I slept well last night, waking only once. It has become a habit, getting up in the night to let Fred outside. When the alarm went off, I hit snooze and pulled the covers over my head. When I eventually rolled out of bed, the tears sprang from my eyes as from gravity, the pull of standing upright.
I knew today would be hard but I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be. I fully expected to go to work and bring Ethel with me so she wouldn’t be alone. When it became clear that just standing caused me to weep, I sent word that I wouldn’t be in and went back to bed.
Ethel and I have been sticking close together. I think I need her more than she needs me today. We have the essential oils going in the diffuser. Elevation today. Yesterday, Fred chose Citrus Bliss to send him on his way. Even Dr.Jason commented on the sweet, spicy sent. It created a soothing and calm environment for all of us.
I’ve received so many blessings and kind words of support from friends and family. Thank you to everyone who has been following my story and sending comfort to Ethel and me.
It is another beautiful day. Eventually, Ethel and I will get out for a walk. For now, we’re waiting for time to heal the pain of loss, the deep sorrow of letting go.
Fred passed peacefully this afternoon. He was ready. I still wasn’t.
Dr.Jason from Lap of Love came to the house. He took his time explaining what would happen and patiently answering my questions. He provides a wonderful service with great caring and compassion.
As we were talking, Fred laid on his bed, looking up at me with his big brown eyes. He seemed to know – to be grateful – that we were going to ease his suffering. Dr.Jason gave him the sedative and Fred went right to sleep. He was so at peace, his legs twitching slightly. I sat with him stroking his head and neck, such soft fur, such warmth, a soft blanket covering his body embroidered with “Love and Dignity”. After a while, I nodded to Dr. Jason and he administered the medication.
Fred didn’t linger. After several short breaths, his heart slowed and he was gone. Now he is running free across the meadow by the rainbow bridge.
Ethel and I took a walk after they were gone. We saw the most beautiful sunset. How fitting an end for such an extraordinary friend.
Fred has stopped eating, except for a treat now and then. I think he knows that was the sign I needed to let go. He has no control of eliminations but it is mostly liquid now. Thank goodness for pee pads.
As I contemplated what to do, a friend suggested I talk with Fred about it. It is so simple. Talk to Fred. So, we talked. Ethel and I talked, too. After all, we’re in this together. That’s when Fred stopped eating. He still sleeps peacefully most of the time but he is wasting away, so skinny.
I called Doctor Jason from Lap of Love. He is amazingly understanding and compassionate as I deliberate over when to help Fred pass. What else would one expect from hospice, a hospice for pets. How cool is that?
Music has kept me company the past couple weeks. As we move into this coming week, I want to share words from a song by Sara Bareilles that will be comforting me and giving me the courage to let go:
So, here we go, Bluebird. Gather your strength and rise up. Oh, let him go, Bluebird. Ready to fly, you and I. Here we go…
Last year, I attended a special dinner with a local writer, Nancy Horan. She writes historical fiction and has received acclaim for Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky. It was an intimate gathering at a bookstore in north Seattle and everyone had a great time asking Nancy how she started writing and how she found her material. She told the story of a writing class she took. The teacher was tough, not fully complimentary of her work but she encouraged her to keep looking for the right material. When Nancy learned about Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah (pronounced may-ma) Borthwick Cheney, she knew she found her first story. It’s a wonderful book of historical fiction with a surprise ending.
Nancy was autographing my book that evening when she said to me, “You’re a writer. You just haven’t written anything yet.” Wow! I left that evening on cloud nine and feeling more inspired than ever. It’s been almost a year since the dinner. I guess I’ve just been waiting for the right time to begin. When things started happening with Fred, I couldn’t keep myself from writing about it. It gave me the reason to create my first blog.
The name of my blog, Living in a Bigger World, came out of wanting to explore life in a new way. The “status quo” life I had has been shaken up and tossed to the side. As a result, I’m learning to approach life’s challenges with greater acceptance. Resisting only feeds suffering. In a way, it’s fitting that the end of Fred’s life, as my protector and loving companion, would bring me to the beginning of my first blog.
Please join me on a journey of discovery as I say goodbye to Fred in his physical state and learn to recognize the energy of him that lives on with me. We’ll learn together through spiritual exploration, the inspirational wisdom of elders and lessons from my remaining canine companion, the ever sweet, ever loving, Ethel M.
