Lay my head upon your breast
Throw your loving arms around me
I am weary let me rest
Everyone I know, including me, imagines living a long, rich life and not one of us ever wants to get to that eventual point, when you're old and your body is failing you, when quality of life diminishes beyond negotiation. Who wants to become too confused to recognize cherished family members or get to the point that you’re unable to take care of life’s most basic necessities on your own? I don’t want that for me or for those I love.
Last week I helped my most loyal companion to die with dignity.
Needless to say, I was crushed.
I know that right now I have some family and close friends who are angry that I didn’t call them when I got this diagnosis. To be perfectly honest, I was selfish and wanted to spend uninterrupted time with her without focusing on her illness. I put her on a high calorie diet in an attempt to keep her from losing weight so rapidly but, otherwise, I tried to keep our normal routine.
At the risk of sounding unappreciative, I just couldn't take the well meaning phone calls or cards and letters while I was desperately clinging to simply concentrating on her remaining time. I wanted to just sit with her quietly and keep her as comfortable as I could. She was aging significantly and losing weight every day so it was clear to anyone who looked at her that she was ill. I just told those folks that she was getting old and wasn’t feeling well.
She seemed truly happy and wagged her tail often. She didn’t appear to be in any pain but she was clearly very tired so she slept a lot. A few times I tried to feed her a special diet without also giving the unnecessary calories to Flynn but Cooper refused to eat it unless I put it into a communal bowl where she could share it with her sister. Maybe it was Flynn's excitement at the "treat" that made her happy. But eventually, she gave up on eating altogether.
After the second day that she wouldn’t eat, she was growing weaker so I called this really wonderful mobile veterinarian that a friend of mine uses for house calls. Dr. Flake and I talked about the options and discussed how I would know it was time. Refusing food was certainly my first sign.
That evening when I got home from work I saw that Cooper was now blind. It was a terrible shock to me since I didn’t know that this was common with lymphoma. She still wanted to go outside on her own so I walked beside her to keep her from running into things. On top of the blindness I noticed some anxiety and confusion in her. I told myself that was to be expected under the circumstances. But I knew it was time, so I scheduled an appointment for Dr. Flake to come the next afternoon.
In the morning Cooper was a bit more energetic and she was much more lucid but as the day wore on she was increasingly frustrated by her blindness and also very weak, wobbly and tired. I spent the day with her out in the yard, most of that time was spent in her very most favorite sunny spot on the back deck. That was where I told the doctor that Cooper would be the most comfortable.
She lived with dignity and grace and I wanted her to take as much of that with her as possible… she did.
Memory is the one mercy that grief offers us… Flynn and I will miss our most amazing, loving and loyal companion.
November 17, 2004 – September 10, 2010
Have pity on me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my spirit and my body with grief. Psalm 31:9