Monday, December 05, 2011

An Apology To Annie

Shelby died in August of 2000 at the age of 13 or so. Our family will always gauge dogs by Shelby’s example. He and Dean grew up together and were best friends. He was a beautiful, well-behaved collie with a remarkable skill at understanding human speech and intentions. We knew that he was not the sort of dog you could replace, so we didn’t. For a while.

After that while, I missed having a dog around. Not long after we moved across the river to Vancouver, I started volunteering at the Humane Society here, feeding and walking the castoffs. I didn’t want any doggie leftovers until Annie came in. I thought Shelby was the only collie to ever find itself at a dog pound, but here was not only a collie, but a rare smooth collie, with a delicate, feminine look and one floppy ear, maybe four years old (it’s hard to tell for sure with strays). And she was so quiet and sad. I couldn’t just leave her there. So she came home with us.


It turned out that it was not just the loud, desperate atmosphere of the dog kennel that made Annie quiet and sad. She was just quiet. And sad. And chronically exhausted. And embarrassed at having to go to the toilet while there were people watching. And unable to go to the toilet at all if it was raining. Or the grass was wet. And liable to run away in a panic if the door was left open. And a little leaky. We had to give her medicine in an attempt to shore up her weak bladder. It was never really 100% effective. And after a first, growly encounter, terrified of Coco the Basement Cat. If ever Coco felt that Annie’s fear level was waning, she would jump out from behind a corner and hiss-and-bat enough to send Annie back to bed for the day.


I took her for a walk every day. At first, I would have to take the leash to her bed, put it on, and lead her outside. It wasn’t long before she would wait at the door for her daily walk. She seemed to enjoy it (although she never smiled), until I took up running. Halfway through a (very moderate) run, she would lay down. I took her to the vet because I thought there must be something drastic wrong with her, but it turns out that lying down was just her way of refraining from running.



A couple years later when we brought a young Scotty (our third and FINAL collie) home from the Humane Society, Annie spent the first three days in bed in a pout, but Scotty’s bouncy attitude eventually won her over. Annie learned so much about how to be a dog from Scotty it made me wonder from what sort of puppy-mill situation she had escaped in her former life. OR she could have just been dropped on her tiny head. Whichever it was, Scotty’s normal-dog behavior brought home to us how odd Annie was and how we had just accepted her bed-ridden lethargy and blank looks as normal.


Annie has always acted like an old dog, and now she was a genuinely old dog. She had several illness scares over the years - barfing attacks, bloody diarrhea, spells of arthritis that left her even more immobilized than usual - but we always knew that her bladder would go first. It had been getting increasingly difficult to control. We kept upping her dosage of her medicine with no improvement. This summer, we couldn’t take her with us anywhere. If she didn’t barf, she left puddles behind everywhere she went. Our house was increasingly smelling like a kennel. By September, I was mopping up little wet spots and washing her bed cover every morning.


Drew had been threatening for the last couple of years, when she got particularly ill or drippy, to put us all out of our misery, but there is a big difference between saying and doing, when doing means stopping a heart. Even if that heart was inside a mopey, arthritic, senior dog who left a trail of urine like a foul-smelling dotted line everywhere she slowly went. One morning in September, after I filled the washer again with urine-soaked towels and her bed cover before leaving for work, Drew said “I’m making an appointment to take her in.” And instead of “not yet,” I said “okay.”


It was not okay, and it was not the right thing to do, but it is what we did. I couldn’t fix Annie. She was broken long before we were introduced, and I couldn’t stop her further deterioration. But I could have allowed her to deteriorate at her own pace. Washed more beds. Stood in the rain with her while she fought the urge to pee in the wet grass. But I didn’t. And for that I am sad and sorry.

Annie’s Final Appointment turned out to be the day I spoke about below - the day Coco died. That’s right. Two pets. One vet. One day of awful and icky. That was in September, and I am just now able to talk about it without Kleenexes handy. And as I write this, Scotty is curled up in the dining room, in Coco’s old favorite spot.

END OF PET EULOGIES HERE.

2 comments:

hedera said...

We do what seems like the right thing at the time, and sometimes later we look back and wonder if it really was. But I've never figured out a way to go back and do it over. I'm so sorry you had to go through all this.

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