Friday, February 15, 2013


Happy old girl with new toy Sweet Marley is gone. She was 13. Her health had been failing for the past several months. There was a recommendation for surgery last fall. It would have been expensive, and we would have had to take her to a specialist clinic. And there was no guarantee that it would be successful. We opted for comfort care. The cooler winter weather eased her symptoms a bit, and she seemed to be reasonably comfortable. But over the past few weeks, troubling new symptoms started, and even though she could still eat, walk, and yes, wag her tail, the vet advised us to let her go sooner than later, before she truly started to suffer. So we did.

I wanted Marley to be euthanized at home. Unlike Boomie, who always loved a ride in the car, and was happy to see the doctors and staff even after his amputation, Marley hated going to the vet. She would tremble and pant, and she always tried to hide under the chairs in the waiting room and the exam room. So I decided that my final gift to her would be to allow her die at home. It is a decision that I will never regret.

I think you must have to be a special kind of person to have a job involved with death and dying, and to do that job while also giving comfort to the loved ones. The euthanasia vet was most definitely this kind of special person. She was soft-spoken and gentle. She took time to get acquainted with Marley and to talk to me. She made sure all my questions were answered. She made sure I didn't feel rushed. She brought with her a little kneeling stool and a backpack full of supplies, and she worked quietly beside Marley's bed. Calm, deliberate, unhurried, yet with an efficiency that bespoke an art well practiced. Marley was never afraid. As sad as it was, it was also very peaceful.

So now I am dogless for the first time in about 19 years. There is a sense of freedom, in a way. No more dog poop to pick up. No more worrying about being home by a certain time for her. But there is a cruel side effect that my brain still expects to do those things. I have put away her water bowls, but I still look to see if they need re-filling. I watch the clock for feeding time. I watch the hallway expecting her to come trudging out. I am surprised, after two days, by the sight of food crumbs on the kitchen floor, because there is no dog to come along at regular intervals to vacuum them up.

I do not, however, expect to be dogless for too long. I hope to wait long enough to have our back yard fence replaced. It's 20 years old, and pretty rotten in places. It was adequate for the last few years of having old dogs, but might not hold up against a younger, more active one. And I'd like to take a trip, a weekend getaway at least, without the guilt of leaving a new dog. Those things may happen. Getting another dog, preferably through rescue, will happen, hopefully by summer.

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