Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘Dogs’

Island

 

On the move

On the move

A dog’s life and family are a strange thing.

Taken from their mother and siblings, and raised by a different species.

Humans have ring after ring of other humans around them. Offspring, relations, parents, family.

A dog is an island in a sea of humans.

For those who may be lost at sea, the island is hope, a respite, solid ground.

A salvation.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

One Step of Our Journey

This is the third of a 3-part journal entry. To follow the story from beginning to end, read The Call, and The Longest Ride (ACZ Archives, November 2014) prior to reading this post.  – Paz

First Frost

First Frost

Our journeys together have the power to overcome that endless river, the cosmic clockworks, time itself. Our lives are filled with memories of moments. Each of these, like a snapshot, a sound bite, can be recalled repeatedly, at will. It is the essence of timelessness. It is the attainment of immortality, in a manner, in that we each live on in the hearts and minds and lives of others, long after our imminent demise.

This I have learned from my grandfather, the original “Pop Pop”. From my sainted mother, Marie Lillian. From a few others that have gone before me. Their faces, their voices, their smiles are engraved in my memories. They have shaped me and continue to do so. Every so often you may hear a little New Jersey in my pronunciation. You may be showered with proverbs credited to my grandfather. “My grandfather always said…”

This day, my journey with my beloved dog of nearly fourteen years, Chuy, brings us to the Veterinary Clinic, following a sudden onset of a loss of control over his legs. Unable to stand without assistance, unable to walk without careening side-to-side like a drunken man, this appointment is one I sorely dread. What is the prognosis for an old dog that can’t walk? I couldn’t say the words out loud to the receptionist.

“I’ll wait outside in the van with Chuy.”, I told the kind woman with the saddened face sitting behind the desk.

Why is this tale fitting for Armchair Zen entries?

More than any time in my life I felt an inner calm, an inner peace, a sort of “knowing”. I find it difficult to express. Here was one of the dearest things in my world facing the real end, yet I felt prepared to move through this. Yes, it saddened me. Yes, in spite of years of stumbling down the zen path, I still felt some impending loss. Still, it was not a fear of loss. Not a sense of longing for past days, nor so much the feeling that something big and important, a constant through so many years, was to be taken from us forever.

There seemed, somehow, to be a natural ending occurring. A shuttering of sorts, akin to the putting-away of domestic things in preparation for winter.

These things are not gone or ended forever. They are squirreled away in storage quarters, or buried beneath the frozen soil, or in some cases, standing right where they’ve stood all year, but now without foliage or flower.

Vernal equinox brings that which fades into Autumnal equinox. The book of moons remains unchanged. Such is the way of all things.

Doctor Durie walked out the front door of the vet clinic. He had that concerned Doctor look on his face. Not the “it’s great to see a happy dog for another well-check.”, nor the caring half-smirk of “So, he didn’t learn from the first porcupine, eh?”. But the look of “Oh [sigh]. What do we have here?”.

I described the symptoms robotically. He can walk, but has no balance, falls over. His eye is twitching. His head is tilted to the right constantly. Maybe a stroke?

“Strokes are extremely rare among dogs,” Doctor Durie stated. Kind of him to share, but that didn’t help me. He picked up Chuy’s head, listened to his heart.

Doctor Durie patted Chuy’s head. Then he looked me in the eye, poker-faced.

“He’ll get over it.” the doctor concluded.

“What? Seriously?” I nearly shouted. I was dumbstruck, elated, confused, anxious. I hugged my dear puppy.

“It’s vestibular syndrome,” Doctor Durie stated, and went on to explain how tubes balance air pressure between the two ears, affecting balance. A tube or vestibule stops working on one side and their balance is shot. “He’ll learn to compensate for it. A few days to a few weeks. There may be some permanent change, but he’ll be okay.”

I paid the nominal vet bill. “Best twenty-five bucks I’ve spent all year!” I said to the happy-faced receptionist. Glee all around, for the receptionist, for Doctor Durie, for me. Chuy wasn’t all that gleeful, but if he could have understood the conversation, he’d be gleeful in his heart.

One more step in our wonderous journey together. A reprieve, however brief!

It would be a few days before Chuy could really walk on his own without bouncing off of my leg every third step or so. Today, more than four weeks after I first received that startling call that Chuy had collapsed, he’s almost back to his old pace.

He retains a crooked head, cocked slightly to the right almost always. If he shakes his head as dogs are wont to do, he sometimes staggers afterward. I think his hearing is worse than before, and his dog-tracking is off a bit (his rear paw doesn’t land where his forepaw was lifted while walking, as has been the case hitherto.)

Day two of his ambulatory recovery, we pressed, both of our old, less-than-perfect selves, to walk the trail all the way to the top of Nishan Hill, as we had done hundreds, perhaps thousands of times before. Our place of reverence and serenity, our hilltop cathedral.

“The longest journey begins with a single step.” says an old proverb. There is only one journey for each of our conscious minds, and it is our lifespan here on Earth. The single step is forgotten long ago. It was a day in 1960, when my mother’s beaming smile let go of my hand that first time, that moment.

