Getting Through It

16 Mar

My almost 17-old-dachshund Justin died two days ago. It was heart-wrenchingly sad having to be the one to make the decision that it was his time to move onto the next chapter.

But today I feel more relief than sadness. In reality, Justin hadn’t been with me for a long time. He had dementia, blindness, deafness and seizures and as his body and mind failed him, the Justin I had once known was already becoming a memory even as he lay beside me in bed at night. Now that he is physically no longer with me, the heartache is tempered with joy that he is no longer struggling with these awful things. And, to be honest, joy that I am not struggling with them either.

And that decision I made two days ago — I have been on the precipice of making it for at least a year. I have been sad and heartbroken and tired and unsure for so long. Not being in that spot is an odd feeling, but a good one.

I still think I have four dogs and get out four cookies for treats. I wake up at 2:30 a.m. thinking I will have to carry Justin out to pee in the yard, usually holding an umbrella over us both as the Oregon winter has been very wet. I get out four harnesses for a walk. I feel confused that there are so few supplements and pills to add to the meals of Watson, Penny, and Murray, my three other dog-children who have done their best to keep my spirits up.

When I came home from the vet, with the still-wet paw print in a Ziploc bag and my sweatshirt wet with tears, the first thing I did was remove the boxes. I had shoved boxes into every nook and cranny in every room Justin had free reign in. Something in his brain convinced him that if his snout was wedged between the sofa and the table or the bookshelf and the fireplace, he was stuck. So he would stay there. For hours if I had to be away. Rather than living with the fear that he was stuck and afraid, I wedged boxes everywhere. And then replaced them when Murray, who is still a puppy, chewed them up.

I took them all out to the recycling pile and stacked them up neatly. I wasn’t trying to rid the house of the memory of my sweet boy, but of his horrible disease that had stood between him and happiness for perhaps too long.

Old dogs and I are no strangers. My very first dog child, Copper, was in a wheelchair for the last three years of his life and I had to pee for him through a tube implanted in his bladder. His brother Slate lived to be almost 16 and their sister Maddy Lou left too early at 12. So I’m used to the extra work. What I wasn’t expecting was how angry and frustrated I could be, not at my boy, but at dementia that stole him from me. I called it many horrible names in the middle of the night. Fortunately, Justin was deaf and couldn’t hear this while cradled him in my arms or he fell asleep with my arm over him because he couldn’t sleep without knowing I was there.

I will try to forgive myself for my frustration. I will try to forgive myself for not making the decision for Justin earlier. I was hoping he could experience a few warm, sunny spring days, lolling in the grass with the other dogs as I worked in the garden.

That is not to be. I know that on the first warm, sunny day, Justin the joyful, playful dog who loved to run around the yard barking like that butterfly he spotted was a deadly enemy he needed to protect us from, but never actually harming any animal (unless it was a stuffed toy with a squeaker inside) will be reborn. Maybe we’ll sit and chat in the patio swing. He’ll love that.


6 Responses to “Getting Through It”

  1. Ruth Anne March 17, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

    Leigh Anne, the love you give your dogs is a blessing in this tired world. I think you made the right, terribly hard decision. I hope Justin is sticking his nose in places he never thought he’d be. We who are left behind must carry on. Much love.

    • accidentalcomic March 17, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

      Thanks, Ruth Anne. Yes, we move forward, learning and expanding our hearts even more.

  2. elaine lane March 17, 2016 at 11:07 pm #

    I wanted to tell you how sorry I am. We spoke regarding you coming to speak at the Tribe for our teaching staff *still going through channels lol* I loved hearing about your babies and I talked endlessly of mine as well.

    My Old Man Lee just passed yesterday afternoon. He was so frail but I prayed and prayed he’d turn around it would all be OK. I miss him with every fiber of my being and I’m a mess.

    I’m sending my prayers and love to you and your babies. I know how upsetting it is for the brothers and sisters too. My cats keep looking at me and asking, Where’s Lee, mom???

    All my love…and text me if you would like to talk.


    • accidentalcomic March 17, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

      I’m sorry for your loss too, Elaine. If only they could stay with us longer and teach us all the lessons in love and patience and enjoying the moment that we are meant to learn. My three other dogs are doing well — I think because Justin’s dementia made him so out of it that it had already disrupted the heirarchy and they knew he was failing. Animals are so smart. And lovely. And better than us.

  3. Eva May 16, 2016 at 8:58 pm #

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I checked in here today to see if you had any new insights to help me with my poor old 16 1/2 year old man, and of course you did. I know the decision is coming to us eventually too and I will try not to hold on too long for his sake.

    • accidentalcomic May 16, 2016 at 10:37 pm #

      I am sorry that you’re facing this tough decision too. I do think one of the ultimate acts of love a pet parent can undertake is making the choice when our babies are no longer living their most joyful lives. My thoughts are with you.

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