Our companion of nearly fourteen years is dying. She has kidney disease and after ten days of subcutaneously injecting fluids four times a day it is getting increasingly difficult to find an area in the scruff of her neck in which to insert a needle. The vet says this is to be expected as her skin is becoming saturated, not to mention sore.
On Friday after blood tests showed an alarming increase in numbers in the relevant areas, all bad news, it was suggested the final injection be administered. I said Dog and I were going for a walk right then, to think. I called my husband who said, not today, it’s too soon. He was right.
We have spent the weekend injecting when, and what, we could. Sometimes 250cc of sodium chloride can take 25 minutes, sometimes 10. However long it takes it is horrid. Sometimes Dog quivers, other times she lies still for the most part, occasionally lifting her head as if to check for herself the slowly descending trickle from the bag hanging above her head. As the needle is removed, she stands, shakes and wags her tail in forgiveness before moving to another part of the apartment, away from our probing.
In between this indignity she mostly sleeps but when she wakes she does what she has always done. Check up on me – coming to my desk and nudging my knee demanding attention in the form of neck rub or a tummy tickle. If my husband is around she will amble off to find him and demand the same administrations. They are always forthcoming. Her normal modus operandi would be then to have a quick drink before resuming her post on her daybed, having checked the borders of her domain. Now she skips both.
After a month of eating the barest minimum, even with tidbits of cheese to tempt her, she stopped. We gave her an appetite stimulant which made her ravenous but also induced vomiting. I took her off it on Thursday and now, for some reason, she is eating of her own accord. Always a finickity eater she has let it be known over the last few days that only chicken or mince, with a little couscous, are acceptable morsels. Dog food of any variety is spurned.
Dog came to Africa with us on our last posting handling the long flight with aplomb and grace, and once there adapted quickly to her changed circumstances. She has always taken her role as family guardian seriously and alerted us one night to a man creeping into our bedroom on his belly. He played possum as she snarled a warning and set up a low continuous growl until she felt the master of the house had the situation under control. She then lay crouched at his side, nose on her paws ready to pounce at the slightest move from the unfortunate youth.
We have shared a bedroom in hotels across the breadth of the southern United States and when the sign said no dogs allowed she graciously slept in the car. She watched the sunrise over the east end of the Grand Canyon with us and her junior charges, our children. She drove with me from La Paz, Baja California to Houston, Texas – a road trip of five days and numerous stops by the La Guardia checking for drugs on the Mexican side of the border. As each case was tossed from the car and searched she would growl and strain at her leash warning the nervous and armed soldier not to even think of stepping near me.
She has boated with us, rounded us up in numerous oceans and lakes swimming in ever decreasing circles as she coralled us, her family into a manageable circle. The only thing she has ever fetched, despite years of trying, is a forbidden cricket ball in the middle of an inning but has wrestled, rolled and frolicked with the children for hours.
She has nurtured stray cats that have wandered into her world, sharing a bed and a bowl with the scrappy little bundles of fur until a home could be found for them, but has chased every squirrel, possum or raccoon that had the temerity to cross her path. She pined when our children moved away to be grown ups. She sulked when the suitcases come out for a holiday she sensed she had no part of. Dog has been known to turn her back on her master as he attempted to pet her before leaving on a business trip. He was forgiven the instant he returned from a day or a month on the road, as we all have been.
Right now she is at touch rugby. A normal Sunday outing for both her and my husband. He had not planned on taking her today. It is very hot and she is getting weaker but she would not be left, tripping him up as he made his preparations to leave without her. She wanders the perimeter of the pitch while he and a dozen or so French, Dutch, British and Australian men race around in the Houston humidity tossing an oval shaped ball up and down to their respective try lines. She is the official team mascot and proud of her role.
She has been my constant and utterly faithful friend; never telling tales of my foibles, never laughing at my idiosyncrasies. She has featured in my stories. She has danced with me and Tina Turner in my kitchen, and stayed by my side as I recuperated from back surgery. She has demanded attention and licked my tears, shed in private.
Dog has loved this family unconditionally and she has been a lesson in living life well. And now we must have the strength to say enough when over the next few days her energy ebbs and her eyes dull. We owe her that.