“Dog’s lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” –Agnes Sligh Turnbull
There’s a brand new, knackwurst-shaped hole in the Steggy family where our lumpy old Staffy used to fit. Lucy, our beloved canine support staff of 14 years, reached the end of the line last night. She was struggling too hard, and her demise was becoming increasingly hard to watch.
Encroaching deafness and blindness made her flinch when we touched her ears, which was heart-breaking, coming from this lovely girl who normally dissolved into fits of ecstasy when scratched.
When she couldn’t find me, she’d whimper and carry on like a neurotic cow. Her nails clicked ticky-ticky-ticky on the hardwood floors as she hunted me, the object of her solace, down.
Housework sends me up and down the stairs a lot—to grab a load of laundry, replace the toilet paper roll, empty the bins. Luc would struggle half way up only to find me already coming back down. She’d grunt (and I swear she’d roll her eyes), turn around, and heft herself back down—only to find me heading back up again. It was for exasperating for both of us.
First thing in the morning, stiff and creaky, her legs would muddle up into a constipated moon dance. The dicky knee would give out and she’d fall over, a marooned white walrus flailing on the carpet.
For the past few years, her lameness turned my morning walks into a combo act of espionage and high treason. Sneaking out without being seen was the aim. My walks, which used to be our walks, made her go troppo—a half an hour of unstoppable mourning howls and frantic panting to be endured by anyone in the house neighbourhood.
Advice columnist Ann Landers makes a valid point about dogs’ opinion of their owners. “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.” No worries there, Ann. Lucy loved me right to the tip of her slightly kinked tail, but I’m fairly sure I didn’t deserve half of it.
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” –Roger A Caras
So, tonight, for the first time, I write doglessly. My sweet canine muse is no more, and I miss her, even her fouling of the air and fitful snoring at my feet.
A Literary Post Script
Putting down your pet is awful. Like, in the list of Truly Awful Tasks Grown-Up Have To Do, it tops even emptying the goop from the drain basket in the kitchen sink, handling chicken fat, and un-stuffing clogged toilets. Our vet, the inimitable Doca Leigh (as Lucy called her), was a gentle, wise guide through a heart-breaking process.
How’s this for a sweet touch? While Doca Leigh was prepping Lucy with a cannula, we found propped in the window of the consultation room a gorgeous children’s book, Peter Bently’s The Great Dog Bottom Swap, which tells the story behind (pardon the pun) canine bum sniffing. It gave my heart reprieve and made me giggle—even in that sorry, truly awful situation.
Written by Peter Bently and illustrated by Mei Matsuoka
Andersen Press (May 10, 2010)