We went for our walk tonight. Fred had spunk, his ears flopping with each step. “He’s doing really well tonight,” I thought. “Maybe Tuesday is too soon?” I shined the flashlight back on him to show him the way. First telephone pole. He was keeping up at a good pace. Ethel and I kept going. Fred lingered to smell a branch that had fallen in the wind. “Come on, Buddy. Keep coming.” Second telephone pole. Fred’s back legs were beginning to scrape. The rain wetting our faces. Third telephone pole – time to turn around. The scar on the top of his paw broke open with a bubble of red blood starting to flow. “Okay, Fred. Let’s get you home.”
Walking backwards, I watched Fred carefully as we made our way home. He stumbled off the curb and into the street. His vision is getting worse, evidenced by the milky cataracts forming in his eyes. I wonder what he thinks and feels. Is he ready to leave this world, be relieved of the pain and discomfort, stop fighting such a good fight? He is my cherished companion and forever friend.
I can’t help but think “just 5 days more…” but I don’t want to do that. I want to live in the now and cherish every moment that I have with Fred and with Ethel. We don’t know what the future holds and there is no sense worrying about it. I feel the same about regretting past mistakes. It’s a waste of energy. All we have, the best we have, is to live each day as it comes; awake, alive and ever present to where it takes us.
Fred had a good night last night. He slept until 4am. The night before, we were up 3 times to go outside. Sometimes he can get up on his own and other times he needs a little help. I have to be careful how I lift him or I will squeeze the pee out of him. I know, it sounds gross. I’m no stranger anymore to cleaning up messes. It makes me think about what caregivers go through with aging loved ones. It is easy to get resentful when our lives are consumed by taking care of someone else. Chaplain Michael Byrd says, “Our greatest frustrations come from unmet expectations.” So, we just need to change our expectations. And, remember to take care of ourselves. And, cherish every moment we have with those we love.
I have a book of letters written by people to their dogs. Starting this blog at this time, it seems right to begin with a letter to my boy, Fred. In a week, we’ll be saying goodbye.
Dear Fred, my loving boy.
We’re almost at the end of our time together in this life. Still, your fur is such a creamy white and so super soft. Just the other night, three ladies adored you as you walked to them in the dark. They don’t know how you struggle to make your legs work or how they give out when you stand too long. You are so good at hiding your pain and the embarrassment when your bladder gives way before we make it outside. Someone suggested that you know I’m not ready to let go and so you keep it from me how much you hurt.
Was Ella right when she said your bunny like ears stand out so you can hear us better? Now, you fear the step on the curb that you can’t seem to see anymore. Sleep is interrupted by uncontrolled movement of your bowel and you slip and slide instead of getting up on your feet. It’s time, isn’t it?
We made it through this past year. You made it through, with me, knowing how much I needed you. It’s okay now, Fred. I’m better now and it’s time to think of you. I thought you’d tell me when it was time but I guess I have to be the one to decide. Only a pup like you would give such love to a person like me. I’ve loved you so much.
We’re a family – you, me and Ethel. She and I will miss you terribly. Our memories of being together for so long and through so many good and challenging times will fill our hearts forever. For the rest of our time together, we’ll just love and cherish each other and make more memories to fill the void that will be there without you. My sweet, sweet boy. I love you and will miss you.