When the Last Leaf Drops (a repost for a friend with a fading dog)

2.24.2009


so too will our girl. her hips cannot support her anymore. black coal eyes now stay wet with pain and awareness of the failure of her body. and yet she's still in it. she offers a wag and a little muffled woof so we aren't so alarmed. we know we have to put her down. have we rubbed and loved and given all we can? enough to let go? we did the acupuncture. the rimadyl. the petitions to St. Francis. little rubbery boots for traction.

colasped in the backyard this morning she laid among leaves of golden and red, and that beauty seemed to be a consolation prize for the sorrows of decay.

we got our pup when we had been dating only a few months and we have never known our life as a couple without her. she was the fiesty one of the litter; not the smallest or the largest. but the most engaged and active. she was pale yellow like a baby duckling and cried only the first night away from her mother.

she chewed a hose, a coach wallet, and ate an entire lawn chair. she ate the net that V drove golfballs into. what an explosive moment it was to come home and find that V had the pup wrapped in the destroyed net like a trapped rare animal. to teach her a lesson. and me, busting into the house, sword drawn, demanding an explanation: "why is the baby in a net?!?"

we broke her of digging by filling one of her holes with water and holding her head underwater until she was damn near drowned. after, she went to the far corner of the yard and faced away from us. and we went to our bed and cried like babies. she never dug again.



Eva loved baseball. our game, known as "hits and runs" worked like this: the playing field was the driveway and backyard. my job was to bat a tennis ball, make it bounce on the driveway and get it past her and into the grassy part of the yard. If she stopped the ball from reaching a certain spot in the yard, then that was a run for her. If i was able to get the ball past her it was a hit. If the ball didnt bounce on the driveway it was also run for her. She was a brilliant player and i worked hard to get those hits past her. you could never throw a ball and expect her to retrieve it. you always had to bat. two, three, four times a day, this game was played to exhaustion. as she rested and panted that tail circled endlessly in joyful triumph. and i think of that wide dog smile now and will take it with me until the last of my breath.

she would retrieve sticks from the creek all day long if you were willing. all the moments i cherish are flooding back to me as i write. there was the time when she was still a puppy and we camped at cooper's creek. V came up out of the creek with vines draped all over him and making the sound of a monster. eva ran to the truck and hid. later she would become an adventure loving animal; not so easily frightened though she would never be a tough dog. she would push through briars and hedges and have stickers in her fur at the end of the day.

there was the time she cut up her paw on an oyster bed in sarasota. the time the kong toy somehow got wedged in her mouth, propping it open so much that we almost couldn't get it out. her boyfriend Barney the wandering tramp of a golden retriever. jumping up on the tub and biting the bubbles from my bath. nosing around under the Christmas tree smelling her gifts. neighborhood children coming to the front door and asking if eva could come out and play. working as a team to drive bird killing kitties out of the yard.

learning how to open the back door by pulling a rag with her teeth. we showed her how to do it just twice, and she took to it readily. eva going out into the cold to get the paper as V and i watched from our warm home, coffee in hand. There was the time the cop drew his gun on her as she stalked down the driveway at him with her fur standing up on her back four inches high, all show and no bad intention. her speak and shake routine to amuse dinner guests. the lipoma the size of a turkey breast we had surgically removed. the first seizure. the first hip collapse. the beginning of the sorrows. just like that first cool morning - the glimpse of the fall and then, finally, the full force of winter.

now i will call the vet and arrange a house call. for this week? tomorrow? next week? it will be a civilized demise. none of the old school "florida way" where the dying dogs were taken out and shot in the back of the head. efficient and brutal and honest too. but that way isnt for us. she is too gentle, too soft, too yellow, too good, too smart, too important, too eva.

i can't pick her up anymore. i can't stop loving her either. we dont know what to do. we do know what to do. its confusing. shes better now, no wait she's fading again. the leaves are swirling all around. she's laying on a carpet in the kitchen watching the leaves and she will most of the day. tonight i will comb her to perfection. i will put a vision in my mind's eye and send it to her as a telepathic love letter. i will tell her she is the truest purest gift of creature a couple could ever have shared.

leaves and tears are falling but not for much longer.

44 comments:

  1. Dang it. stuff like this makes me cry, too. thinking about all the good dogs behind me.

    I let each pick their own 'place' if there's enough time.
    A few didn't have that time.

    Boneless chicken thighs, very little salt. That's what I would give them in the end.

    Sorry for the event.
    What great memories from the lifetime, though.

    ReplyDelete
  2. K9,
    What a generous thing to repost this for a friend in a tough place. I do not know how you could read it again and not suffer again as well.

    One day, if ever I can , I will maybe write my epic on nursing a beloved horse ,for months on end, trying my best to fight the odds and win not lose. But lose I did and, still I cannot speak of this time as my chest compresses, my throat constricts and the steam roller of grief flattens me.

    You have courage as well as generosity K9. Well done.

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  3. you were right.

    It is one of the best things you've written and I hope it brings our friend some peace.

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  4. boney: it is always a heartbreak but the summers are so glorious. may they sustain us through the winters and may we always bring to each new dog what we have gained by loving the preceding loves.

    fishy: i cant imagine how hard that must have been. i think with a horse, in many ways you are one. with a horse you ride you become part of that being -running with the wind -stronger and faster than you could ever be on your own. i am so sorry. i am sure what you would write would be lovely. and yes, my throat gets thick when i read what i wrote about eva. we still miss her terribly.

    boxer: i do too. i know this is a hard place to be. im sure what she is experiencing is what i describe in the last paragraph. it is a hard time and it cannot be avoided. as you well, and recently know.

