Voices of Spencer Creek Valley
Slowly the days are warming, the light stretching. Once again the spring unfolds its glories, wave upon wave of greens and yellow, blues and purples exploding on the meadows and forests. The perfume of skunk cabbages mingles with the Indian plum blossoms. The trilliums and lady slippers are blooming. The heady scents of balm and sweet grass, wild iris and trillium send billows of photosynthesistic sex into the air. And John got a notice to report to the National Guard for special duty as part of the War on Terrorism.
And once again we had a dog funeral.
We laid Laddie, our first Collie Rescue dog, to rest beside Laddie Blackie. Laddie was a brave, beautiful and sometimes cantankerous canine. We miss him sorely. But his death brings up all the questions that humans must face when making such decisions for their pets at the end of life. Who are we to "play God"? And who are we to ignore our ability to do so? To end terrible suffering and pain? What and when is a natural pet death when life has been extended by nutrition, care and medicine of a higher quality than many people around the world receive? And what about the equation of the quality of life for the animal and the human counterpart? For we are a unit, the companion animal and human. We feel each other's pains and joys. We affect each other's lives in so many ways: sleep, shared space, rhythms of daily tasks, costs, travel, exercise. And most importantly, shared love.
On the whole, I had a democratic relationship with Laddie. He was a wise being of his own mind and judgment I respected that and only imposed my judgment when necessary. (Usually baths, medicines and restricting him to the house when we were out.) It became more necessary recently as he struggled with fierce pain from leg twisting, I sometimes would coax and drag him into walks for his general well-being. Other times he would accompany us part way and rest until our return circuit On the last few days of life, he was surprising us by making the whole "basic loop" in spurts. Laddie's front right leg was slowly, daily, twisting into a ninety degree angle. He was beginning to walk like an inverted whirligig He whined and barked on and off twenty-four hours a day. He had heavy pain medication that was never enough. Yet, he enjoyed life. He was always generous and accepting to the other dogs who came here to stay. He was the alpha dog. In the way of dogs, he lived moment by moment and many moments were still good. He ate, he walked, he loved and he suffered. Suffered until I couldn't stand it. He cried most of the night long. Our sleep was interrupted constantly. I'd get up to give for medication or just comfort him, occasionally to say sternly, "No!" as if that helped. After months of his various conditions getting worse, I asked Dr. Devon, the animals' doctor, to come and euthanized. him. When I explained what was happening, she agreed. Dr. Devon is rightfully reluctant to be "causal" about the life and death giving gifts of the healing profession (for animals). She said she understood, it wasn't the why, it was the when. And so we scheduled Laddie's death. I gave him his full compliment of vitamins and pain meds the night before and made sure he had his cup of breakfast crunchies and tad of milk, and a decent last walk.
He couldn't make it very far but waited for us by the place we call The Roots where the big old trees show their roots at the old meadow gate. He drank in the bright warm spring scented air. He looked so lovely as he held his golden head high, sniffing the sweet air, lying on a bank of green grass on the edge of the meadow. He was unusually affectionate that day. Maybe he knew. He seemed to know and forgive me. I hope so. I am planting a dogwood tree on his grave. I still feel him around the place, watching and guarding and loving us. That night was quiet. And lonely. Laddie was not in his usual place. By habit I woke up at 2 am. as usual to take care of him but there no need. There were no sounds except for John's baby goats ba-aaing across the road, and the spring peeper frogs calling their mating codes.