Monday, November 7, 2011

What Friends Do

Image found here. 

Last night was not a good night.

I have been doggy-sitting my friend Susan's dogs for the weekend. The sweet elderly diaper - wearing schnauzer named Shadoe has always been a favorite of mine. She was intelligent and so even-tempered and loved everyone. I thought her name was clever. Her fur was a silvery grey - like a shadow, and also was a female - like a doe.

For the most part of the weekend, Shadoe acted like a gentle little furry bump-and-go car. She padded around the house contentedly, yet since she had poor vision and hearing, occasionally she would bump into things after which she'd just back up and head off in a different direction. Yes, she needed doggy diapers, but overall she seemed comfortable and enjoyed her dog food and snacks and lots and lots of snuggles.

That is, until late yesterday evening. Suddenly, her whole posture and demeanor changed. She arched her back and began to pace, unable to settle anywhere. She wasn't interested in her food, and gradually her breathing went from being even and easy to panting. When she began to whimper and cry, I began dialing Susan's cell, who had muted her phone for the night and didn't realize that I was trying to get in touch with her.

John and I and our friend Naomi tried to assess Shadoe's condition and attempted to comfort her, but the best we could do was make the obvious assumption that something was seriously wrong and that she was in pain. Which meant we all felt her pain too. The poor little woogie. I hated feeling so helpless. I wrapped her in her blanket and tried to soothe her but nothing seemed to relieve her distress. After finally reaching Susan and contacting the local emergency pet clinic, it was by then nearing midnight.

What do you think I should do?!?, asked my anguished friend over the phone.

I'm going to tell you honestly, Susan....we know Shadoe has had some serious health problems lately and that she's almost fifteen years old. I'd like to take her over to the clinic and have the vet look at her and see what's going on, but....

I paused and took a deep breath.

....I think she's telling us that it's her time to go.

There was nothing but silence from the other cell phone.

Then, You're right. You're right. I have known for so long that something like this would happen but it's still so hard. Thank you for being there for her - and me.

Naomi and I bundled poor Shadoe, who by now had begun to quiver uncontrollably, into a car and headed into town. We were met at the clinic's door and were ushered back into a small room furnished with a comfortable sofa and a rocking chair. The young veterinarian, having already spoken to Susan on the phone, gently examined Shadoe and came to the same conclusion that we had.

An assistant carefully carried her to a procedure room and inserted an IV into her hind leg, then returned her to me. I tucked her into her little blanket and held her close, smoothing her fur and telling her how much we all had loved her while slowly rocking her in my chair.

As the doctor gave her medications through her IV, I felt Shadoe relax, her breathing slowed, and finally her muscles became totally limp. He placed his stethoscope over her heart and told us that she was gone.

Naomi and I wept as we embraced this sweet little dog that we had known and loved for so many years, and after several minutes, rather reluctantly handed her back to the vet.

It seemed so surreal to just walk out of the clinic into the very early hours of the morning without her. Yet Naomi and I both expressed the same thought - that we were grateful that we had been able to have been there and that Shadoe was finally released from her pain. As we drove home through the darkness, we were able to brush away our tears and reminisce about Shadoe's life and adventures with smiles and laughter.

I know that the day will come when I will have to say good-bye to one or both of my little schnauzer girlies. I hope that day is a long, long, time coming. And if I'm not able to be there, I hope that I will have a good friend who will wrap her in her favorite blankie, and while whispering loving words in her ear, rock her to sleep.


Heda said...

I would trust my dear little old dog with you and your family in a heart beat. Well done and I'm sure your friend feels the same.

Tricia said...

You are such a good friend. Your friend is so lucky that you had Shadoe when this happened. My son and his wife experienced this while visiting me this summer. It was so hard for them. It just seemed like Juna gave up once they left. I felt so bad that they were visiting me and not able to be with Juna. Those of use who are so attached to our pets know we must go through this at some point. It doesn't make it any easier when it happens.

Laura said...

Oh no. :( I am so sorry for all of you that the time came to say goodbye to Shadoe.

And so glad for Shadoe that you were there to care about her, to take her in and rock and comfort her while they eased her passage.

annie said...

This is the terribly sad part of having a pet...the day you say good-bye. Your friend and especially Shadoe were lucky to have you in this sad moment. So nice of you to be there at the end to give some comfort to an old friend. Now, if I could only stop blubbering...

Anonymous said...

Ok - I don't even really like dogs and I'm crying. Thanks a lot, Jul!!
Dianne H.

Julia Oleinik said...

Oh, Di - you would have liked Shadoe!

Jenny P said...

My morning routine is to check my bank account, check my email, see what's new on Blogger, check my stats after reading your daily post, then check FB and get on with my day. I got a little stalled out on this one this morning. My baby is 9, and my (oh-so-sensitive) MIL asked me yesterday "and how long do pugs live". I guess I hope that in however many more years that is, I develop the strength to hold her, too. Though for now I can't imagine how. Maybe it's the strength of a nurse.

PS - only you would get yourself into these sit for a few days and end up being the hospice caregiver.

BD said...

I'm tearing up because it's so hard to lose a pet especially a long time companion. My girl is turning 11 this month so I know it's time to start emotionally preparing myself. You are such a great friend for being there for both her and Shadoe.

Orb Weaver said...

Oh, Momma...poor Shadoe! I know that you did the right thing, and it was just her time, but how awful!

Amy Junod said...

Awe. Poor Shadoe. Such a hard conversation to have. Shadoe was a lucky dog to have so much love around for his final moments.