In the Suburbs: Bracing for last goodbye to a best friend
Published 8:38 am, Sunday, June 21, 2015
I recently looked into the tired eyes of our rescue Queenie, now more than 16 years old, and tried to read her end-of-life signals. I was hoping she would whimper or bark and I’d know that the end is near.
Over the past two months, she has been falling, off and on, in the yard, eating less and occasionally having some incontinence. My wife called me at work last Monday to say that Queenie was having trouble navigating the deck steps and seemed to be confused after relieving herself. My wife hated to see Queenie suffering and thought we should bring her in.
I called the vet, who has helped us through the end-of-life cycle with at least two of our dogs. He was, as always, incredibly patient and supportive, but practical also. The vet said that if she doesn’t appear to be in pain, is still eating and going out and can eventually manage the steps, it sounds like she can go a little longer. We had already been prepared the day before I spoke with the vet to bring Queenie in and leave her for a peaceful end. But when we approached the front door, our valiant rescue seemed too aware of what might be happening and almost bounded out the front door and down the steps. So that trip quickly aborted.
Over that week, Queenie seemed a little more like herself, coming in for regular meals, managing to go out, but sleeping a lot. I told friends that we were running a home hospice and I was just praying that she would slip away to avoid that horrible last vet visit. But so far, except for being a little less steady on her now shaky paws, Queenie is holding her own.
She’s always been a fighter. When we rescued her 7 years ago, it was a complete fluke. I had received a forwarded e-mail, talking about this poor Beagle mix who had been chained to a parking meter in Yonkers, N.Y. The picture so resembled one of our last dogs, Roxie, that my wife almost immediately said that she’d like to try the rescue.
The day Queenie arrived, I went into the back yard with our two neurotic, aggressive Jack Russells, figuring that this would never work. Wrong! I think more aggressive dogs have a sixth sense about more docile dogs and they accepted her right away. Poor Queenie was overweight by at least 20 pounds, moved like a turtle and didn’t even bark. The rescue representative told us the poor thing had been shuttled around and had been staying in a Yonkers law office. Since she joined our pack, Queenie has had only one confrontation with our larger Jack Russell, Patches, over food. We had always figured her for so quiet that when it happened we almost couldn’t separate them and she bit his nose. Patches never tried that again.
It was interesting that whenever anyone came to visit they immediately noticed Queenie’s sad eyes. I guess I’d missed that. Our friends would say that the poor thing must have really been through some difficult times. We agreed.
Her spot in the old house was our old sofa bed and now our much lower futon. In our new place, she tried a low swivel chair in our bedroom for a little while, but that only lasted a short time. When we first moved into our new home last June, Queenie decided that she only wanted to go out through the front door. That’s one amazing thing about this dog — her tenacity.
These last few days have been difficult for Queenie, and for us. It is getting harder for her to walk and the falling or lying down is becoming more regular. As I look into those sad, tired eyes with their advancing cataracts I hope she’ll tell me whether she’s had enough. For now, she hasn’t and that is all right with us. But when the day comes that Queenie can no longer walk, we will have to face her last hurrah.
As we mentally prepare for this next chapter, I am reminded of a wonderful book I read by Garth Stein, “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” The book, written from a dog’s perspective about his life as it is ending, Enzo, the dog yearns to just run free again. Somehow, we know Queenie will also find her moment to run free again and we’ll be cheering her on.
Steven Gaynes "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.