How Will I Know?

Dearest Rachel –

You’d probably think from the title of this post, along with my habit of adding music to various missives as appropriate, that you’d be hearing the strains of Whitney Houston by now.

Well, this isn’t that kind of topic; so… surprise?!

The thing is, as I’ve been struggling to keep up with an aging dog that you know I really didn’t want to deal with in the first place (but have no real choice, now that you’re gone – more on that later), there are those that have told me that “you’ll know” when it’s time to finally let go of him. Time to send him over the Rainbow Bridge to catch up with you, and join you and Crispin and Canny and Rufus and Sir Silk… all those dogs from your childhood (or, perhaps more accurately, those who considered you their sister – I mean, you were in your thirties when they got Sir Silk. Of course, I could argue your entire life was your childhood, and you wouldn’t contest that assertion, so there’s that).

Well, I’m going on record to say, at least thus far, that they’re wrong. I don’t know.

And maybe that’s because his time hasn’t yet come, so I wouldn’t know because I haven’t seen him in such a state that would make me think, “hmm… is he just tired and sore from living? Should I take him in to the vet for that final trip?”

But sometimes, I’m not so sure.

Like yesterday, at his water therapy session at Splash Dog. It probably wouldn’t surprise you to find out that he’s not particularly keen on it (if he knew he only had one more session, he might very well be overjoyed). He rarely is particularly active in the water, letting the girls drag him around the pool while his legs just float underneath him – although they do their best to try to get him to move both his front and back legs moving. He will whimper and whine occasionally throughout, but he’ll endure it more or less willingly.

Not so much yesterday. The whimpering and whining were almost constant this time around, and more than once, he would erupt into barking (Daniel insists that he ‘yelps’ rather than ‘barks,’ but I consider that a distinction without a difference. If you ask me, ‘yelps,’ ‘arfs,’ ‘woofs,’ and all the other typical noises qualify as subsets of the over concept of barking). Even the girls were surprised: “He’s never done that before… is he in pain or something?”

And I had to admit to them that I really couldn’t say. I just can’t tell if that means he’s getting worse, or if he’s just having a particularly bad day or something. And I just hate not knowing what he needs or wants, or what I can do about… whatever it is he’s going on about. They were sympathetic to my plight, but could offer no solutions but to schedule us for one last visit next week, for what it’s worth.

Meanwhile, I’d gotten a reminder on Saturday from the vet to schedule his annual check-up, including the usual rabies and distemper shots, as well as checking for heartworm and the like. Perhaps I should get an expert opinion as to whether he’s suffering from my efforts at keeping him going.

On the other hand, I get mixed messages from those I know. Ellen admits that, on the strength of his crossed legs alone, she might very well have put him down already, that his quality of life is past salvaging even now. Jan tells me that I probably shouldn’t bother with the annual check-up, considering it a waste of time and money. Maybe it is; again, I really don’t know.

What I do want to know is if certain restrictions have been lifted with regard to his veterinarian visits. Honestly, if when it comes down to it, what I don’t want to do is to just drop him off with the vet on that last day. If nothing else, I owe it to him to be there when he closes his eyes for the last time, so that he knows that – even if I could never bring myself to love him the way you did – I did my best to care for him as well as I could. And I hope that, should you think to be waiting for him when he crosses over, he’ll be able to let you know how hard I tried.

But I don’t know if he’s anywhere near that point. I keep getting told otherwise; does that mean he’s just not there yet? I mean, that’s great – we wondered if he would make it to spring, and he has; you wondered if he’d actually get through all of his sessions and, barring something truly unforeseen, he will – but it still leaves that moment looming in the not-so-far distance.

Will it be gradual, in steps so incremental that I’ll not even notice it? Will it be sudden, so that I might mistake it for another bad day like yesterday? Or will, God willing, his little doggie heart just stop in his sleep some night, so that he simply goes from one home to another? I can’t help but hope for that to happen.

But for now, I’ve got my hands full propping him up as he totters around the newly emptied rooms, wondering where to find purchase. And hoping he can squeeze a little more enjoyment out of the days he has remaining.

Until he sees you again.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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