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» Saturday, February 22, 2014"...the Flower That Grows Out of Beginning"
It became apparent as January turned into February that we were fighting a losing battle.Any improvements Willow seemed to make at Christmas and afterward—one day she even bounced on her hindlegs at the cookie jar—disappeared after "Snowjam." Her appetite throughout had remained erratic; something she ate on one day she refused the rest, she didn't want the chicken/veg/rice mixture she had eaten happily since Twelfth Night any longer, and James tried ground turkey and 97 percent lean ground beef without any effect. She didn't even want to eat them. She ate pumpkin one day, then no more; the same with plain yogurt. Our mainstays became lean beef out of the can and rice (and then she quit eating the rice after throwing it up) and no-salt mixed beef and vegetable stock. One day I got her to eat baby food, sweet potatoes, the next she wouldn't touch it. In desperation James gave her rice with mild chili. That she ate...for a couple of days at least.
During "Icepocalypse" two weeks ago, she had a bad Tuesday, refusing food and pacing the house. And then by the weekend she was eating again—well, eating as minimally as ever, two teaspoons of this, three teaspoons of that, maybe a dessert bowl of broth. In fact, she was eating regularly enough that we felt safe to go to Anachrocon over the weekend, and on Saturday night she ate a prodigious (for this point) supper of a quarter can of lamb and cheese moist dog food, all the broth in the dish, almost all a bowl of alphabet pasta in chicken broth, and a quarter of a cup of Rachael Ray kibble.
And then Tuesday was another bad day in which she ate nothing.
Wednesday we pretty much both slept all day; I'd come back from Anachrocon with a horrendous sinus infection and couldn't wear my glasses for much more than ten minutes at a time without being in severe pain, not to mention a stuffy nose, congested chest, and chronic tiredness. Apparently this is one of those creeping cruds going around, because I couldn't even get into the doctor until Thursday morning. (Sinus infection, What a surprise.) I made the mistake of leaning my head against the side of the sofa and conked out for three hours; if I did open my eyes, it was to see Willow turn over on her bed. We had chicken wings from Zaxby's one night and Willow had gone so off chicken she refused the plain pieces I offered her until I put a bit of the sauce on one part of the meat; only then would she gobble it up.
Yesterday morning I still sounded like Fozzie Bear, but she had a nice if limited appetite, and ate a couple of teaspoons of the Gerber Naturals sweet potato, two teaspoons of wet beef-and-rice dog food, and some of the roast beef straight from the can. This idyll did not last. She spent the afternoon vomiting up every single thing I'd fed her that morning, and then began the all-too-familiar ceaseless pacing she had done before we put her into the hospital in December. I was simply too exhausted from the infection and emotion drain to do more than clean up the mess, and James saw the stains immediately and knew what it meant. At dinner he gave the vet's office a call and arranged for an appointment for today. And we spent Friday evening watching her pace ceaselessly from the kitchen to the bathroom to her bed in the living room and then around again. About every two orbits, she would gingerly step on her memory-foam bed and try to lie down, but it was as if it hurt her, and she'd get back up and pace again. She wouldn't come when called and to get her to stop and let us cuddle her, we had to waylay her. She seemed to enjoy it for fifteen minutes, then went back to the pacing.
She did fall asleep in the crate once we left her in the bathroom. It had gotten chilly again and that's the warmest room in the house.
This morning I woke up needing to use the bathroom and when I opened the door was greeted with a beautiful sunrise, a symphony of oranges and pinks spread across the big window of the master bath. It was so pretty I called James to come see it, too. Was it an omen? a promise? Of course there was the elephant in the room, in every room this morning. Willow barked weakly at nine and James took her outside. We had breakfast. We figured this morning anything Willow wanted to eat, Willow could eat. James cooked himself up a real favorite for breakfast: an omelet with ham, sausage, and mushrooms, seasoned with salt and pepper. Willow only gave him a dull look and when he put a dish with some under her nose, she flinched and turned her head away. I offered her the warm broth and she didn't want it.
She didn't even eat the fortune cookie I left by her crate for her.
Ironically she fell into a deep and restful sleep just at the time we had to rouse her for that last ride in the truck. We wrapped her in a towel and she basically spent the trip with her head down on my knee, no interest in what was going by at all, except if we hit a bump (and there's a lot of them after the snow and ice events). We sat in the truck a few minutes in front of the vet's office, just petting her, and waiting for a woman and her little girl to leave with their newly groomed Lhasa Apso.
They had already set up for us, in one of the exam rooms. The lights were on low and we were able to go in with the tech. She was the same lady who had taken care of Wil when she was hospitalized and she was upset at how bad she looked. We talked for a while and then she took Willow out to put a catheter in her leg to administer the drug. Dr. Mike brought her back in several minutes later, and it nearly broke our hearts when she wagged her tail vigorously, a stronger wag than we'd seen in days. Then we talked some more, some about how she stopped eating, and some just Willow stories, and all the time we petted Willow and stroked her, and told her she was a good dog. And then it was time. Dr. Mike slowly depressed the syringe that was filled with pink fluid. Willow lifted the forepaw that had the catheter in it for a few seconds; maybe it itched or was cold, I don't know, and then we had to ease her down on the towel, and we kept petting her and talking to her, and then she was gone, off to join her Grandma at Rainbow Bridge. Mom always had little brown dogs; she loved them so. And I'm sure Bandit bit her on the nose once more, just to remind her who was boss.
It seems we stayed there for so long, just petting her and telling Dr. Mike more Willow stories: how she chased the Dalmatians out of the foyer of the house, and the chihuahas from down the street when they stepped on her "terrier"tory, and challenged the Akita from down the street at the old house, and how James' dad, who didn't believe in house dogs, said Willow was so well-behaved she was welcome in their house anytime, how she hated traveling to Charlotte until she discovered the Drury Inn had recliners, and how she hated baths and cried outside the bathroom the time James had a shower in the middle of the morning after being released from the hospital ("Daddy, you're going to drowwwwnnn!").
We decided to have her cremated and get the ashes back. Dr. Mike says they come back in a decorative tin, and we can either keep it or put her outside in the yard next to Pigwidgeon and Schuyler. And they made us a little memento, too, a circle of Sculpy clay in which someone had picked out her name with those lettered white pony beads, with smaller colored beads in between. Dr. Mike took one of her forepaws and pressed it into the clay so we have her little footprint as a memento, and her collar tag will go on the foyer tree with Leia's at Christmastime.
Finally he took her away and hugged us goodbye and we left. It seemed like we had been there for ages and it was only a little over an hour. We got James a sandwich so he wouldn't crash, but I couldn't eat until we got close to home. We had ice cream at Bruster's and toasted Miss Willow (she used to enjoy their "doggie sundae" of kid's cup of vanilla ice cream and a dog biscuit), and stopped briefly at Petsmart to get Snowy some birdseed, passing a cart with a heartbreakingly cute Yorkie puppy bouncing back and forth inside it. Later on we had supper at Panera and then went to Barnes & Noble, because chicken soup and books are always a panacea for empty hearts, even if they can't fill the hole.
Watched This Old House and Olympics. Talked to Snowy, who'll be an "only child" for a while. Posted to Facebook.
Tomorrow we won't have a dog alarm and can sleep late. But there will be no joy in it. "How quiet, how quiet the chamber is..."
Willow Allyson Young
March 17, 1998 - February 22, 2014
And because James Thurber can forever say things better than I: "Memorial"