She knew what she was doing. She didn’t want to let go of her baby. For me, it was the first, single step.

For her, it was but one step of our journey.

 

Back on Top

Back on Top

 

Be at peace,

 

Paz

The Longest Ride

This is the second of a 3-part journal entry. To follow the story from beginning to end, read The Call prior to The Longest Ride (November 2014). The third part is One Step of Our Journey (December 2014). -Paz

Hilltop Cathedral

Hilltop Cathedral

Yesterday the call came. My dear, thirteen-plus year-old canine companion had collapsed. He was conscious, but couldn’t stand or walk, and a rhythmic twitching of one eye gave us dread, this must be the end of our trail. I stroked and cuddled my pup, and reminded him that he was the best ever before retiring, expecting him to pass silently in the night.

I awoke to find Chuy in the same state as the night before. His eye still twitching, unable to walk, nearly unable to lift his head.

I was prepared to sit a death-bed vigil. Discussing it with my wife, we had to admit that a dog that couldn’t walk would have no quality of life. If I sat a vigil for Grandpa, it could be weeks. At least one could sponge-bathe him. Not so with a dog. “There needs to be some dignity.”, I remarked, knowing what that meant in dog-ownership world. “I’ll need to call the vet now.”

I put it off for a while this morning. After thirteen years together, these last hours seemed utterly precious, invaluable. Once I call the vet, there will be an appointment time. An ending time. A curfew.  For me, it was as if that time would be midnight at the executioner’s.

I helped Chuy up, (actually, lifted him to his feet) and guided him out to his favorite hedgerow where he could relieve himself. Unable to stand, he stumbled in the tangled undergrowth, fell to his shoulder, and emitted a small cry. Three things he would never have done two days ago. It was heartbreaking to see such a coordinated, strong, active athletic dog reduced to this, and no doubt unable to understand any of it.

There was some small glimmer of hope as I called the Vet Clinic, made an appointment for two-fifteen. I thought perhaps we’d discover some strange malady, a fungus on the brain, some kind of allergic reaction, a reaction to poison, perhaps he found and drank automobile coolant. I grasped at any straw of hope.

Now I was forced to decide: How would Chuy spend his last hours at home?

Outdoors. No doubt. We went out, but were unable to walk around because he was so unsteady. I’m guessing it saddened him as much as it did me, as that’s always been our modus operandus. If I calculated it, it would be thousands of hours outdoors. Walking, flying R/C planes, fishing, riding to the store.

Unable to go much further, he settled on the grass just at the end of the driveway, one of his familiar posts. I suppose this is exactly what he’d want, I thought to myself. There’s no bucket list, and there’s nothing better than lying in that grass, sniffing the scents that waft through the air, keeping an eye on the neighbors and bunnies. That’s just where he’d be sitting on the hundreds of occasions when I pulled in the driveway after work, waiting for me.

Finally, the hour struck, and it was time for us to leave this place. It’s the strangest feeling to know we’re leaving, and one will never return. I carried Chuy to the van, laid him on his personal car blanket, held his water dish under his snout so he could drink.

We had to stop for gas at the convenience store. Stewart’s is the real name, but for a decade or more we’ve called it The Snack Store. Every Saturday, we’d load the trash up for the transfer station, and Chuy would leap into the back seat. He’d ride to the “dump”, the post office, and finally, The Snack Store. In his younger days he’d have a chili dog. As we aged together, that switched to Slim Jim and Teriyaki Beef Steak jerky. Folks in the store knew him, and knew the snacks were not for me. I couldn’t leave without getting him a jerky snack. To my surprise, he ate the whole thing down in usual fashion, lying on the floor of the mini van.

We arrived at the vet’s office, and I left him in the van, checked in with the receptionist.

“Chuy’s here, but can’t walk. I could carry him in if necessary.”

“We’ll see if the doctor can see him out there.” said the receptionist. “What are we hoping to do?” she asked in a knowing fashion.

“Well, whatever the doctor recommends, I guess.” We both knew, but didn’t want to say it.

It’s so strange, this place in time. Mercy killing. We’re not allowed as humans. Not allowed to stem the suffering of loved ones. We’re not even allowed to choose our own” time of departure”. Suicide they call it. It’s illegal. But somehow when it comes to pets, or dogs or horses, even deer and moose that have been injured gravely, we are expected to be able to “euthanize” them. It’s killing. You’re going to suggest I should agree to let you kill my dog. My precious puppy.

I waited outside with Chuy, in the van. Sat beside him and talked to him. What do you say to one of your dearest friends when you don’t want him to know what comes next? Death in a strange place. At least it was not entirely among strangers, though my wife stayed home, unable to face this. I wished there was a way this could be done at home. Thirteen years is a long time together. He’s helped “raise” five grandchildren.

