it seems like only yesterday.
When *I* was a high school kid looking at pictures from my 1st grade, I thought that was another lifetime, as that time had seemed like a whole ‘nother lifetime before.
Time really does accelerate when you are following your own kids’ lives. That was just (almost) 12 short years ago. In another 12 those kids will be nearly the same age many of us parents were that time. Wild.