Happy May to my readers. With the passing of a full moon, and its resultant power, our nights will get darker and our souls will once again relax and calm before the power of the next full moon is upon us.
Life and death are closely knitted together in our world, much like the full moon and new moon. I accept these relationships and honor the need for both but this woman has never accepted death quite as easily as I accept life, so last Thursday was a harrowing day for me. I was, as I have been recently, home with my standard poodle, Sidney.
For almost a year, Sidney had suffered from a nerve demylenization somewhat akin to Multiple Sclerosis in humans but called Degenerative Myelopathy. He had lost the feeling in his hind quarters and one side effect was his tail didn’t wag, nor stand erect anymore. When you can’t really feel your hind legs, stairs and uneven surfaces become a challenge. His vocal cords had been somewhat paralyzed as well making his bark a mere shadow of its former self and his breathing loud.
Probably, as a result of his hindquarter lameness he now had a very sore front right leg, so was really relying on one strong leg to maintain his mobility. Despite these maladies, he always had a sparkle in his eyes and a willingness of spirit. I depended on that sparkle in his eyes to help guide me and hopefully to show me when he had had enough. I knew his days were numbered but I was determined to make them joyful.
Thursday in the dark of early morning hours I made my way to the bathroom. Right behind me Sidney hobbled in, unsure of the tile floor beneath his paws, clearly favoring his right leg again but still moving forward not to be deprived of his third eye kiss and his ear rub. We then headed outside for his morning wee and then inside for his food and medicine (he who never needed any medicine had spent the last two weeks on one med or another). Then back to bed, me to read, Sidney to rest and let his food digest.
That fateful morning, after I had read and Sidney had rested he followed me to the kitchen, but limping badly and clearly in pain. He did make it down the two stairs he needed to navigate to go outside but he hesitated to even wee, much less other more difficult movements, and soon headed back inside, done with being outside on his feet that didn’t work very well.
He headed for his spot by my computer because even having to lift his legs to his cushiony bed seemed too much effort. I think he looked to me for safety in the storm, so wherever I went he wanted to be there glued to my hip. I always have things to do but that morning I eventually gave up and just sat by my computer reading, investigating, thinking, all the while letting Sid rest his weary legs.
That morning, unlike most normal mornings, he was restless but listless, moving from place to place trying to find comfort but always within eyesight of me. I became concerned because this was not my Sidney. Eventually I called Dr. Winter his veterinarian for advice on our next step. We had been visiting his office almost weekly in the last month because there was always something changing.
Dr. Winter was in surgery that morning, so I was told he would call me back around noon. While we waited for the call I had Sidney go to his crate where he could rest and stay off his feet as I moved around a bit to get some things done. I even went out for a couple of hours to clear my head and talk to a friend of mine knowing that the longer he was safely ensconced in his crate the better his hurt paw would feel.
While my friend and I walked and talked Dr. Winter called but I didn’t hear his call and, in the end, this was a good thing. Had he answered Sidney would have had a painful trip to the office for an equally unwelcome x-ray of his right front leg that was causing him to limp so badly. It would all have been for naught, it wasn’t his leg that was plaguing him.
Dr. Winter left his cell phone number and when I got home I called him. He was unavailable, so I left a message to please call me back. Then I took my boy outside because I knew he must be desperate for a nature call, which he was, but on the way back to the house he suddenly stopped as if he couldn’t walk another step.
I looked at him and clapped my hands, trying to make a game of walking inside but he wasn’t having anything to do with my games. I detected a certain sadness in his look and he looked at me as if to say “Have a heart Mom, help me here, I am miserable.” A little later in the afternoon, Dr. Winter called. I told him his limp was really bad, we decided on an x-ray in the morning, 8 a.m. sharp.
The rest of the afternoon is a blur but I remember that Sidney would not quit fidgeting and I knew all his movement was irritating that right front leg that either had a ligament pull or a bone tumor, the x-ray would decide which it was but not until morning. I set his crate up next to my computer, so he could keep his eye on me but stay still and keep weight off his bad leg. He tossed and turned even in his confined space and I finally gave him another Tramadol for pain but the restlessness continued until I suddenly sensed something had changed.
He was trying to stand up but his hind quarters were slack. I looked at his sparkling eyes and they were dull and listless. My first thought, silly mom, was get him a treat and he will get up and be okay. I got a treat and while he took it he couldn’t even eat it and it crumbled down his chest onto the floor where he valiantly attempted to pick up the crumbs.
Those eyes were the worst part for me and they haunt me today as I grieve his loss. When Sidney’s eyes had no sparkle left and the lids hung limply I madly called family looking for a second opinion but got no response from anyone. With a sense of finality and a very heavy heart I called Dr. Winter and asked him if he would come and bring some peace to my beloved furkid. While we waited I did some Reiki for Sidney just for his peace of mind and reduction of any pain he might be in but also hoping if he was ready to go Reiki would help him make that final journey.
I will not gnaw at this moment much longer but please bear with me, I have an inner need to tell his story. Dr. Winter arrived almost at the same time a friend arrived to hold my hand and lend support. We brought Sidney outside to the soft green grass and placed him on his beloved blankie. As I held his head, and kissed his face, telling him over and over that I loved him he crossed the Rainbow Bridge to a place where he can run again.
I like to believe that across the Rainbow Bridge he will forever eat all the food he wants. There will be mountains of meaty beef bones to clean his teeth. He will once again be able to dive in to the snow and come up frosted with its rime. He will stot through the sage covered mountainsides of Idaho just like the deer he used to chase (yes, its true but they were always faster).
He will have joy and his spirit will be renewed across that bridge. Farewell my big guy. You had a mighty fine life for 13 1/2 years. When Dad and I are at the cabin I will cast your ashes in the same spot with Stanley (July 2001) and Fitzy (December 2013). The mountainside on Elk Ridge will be alive with poodles as the three of you run free, stotting across the sage, your adorable faces wind blown and happy.
God bless the poodles of my life.