I remembered an episode of The Incredible Dr.Pol, a series about a veterinarian, where a woman with an ailing horse received the sad news, this was a terminal situation. Dr.Pol administered an anesthetic, saying the horse would go to sleep peacefully, after which another injection would quietly end its days.

The woman to whom the horse belonged said, tearfully, that it is so hard to say goodbye after thirty years together. Thirty years. I’ve never owned a horse, but know they’re highly intelligent, and develop relationships with horse people akin to that of dogs with dog people. Thirteen years is hard enough for me.

It was important to me that I smile and speak in soft tones. Talk about the everyday as I did with my mother on her death-bed. This thing I must do for Chuy, not to him.

This hardest thing at the end of this longest ride.

It is a solemn duty, one from which I wouldn’t shirk.

He would do no less for me.

 

Next time: One step of our journey.

 

Be at peace,

My furry friend,

And all those who give their fragile hearts

to love.

 

Paz

The Call

This is the first of a 3-part journal entry. Read The Longest Ride (November 2014) followed by One Step of Our Journey (December 2014) for the rest of the story. -Paz

My puppy

My puppy

I identify myself as a “dog person”. This must be understood as a preface to this entry. To many folks, a dog is a fine pet. To dog people, they’re barely a notch below children as members of our family, the beings we choose to love. I have had the privilege of having dogs accompany me in my journey throughout my entire life.

This one, Chuy, is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime canine companion. I’ve known many dogs, but none such as he. He’s very loving, smart, well-behaved (mostly), and has become the neighborhood dog. We live in the country, and he has always known total freedom to come and go as he pleased. He heads across the road to Tom & Lynn’s house, where they feed him hot dogs at their cookouts. He meanders up the road a piece to Mike & Michelle’s, and they were delighted when they could finally get him to come into their home.  If you’re a regular reader of ACZ, you know many entries include Chuy, and our lives together.

Last Wednesday I received the call.

“You’d better come home.” my wife said solemnly. “I think Scoob’s had a stroke.” (While my name for him has always been Chuy, others know him by the name my son gave him: Scooby Doo. Scoob for short. Scoober as the neighbors call him.)

At thirteen and-a-half years old, I can’t say I haven’t thought about the end of our trail together. In a way, though on the brink of tears, I was relieved in some sense that this end would come in a natural and peaceful fashion at home.  Not some terrible calamity, such as being hit by a car. (To understand my devotion to Chuy’s right to liberty, including the crossing of the ever-dangerous road, see ACZ archives Reply to a Senior Samurai, October 2013).

When I arrived home, Chuy was in the kitchen, lying beneath the kitchen table, one of his favorite spots. A typical greeting would include his trotting over to me, tail wagging, or perhaps walking slowly if he’d just arisen from an afternoon nap. Dog people know how a dog expresses emotion. Taffy actually smiled, as I’ve seen a few other dogs do. They imitate humans by pulling up their noses to bare their front teeth. It’s fun if you’re lucky enough to experience it. It’s scary to strangers, as they think your dog has rabies.

This evening, Chuy did not give me his happy face. In fact, he didn’t even lift his head as I knelt beside him to kiss the top of his furry head. His left eye twitched, highlighted by the eyebrow mark on his fur. He could not stand.

We’re never ready to say goodbye.

I was glad for Chuy that, in spite of this strange occurrence that must place him somewhere between confused and scared, he was in his own home with his favorite people. I spent a long time lying on the floor beside him, reminding him that he had done a great job, how he was the best puppy ever.

It saddens me that we can’t explain things to our animal friends. This is the Vet, you’ll be okay. You’re recovering from anesthesia, which is why the world is swimming. I’ll help you ambulate, and you’ll be okay. Thunder can’t hurt you, you must know by now, after all these years. I’m here, you’ll be okay.

Tonight I could not tell my fuzzy friend that he would be okay. Well, maybe I could. Maybe I did. Truth is, while dying and leaving and death and illness are scary or even painful sometimes, once we’re past that, everything is okay. At least for the one leaving.

It was with a heavy heart that I kissed the top of Chuy’s head and said “Good night, good puppy.”. We couldn’t know for sure where we were headed tonight, tomorrow, but we expected Chuy would leave us, silently in the night. What more could any of us hope for?

I slept on the couch so I wouldn’t be far away if he sniffed for me or perhaps cried out. I didn’t want to go to a bedroom where he would be unable to do so.

A great calm overtook me. Not that I wasn’t saddened or heartbroken. Anxious about what the morning would bring. But this is what we do. For our animals, for each other. I’ll put on my brave face, I will smile for you. Whatever needs to be navigated now, I will do so with clear and sober devotion.

I could feel a change in my world already, and knew that when we greeted tomorrow’s sunrise, things would be irreversibly different.

It was a quiet and uneventful night. In the morning, light would streak through the windows of a silent home. There would be no jingling tags on a collar. There would be no wet nose waking me.

Next time: The Longest Ride.

 

Be at peace,

All beings with hearts.

Human animals, and otherwise.

 

Paz

 

 

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