After I made the decision to cancel our appointment with Dr. Jason from Lap of Love, Ethel and I went to the store to pick up some pee pads and a new, more decorative stand for the food bowls. It is easier for Fred to have his food raised off the ground. But I refused to pay $30 for a stand so I taped a plastic crate to a box and covered it with a plastic yellow tablecloth. The black wire stand is much nicer and worth the money. We’re starting fresh.
It was the right decision, cancelling the appointment. We spent the day cleaning up, laundering dog beds and towels, and enjoying a beautiful afternoon. Fred even got a sponge bath. Later, we watched Sunday’s episode of Downton Abbey. Wouldn’t you know it, Lord Grantham’s dog, Isis, is sick! I’m glad I didn’t watch it on Sunday.
Most of all, I feel calmer. Fred and Ethel must feel calmer, too. It’s like a storm was heading right at us and took an unexpected turn away at the last minute. The clouds have passed and a new day is dawning; a new day for all of us.
We had such a good night last night. Fred slept peacefully on his bed. He doesn’t seem to be in pain and he is still enjoying his food so much. I made eggs this morning and we enjoyed them together.
Would it be so terrible to postpone the inevitable? Would you, my readers and friends, feel led on, duped, to have made your sympathies in vain? This is such a struggle. But, you know that.
I’ve felt you, an army of friends, wrap your arms around us and send your love. You share your experiences of saying goodbye to beloved companions and empathize with my pain. You tell me “You’re doing the right thing” or “It’s time” or “You don’t want to wait too long.” Words of encouragement and support.
I know that either way, I’m making a good choice. A friend told me that today as I shared my anguish about moving forward.
The thing is that he still eats! And, drinks! He still wants to go out for walks and sometimes he even makes it past the driveway. And, he sleeps. He sleeps so soundly. He doesn’t seem to be in pain. Am I just rushing this for my own comfort? So I don’t have to get up in the night? So I don’t have to clean up his messes? So I no longer smell his incontinence in my skin and clothing?
Nature will take it’s course. And, while I wish for a natural death, I know I may have to intervene. But, not today.
In the wild, Fred would have been taken by some predator by now. But he isn’t wild. He’s a pet; a domesticated, mixed breed dog. It falls to us to help them find their way to peace in a painless, humane act of selflessness.
I sit watching him, lovingly rubbing his beautiful fur and thick soft ears. He sleeps so deeply, oblivious to the tears rolling down my cheeks. His legs start to twitch, he grunts and his eyes move back and forth. He’s off in dreamland, chasing rabbits, enjoying the fresh air of an open meadow. He’s free. Free of the limitations of his body. Free of pain. Free of the awareness that things aren’t the same anymore.
There is a checklist one can take to determine quality of life that measures mobility, nutrition, hydration, interaction, elimination and his interest level in his favorite things. Fred scores pretty well, just above euthanasia. He still eats his food – it takes more than one sitting – and drinks lots of water. I wish he would stop eating, stop trying to please me. That would be a true sign that I’m doing the right thing. All I have to do is watch him struggle out of his urine soaked bed, attempt to leap the step that isn’t there and I know what has to be done.
The clock showed 5:00 a.m. Fred had been struggling in the other room. I’d heard him sliding around on the floor but my sleep was too hard and my dreams had kept me from waking. Pulling myself out from under the warm covers, I find him stuck in the hall, the carpet runners pushed up against the wall. He is wet and when I pick him up, his legs won’t hold him. Mopping up the mess, I am sad; not angry, not frustrated, not afraid. Just sad.
We go back to bed for just a little more sleep, a little more respite from the struggle of consciousness.
Fred won’t wake up for our morning walk so Ethel and I head out. I realize that this is how it’s going to be from now on, just the two of us. Our friends on the trail ask “where’s your other one?” I just reply, “He’s home today.” Soon, I’ll say something else.
Breakfast is only appealing to Ethel today. She must know what’s going on. It’s the natural cycle of life and death. You can’t have one without the other.
It is a beautiful day and the sun is shining brightly. It will be nice for Fred to spend some time outside in the sun. I’ll give him a sponge bath and get him clean for his “dad’s” visit. We’ll try to eat again. And, we’ll sleep again, escaping the sadness and pain. Another day closer to heaven.
From the day we arrive on the planet And blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round
It’s the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life
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.