Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Shattered by Love

Fergus 11-1-97 to 11-8-2014

My precious little dog, who was 17 years old passed away four days ago, peacefully euthanized at the vet's office, suffering very little, and very ready to go. That Saturday morning was like a too fast moving series of events that I was not ready for...and in the last four days I've talked and talked about the story when I haven't been sobbing, and all the love and support for friends and family and fellow dog lovers has been enormous. I know I have written for several years about how much I miss the Ice but I loved my dog more and it was my commitment to him to stay with him until he drew his last breath. Now I am glad that things happened swiftly and I got to hold onto his little body while nuzzling in his neck and telling him how much I loved him while he was sedated and comfortable. When the doc inserted the second needle, his little heart stopped before the fluid could have reached him...he was so ready..and I can look at this picture and imagine him saying "thank you for my awesome life!" 

And he did have an awesome life...from all the people on Facebook who remember him and remember our bond, to the incredibly sweet flurry of pictures sent between me & his grandparents (who loved him as much I did, as their house was his second home & he spent all my Ice seasons there), I have gotten to experience something I have never experienced before: deep, hard loss mixed with joyful memories and deep bonding with other pet owners who have lost pets. I am now in that club and I understand. The happiness he gave to me and so many others almost overrides the grief. I am able to keep that feeling with me most of the day. There are terrible moments: driving up to the empty cabin, seeing all his toys and food bowls and meds...but there are more happy ones too: knowing he will never suffer again, knowing that he had the most luxurious no expense spared care a little pound puppy could ever have.

I don't know what his life was like for the first 6-8 months, but when I saw him at the high kill shelter I adopted him from, I instantly knew he was the dog I was going to adopt. I don't remember why I wanted to get a dog, just that I woke up one day & went to the shelter (where I used to volunteer with the cats because I didn't like dogs!) and walked amongst all the big pens with hundreds of dogs jumping and slobbering and excited and then a saw a tiny bit of red, inert fuzz in back of a large kennel, and he seemed so frightened and small. I asked to take him out to the play area and he walked around a little and seemed very tentative. I had never been around dogs and wasn't sure how to act...I think I tried to get him to run with me and he started to respond, ever so little. I went home and told Steve, my live in boyfriend, that I found a dog I wanted and would he come look at it with me the next day. When Steve saw Fergus he said "he's so small!" and he was attracted to the boisterous high energy mutts. I was not interested in looking at any other dog, so we went back to the play area and he was a little more active, still very tentative, but at the end of our petting on him he reached up and put his paws on my knees and wagged his tail...and Steve was amazed and said "I think that's your dog!"...and the next 17 years was basically doggie heaven. He went on road trips, went to parties and stayed at grandmas and flew on airplanes and had many comfy homes in Austin and Oregon. I bought this little cabin for him to spend his final years in...and he got to live here for 1.5 years in a heated bed with baby food daily and lots of comfort.

What I was not aware of until he passed was what was different about me. I feel I did right by him. I took care of him to the best of my ability, and most importantly I sacrificed things for him: mostly a career I loved. And now I see that I didn't sacrifice anything...every day with him was a privilege...every bit of loyalty and love that he gave to me made me a better person. Even when I was cranking on about my lack of "freedom" or feeling "trapped" my actions were of total devotion and care - at least that's what everyone has told me. I would only work somewhere where he wouldn't have to be alone very long...I didn't do many things because I didn't want to come home to a frightened pup, and at first I kind of resented it, and then I couldn't wait to get home to spend time with him. I was lucky that he was utterly healthy and puppy like until his last year. This last year he was like a different dog. His senses were so degraded and he was so disoriented I'm sure his quality of life wasn't optimal. I kept saying he was a happy little dog but people who weren't attached to him saw something else, something the vet and my friend could see that Saturday morning that I was blind to: that he probably wasn't doing that great this last year, and that he might have been suffering a little. But I saw him as happy because he always ate a lot for the one hour a day he was awake.

My friend who I always listen to said this to me: you might regret it if you went to the Ice and he died while you were gone, but you will never regret having spent the rest of his life with him. I always clung to those words...these words from a friend who has experienced deep losses. She was right. 

It seems like some great cosmic joke to me now that I thought I was missing out on something these last 4 years. It shows me that I am so spoiled...I'm so used to getting to do what I want, but not getting to do what I want has shown me what real joy is, the commitment to something that is not me, something that is dependent on me. I would have never known until I had the experience that to sacrifice something for love is not sacrifice at all. Thank you Fergus, for showing me what real love is.