Several weeks ago I woke up at the usual time (way too early), but Elsa was not lying on the floor by my side of the bed. She was in the living room, sleeping so deeply that she didn't waken when I patted her side. I lifted her front paw and let go. It flopped down, lifeless. And then I panicked. It was still dark and I couldn't see the rise and fall of her chest or hear her soft snores that always comforted me during the night.
I went back into the bedroom to get Adam. I shook him to get up. I was sobbing that Elsa had died. He followed me to Elsa's side and she was just waking up, stretching like dogs do, all paws at once, in no hurry to attempt the daily hurdle of rising onto her unsteady legs.
This morning I was standing over her while she slept, crying into her black fur. Possibly I'm a poster child for all those television antidepressant medication ads. But the sadness I feel watching her leaving me is palpable and, at times, overwhelming.
I've been thrown by the research into animal consciousness. Not that I ever disbelieved for a moment that dogs experience love and grief; dogs' fidelity is legendary; they miss their person so that each return is greeted with insane enthusiasm, even if only five minutes has gone by. Videos of dogs remaining at the sides of their injured friends following the tragedy in Japan, a video showing one dog pulling his injured friend off the freeway in Mexico, keep making the case. Still, I don't know what Elsa feels or knows about her aging, what she sees when she looks at me, what she wants me to know. I'm an interpreter and I don't know the language.
She's elderly. She takes thyroid medication, tramadol for pain in her hips, thorazine to help her sleep through the night. Otherwise she sundowns, restless and pacing in the dark. Our home is now a network of carpet runners to give her traction when she walks. She chases the cats, slips and sits down, surprised that the cat got away from her. Of course, the cats have always gotten away from her. She likes her dinner of kibbel and cottage cheese and turkey, but sometimes, these days, she forgets and wanders away from her bowl. When she turns around and finds it again, it's a brand new meal.
I fear leaving her before she's ready to leave me, just by contemplating her going. And that going is inevitable.
Causes Evelyn Sharenov Supports
Oregon Humane Society, ASPCA, PETA, HSUS