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  5. Oh, man. This is beautiful. Now I am going to go hug the Ivanator and have a bit of a cry.

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  6. Such a beautiful life she's had! Big((hugs))to you friend.

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  7. That is so beautiful but so sad, now I'm crying...again.
    Lovely memories there of your life enriched by the presence of your beloved Eva...it is so very heartbreaking when we lose a pet, we never forget them.
    You know from our e-mails that I am a responsible cat owner and when I had to have my 14year old kitty put down, I held him and insisted that he was given a pre-med before the lethal injection, he didn't suffer at all just felt that he was going to sleep in his Mama's arms.
    So very sad, lovely of you to post this for your friend it must have been difficult.
    Bless you girl. ♥

    ReplyDelete
  8. Heartbreaking. Love and pain.

    Bless you and your friend.

    ReplyDelete
  9. You are a strong person for being able to post this. I am relating to you in many ways right now. I have a lab who is up there in years - and she is my heart. I love her more than I ever thought I could love a dog. (much more of a cat person) But everyday, her limping gets more and more pronounced. We didnt get her as a puppy - she was fully grown, and digging was/is her not-so-guilty pleasure. But there has been no digging lately. And as glad as I am not to fill up huge holes in the backyard, my heart sinks a little everyday there isn't a new hole because I know that her hips just aren't up to letting her have her pleasure.
    Bless you, my best wishes and comforting thoughts are being sent your way. May you find peace in this difficult decision.

    ReplyDelete
  10. You and V were as much of a gift and a treasure to her, as she was to you~ no one could write such things and it not be true.

    ReplyDelete
  11. moi: hugs for ivan is a good thing. losing love always makes one mindful of the present.

    dani: thank you. this has already happened. december 3, 2007. i reposted it for a friend who is struggling with her fading dog but thank you for the hugs. it still hurts so i appreciate it.

    dianne: it was hard. i did the same thing you did - had the give eva a valium shot first. oh but how hard it was to feel life leave. i miss her so much. and i am so sorry for your loss sweet dianne. i wish i could take away all the sorrowful things.

    jean: thank you so much. i really really miss my eva. but i made this one favorite painting of her that hangs over my bed so she watches over me.

    kmwthay: welcome to chickory. i know just how hard this time is for you. just cherish the good days as much as you can. labs are such big doers they feel odd when they dont have a game or a job. you know? im with you in spirit. thank you so much for your kind words. (eva has already died see comment to dani, above)

    anon: i sure hope so. we adored her so - it was the first dog V had had since his childhood. when we went to the vet to have her put to sleep he still kinda hoped she would say "look im going to give her this medication and she'll be fine" but no -she was drowning in her own fluid as her heart and lungs were filling. it was the right and only thing to do.

    ReplyDelete
  12. what a lovely tribute, k9 ..
    you know all pet owners can relate whether they've had dogs or cats.
    it reminds me of the passing of our first pet that we had together as a couple .. our black cat rosco ..
    who i watched decline slowly with kidney failure ..
    he still lives in my heart.

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  13. Anyone who's had a dog can relate to this post, and the sadness at the realization that a loved one is near the end. My best goes out to your friend.

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  14. oh my ... A beautiful tribute to beautiful Eva. It's been exactly one year and 32 days since I said goodbye to my big red boy Jake. My joy & comfort - my great big love. The year before that I said goodbye to my golden girl Em. Both lived to be a ripe old canine age but oh how they take a piece of you with them when they go. How you reel around for weeks in a daze of anger and sadness you miss them so much...you just want them back. Please. Miss D just turned 10 last month I noticed yesterday she's limping a little, she's getting old and the the thoughts of losing her too ...

    I've become afraid to adopt another dog. I'm afraid to love that much again. Thank you for writing this ...

    May we always bring to each new dog what we have gained by loving the preceding loves.

    I know I must learn to open my heart again.

    Much love, Susan, Miss D, Bleet, Oliver & the L'il Man

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  15. I'm such a dope! Sorry. :)

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  16. oh my heart is breaking for you...alicia

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  17. Still a beautiful tribute.

    We onc't had a fine black lab who lies now under the camellias. He never dug, never chewed a shoe, never met a stranger other than the one menace that raised his voice at me....He knew when yore heart were broke, an would lay his head on yore knees. He patrolled durin' the night and ya knowed thangs was safe. He was gentle when others brought they own wee pups. He would stretch out in the sun-warmed grass beside ya while ya looked up into the trees when the yellow finches came, an he licked the rim of mah cawfee cup fer the cream and sugar. ...and when his hind quarters began to fail he hung his head in shame, an we cried, huggin' his glossy neck, and promisin' him it weren't his fault. He licked mah tears away.

    I cain't think what creature gives so much in return fer so little as a fine dawg.

    Happy memories to yore friend wif a hurting pup.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I thank you the gift of beauty. For the gift of understanding. For the digital bearhug.
    Time for my tears, her pain and her time is finally done.
    For once the squirrels catch a break for one of their greatest enemies has left the field.

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