Friday, July 8, 2016

Eulogy for an Old Dog

Yesterday, sometime between midnight and 4am, I lost my oldest friend.

My dog died.

Favorite recent picture of her
Last Thursday, Ma dropped Madison off at the vet for boarding and she was as fine as could be considering her age. Not moving quite as fast as she used to, a little hard of hearing, recently acquired minor ear and eye infections that were on the mend. Friday to Tuesday we were on vacation up north. This Wednesday Ma brought Madison home, and she looked terrible. Incredibly weak, obviously had lost a significant amount of weight, ear infection still going, eye infection so bad that I had to keep gently fishing goop out of her eyelids in between administering eye drops, not eating or even drinking water, breathing really hard through her nose, refusing (or unable?) to even open her mouth. But she still insisted on moving around, though her balance was unsteady and she progressed at a snail's pace. By nightfall she still wasn't eating or drinking despite numerous attempts. At this point she couldn't even move around; she'd try to get up but her back legs wouldn't follow her front's lead, so every effort to stand up resulted in her falling over. On top of all that she was sighing, groaning, whimpering, and even slightly yelping throughout the night. Out of pain and discomfort undoubtedly, but also probably out of frustration at wanting to move but not being able to.

I did my best to slide a pillow and a couple blankets under her, hoping that this would comfort her enough to get her to rest and then I'd see about taking additional measures in the morning. I laid down on the couch that she'd settled behind so I could be close by, and she was still vocalizing her pain and discomfort when I fell asleep. I woke up to pee at round 4 in the morning, and I noticed she was silent. And still. And not breathing. I waited for Ma to get up for work to confirm it, and then she laid a blanket over Madison and I made all the calls I needed to make. Pet cremation services came later that morning to take her away.

Our last pic together
I'm realizing now that a lot of things have happened in the past week that were preparing me to let her go, though I hadn't known it. Last Tuesday June 28th was her 13th birthday. I gave her love rubs all over and fed her a special doggie bagel, and was just so delighted that we'd been able to spend more years together than I'd ever imagined. I was grateful. During a meeting this Wednesday the 6th, as a team-building exercise my department had compiled photos and descriptions for each person's pet or favorite animal and made a game of matching the co-worker to the animal. I relished sitting as someone read my submission aloud, while I silently read the presentation slide and the hard copy in front of me, beaming internally as everyone "aww"ed at my dog's cuteness. I was proud. Later that evening when I came home, I was shocked and confounded as to why Madison had been returned to us in the condition that she was in. I wondered hotly, if the staff at the vet's office noticed what bad shape she was in, why didn't they keep her for treatment instead of sending her home? But then I remembered that I'd absentmindedly forgotten to bid her my usual pre-boarding "see you later" before Ma had dropped her off. The way things worked out, Madison got to pass at home with me instead of alone at the vet. And while I didn't get to witness her last breath or say goodbye, I was able to look after her during the majority of her last few hours of life. Besides, whether someone there dropped the ball or not, she's not coming back. I won't dwell on it. Given how long she lived, it was probably just her time to go.

Additionally, the night of this Tuesday the 5th I read a Bible passage that proved eerily pertinent to what happened yesterday morning. I was reading in 2 Samuel 12 about how David dealt with the death of his lovechild with Bathsheba. The child fell ill, and for a week he spent day in and day out on the ground weeping, pleading with God, and fasting.The child died, and immediately after David found out, he got up, cleaned himself up, and worshipped the Lord. When his servants asked him why the sudden change, he replied (I'm paraphrasing greatly here), "I did what I could, but the child is gone. I know that I'll meet him again, and I recognize that God is sovereign. So for now, I'll just praise Him and do what I can to move forward" (2 Samuel 12:15-23). I read that story and felt convicted, writing in my notes to myself, Will you worship even when God takes away?

And then in the wee hours of the next night, Madison left me for good.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. In all things, God is good. That's what I told myself as I sat with her Wednesday evening, and that's what I'm telling myself now. I'm thankful to be able to say that though I am saddened and hurting beyond what words can express, there is no bitterness in my heart in regard to her absence.

Last pic of her, hours before she died
I know it may seem silly to be this upset over a dog, but you have to understand. I've had Madison from age 10 to age 23. Imagine who you were fresh out of 4th grade versus who you were fresh out of college. Then imagine having the same best friend that whole time during all those changes, always ecstatic to see you, always by your side, never letting you out of her sight. Someone who made you feel like you were worth having around. All she wanted in return was food, space outside to roam around and sunbathe, and cuddles. And then imagine that best friend suddenly not being around anymore, and you never get to see her again. Madison came into my life at a time where, despite my young age, I was going through a lot and didn't want to live anymore. And she made everything better just by being there. Even in her old age when she was snoozing most of the time and farting like it was her job, her presence was a great source of comfort and reassurance to me. She taught me what it means to be openhearted. She taught me what unwavering trust is. She taught me that love and loyalty are an old dog.

So in closing, I'll write what I've already written elsewhere. Y'all, please pray for me. To my sweet old lady pup, thank you for letting me be your person for so long. I love you, mama. Rest in peace.

(Madison. 28 June 2003 - 7 July 2016.)

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