I could make fun of my sister, but I'm actually even more pathetic. I can't bear to watch ANY scene depicting an animal in distress. I mean ANY animal. A possum could get a splinter in a scene from the movie-of-the-week, and I am immediately reduced to tears. The image will stay with me for days, and will ultimately be the object of countless nightmares. "Old Yeller" is my "Sophie's Choice." I will never, ever view it. I watch scenes portraying historical civil war battles in which hundreds of yankee and rebel soldiers are being shot, cannon-balled in the gut, and bayonetted, yet I cringe and cover my eyes only when the horses on which they are riding are fatally wounded. Like I said, pathetic.
Alan is very aware of my disability and has developed a fantastic system for surviving these disturbing scenes. When the scene in question begins, I immediately cover my eyes and focus my hearing on his voice. He continues to watch and lets me know when the coast is clear to rejoin the viewing. Eyes closed, I hear Alan say, "Not yet...not yet...OK." It's not perfect, but at least I can enjoy the REST of the movie without my soul feeling crushed for the remainder of the evening.
It's not just movies, either. The other morning, Alan retrieved the newspaper from the driveway and scanned the headline on his walk back to the house. Apparently, some local stupid, evil, shit-for-brains, waste-of-space, repulsive, vicious, vile, worthless teenagers got bored one night and decided to physically beat a mixed-breed stray dog within an inch of his life. Someone discovered the poor thing clinging to life at the bottom of a trash bin. Alan scanned the article as he entered the house and met me in the kitchen where my arm was outstretched to accept the paper. "I don't think you should read this," he told me, "Why don't you let me cut out the front article before I give this to you?" It was only after Alan finished the article, which reported the dog survived and was now recovering nicely, that it was determined I could "handle" the morning paper.
So, with this ridiculous disability in mind, you can imagine my intense distress these past two weeks as my sweet, dear, sixteen year old companion, my dog Trixie, became very ill. We started noticing something was wrong when her trips outside to relieve herself were very frequent and produced only a small substance resembling blood. This was followed by complete loss of appetite, vomiting, and lethargy.
Unlike Kathy, I'm not a parent. Trixie (with the exception of two small birds) is my only charge. I apologize in advance to all parents who read this and might be insulted that I am comparing my distress over my dog's health to that of what they may feel for their own ill children. I know the intensity of the parent/child bond is far greater than that of mine to Trixie. But she is mine, and the idea of her suffering is simply unbearable to me.
For the past two weeks, we have spent many sleepless nights on the couch together, her looking at me to "fix" her, me looking back in complete helplessness. Three trips to the vet and many tests have revealed perfect blood work and a normal x-ray. He administers penicillin, gives us some drugs equalling doggie Maalox, and sends us on our way. Her health improves slightly, then slowly slides back down again a few days later, so back to the vet we go.
On our last visit (the third in two weeks), the vet very gently explained that he felt the need to "prepare me for the worst." He pointed out that at Trixie's advanced age, illnesses that can't be diagnosed often just mean her body is simply shutting down.
I appreciate his candor, but I don't believe I can comply. How do I "prepare" for life without this precious dog of mine? How do I "prepare" to say good-bye to a companion who has seen me through countless weeks when Alan was out of town (or the country) on business trips, accompanied me on visits to nursing homes to cheer up the elderly, and entertained me hour upon hour frolicking in the pool? Trixie's been with us as we've lived in three different homes, always panicking when the packing of boxes began, but ultimately relieved and content when she realized she was coming with us. She's celebrated job gains and promotions with us. She sat on my lap and let me bury my face in her neck that evening of March 19, 2007 (Worst Day Ever), the day that we simultaneously learned that Alan was being laid-off and that my tests were positive for lymphoma. She's traveled with us on several misadventures, staying in flea-bag motels and air condition-free cabins. Trixie never cared, as long as she was with us.
So, my dear vet, I really do appreciate your warning, but there will be no preparing. I will fight for this treasured charge of mine with every fiber of my being, until her last breath. If the time arrives when all attempts at fighting this mystery illness have failed, and she is in visible pain, I promise I will do the right thing and end her suffering. But if sheer will and the intense power of prayer have anything to do with it, that last breath will not be exhaled for a long, long time to come.
Thanks for Reading!!