Sweet Dolly the standard with the painted toenails, chose this morning to leave our world and head for the next one. When someone dies, you are supposed to be sad. Yet the way Dolly chose to go does not leave me sad. I am glad. Glad she existed and I had the pleasure of knowing her. Glad she chose to stay with me a while. Glad we had one glorious Fall season together. And glad she called me to be there when she died. How special is it to know that at the end, a living creature wants to spend those last few precious minutes with you.
Dolly was pulled from a North Carolina shelter last spring. Her owner had turned her in – filled with cancerous mammary tumors as big as grapefruits. She was a “poster child” for spay surgery. All that would have been avoided had her owner simply had a routine surgical procedure done when Dolly was young. But she didn’t and we will never know why. We had to deal with what we had and it was euthanasia or surgery right now. We opted for surgery.
Three surgeries later, we knew that medicine could not fix what had been allowed to remain in her body for so long. By August she was as healthy as she was going to get but we could not get all the cancer out. My job now was to take her home and love her. I can do that. We had a great and glorious fall with lots of long walks, good food and company surrounding her. Life was good in the fall.
But winter is coming.
Everything was well until late October when Dolly indicated she was in pain. There’s a drug for that and the medicine helped but now I knew the clock was ticking.
As Dolly’s cancer progressed, she had been unable to navigate the stairs to get upstairs to our bedroom for sleeping. I made her a place in the living room, away from the normal foot traffic in this very busy house and on vinyl tile instead of ceramic tile as that was easier for her to walk on. I wanted her to have peace and quiet ……and she completely despised it. I had to move her back to the middle of the wide hallway that joins my kitchen, the laundry room, the dog room and my office. Every person and every dog who either lives or visits here on a daily basis walks through this area and everyone became accustomed to giving her a pat or a simple smile and tell her hello as they went about their duties. Dolly was right where she wanted to be. In the middle of everything.
Dolly ate a good dinner last night. I was glad to see it because she had not eaten breakfast but it wasn’t completely unusual for her to skip a meal. She was drinking water well and using the bathroom. She had been unsteady on her feet the last week or so and she would call me to her bed to pick her up to take her outside. Once she was up, she could walk on her own and handle the necessities.
Twice last night, Dolly called me. Dogs have no clocks. They want what they want when they want it and when they need it. Both times I found she wanted water and brought some to her. She drank happily and went back to sleep. This morning about 6:30, she called me again and I assumed that she wanted to go out since she drink twice in the night and had eaten well the night before. She did, so I got her up and got her on her feet and out the front door. Dolly was a fastidious standard poodle. She wanted to take care of business outside. It was the last walk she would ever take.
This morning was a little different as she was having trouble making her stool. She was straining a lot. I went back inside to get a paper towel thinking I might have to express her anal glands and when I got back, she was on the ground. I picked her up and her head rolled over onto my shoulder and it was then I knew why I was here. Dolly had called me because she had began her journey. We only had minutes left together.
I laid her on her bed and covered her with a blanket. The only thing there is to do at this time is to be there. I put my hand on her head and one finger on her muzzle and told her I loved her. A few minutes later she was gone. It was peaceful and very, very easy.
Dolly’s oncologist told me that I would have to help her leave. She told me that this type of cancer kills slowly and painfully. She was being truthful and kind for she knew I didn’t want Dolly to suffer in any way and she wanted to prepare me. I didn’t like it but I knew I would have to do it. She would not be the first I helped to go to the Rainbow Bridge and she will not be the last. When you do senior care, it is part of what you do. We do not let them die alone or with strangers.
But Dolly had other plans. I’m glad those plans included me.
We all get to die. How lucky it is that Dolly got to leave in her own way, at her own time, in her own home and gladly – just the way I want to go one day. I leave you today with the words of Robert Louis Stevenson and urge you not to be sad – be glad. Be glad she lived, be glad she had the support of the CPR family during her time of greatest need and be glad she died where she long’d to be, at home, surrounded by our love.
UNDER the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you ‘grave for me
Here he lies where he long’d to be
Home is the sailor, home from the sea
And the hunter home from the hill.
– Donna Ezzell, Director