Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Pain of Clarity

On the tail of our conversation with the vet yesterday, today's process involved a telephone "reading" with an animal communciator who's been assisting us since Sparkey left the hospital. The result of that conversation is that we're now very clear that Sparkey wants to go and is ready to transition out of his body. If you cannot suspend your disbelief that we were actually able to tap into such information, suffice it to say that we now feel comfortable that the time has come, and we now have to steel ourselves for the task at hand, sad as it may be.

Our priority is Sparkey's comfort and the avoidance of unnecessary suffering on his part. We know that what he would face in the coming months is increasing debilitation, eventual complete loss of the use of his hind legs, and utter kidney failure. Even today he would not get up from the floor for the local dogwalker to take him out to pee in the mid-afternoon, and we're now using an adaptive sling to keep his hindquarters elevated. Still, he's eating well and drinking lots of water, readily accepting most treats proferred.

Now we begin to prepare the logistics---beyond the emotional preparation---for Sparkey's physical departure from our midst. Tina will actually be in the home of a loving neighbor well before the vet arrives to our home on Saturday morning in order to spare her the trauma and anxiety that the vet's appearance inevitably causes her. The most appropriate place for the vet to administer the anesthesia seems to be the screened-in porch where the dogs spends a great deal of their time, looking out at the boggy hollow beside our house, 150-foot white pines standing guard over the house.

His body's final resting place will be just to the side of the house in a sweet spot edged by three young rhododendron plants whose roots have already been fertilized with the ashes of our dear friend Woody who died in 2001. Woody and Sparkey had many adventures together, running at breakneck speed through the woods together, returning to our home bloodied, limping, and ecstatic. Some of those jaunts with Woody could leave Sparkey exhausted for several days, but he always seemed to revel in that well-earned exhaustion. There's a fitting poetry that Sparkey's body will share some soil with Woody's ashes, just as one of Sparkey's puppy teeth and one of our son's baby teeth are buried with Woody's urn in a Connecticut graveyard overlooking a rushing stream.

Writing about this process seems both unreal and somehow grounding. Simultaneous and conflicting emotions emerge. How can we choose to willfully end the life of this sentient being who still walks (sort of), eats, breathes, drinks, and shows affection (to a limited degree)? What right do we have to make that decision? What responsiblity do we have to facilitate a peaceful leave-taking? The answers now seem clear, although that clarity is painful to the eyes and the heart. It is also apparent in his eyes. According to the animal communicator, he's ready, and has been for some weeks. Even Tina knows. It was obvious to the vet yesterday, and for this reason ---based upon years of experience---she knows that the time has come.

We've already shed many tears, and I can't see any end to those tears right now, but I know that the pain will lessen with time. Imagining wrapping him in a sheet, lowering his body into the ground, and actually covering that body with dirt----this all seems so improbable, otherworldly, meant for another time, another place. But my conscience knows that the time and place are now and we are the players who have to fulfill our roles, as much as we feel that the rehearsals are far too brief and the playwrite cruel at best.

That said, Sparkey will sail from his body and be freed from the limitation of physical embodiment, and we'll stay behind to tend his grave, water the flowers that will bloom there, and honor his memory and spirit that will not die with his tired old shell, his ageing vehicle.

I expect a wide range of emotions over the next few days, on Saturday morning, and for days, months, and years to come. We just have to let those emotions wash over us like so many waves, and just keep breathing, even as Sparkey's breathing ceases altogether.

Please pray for us on Saturday morning---or any time---and know that your thoughts and prayers will be felt by all of us, magnified by the love and compassion that they reflect.



Anonymous said...

I won't be telling you anything you don't already know...

I've often wondered how I will handle "the end" for one of my pups. But I figure that if the quality of life is just not there, then the dog is ready to move on despite my selfish desire to keep them with me as long as possible.

I'm sorry to hear that Sparkey's life has come to an end. I wish you strength.

Kim said...

I'm aching for you, Keith, but I know your ache is so much worse.

Many,many prayers going out to you. For strength now, on Saturday and for the time of grieving afterward.