If you don't want to read a story about a dog, now is a pretty good time to move on from this post (although the real post, which is not so much about dogs, begins with the fourth paragraph). A dog is not a child, or a parent, but love is also not rational and to the extent that I have ever had a baby, Poochini is mine. Known as "Poochini the Wonder Dog," this beagle mix has been a physical marvel, acting, at 13 years old the way many dogs act at 2 years old, and causing many who see him in the park or on the trail to ask, "Is he a puppy?"
Then suddenly two weeks ago, Poochini didn't want his dog food, which is odd considering he will spend hours pawing at a piece of raw carrot that is wedged under the dishwasher. Then he got weaker and then he nearly collapsed. Blood tests showed he was severely anemic but x-rays and ultra-sounds didn't show why. On two anti-ulcer medications, he rebounded within 48 hours and was once again jumping up and down for his dinner and running laps in the park. Phew, that was a scare - now he can go on living forever.
Then Saturday, he didn't want his dog food again and by early Tuesday morning he had collapsed in the middle of the night, wailing and unable to get up. His red blood cell count that was supposed to be around 30% was at 6% and he was losing blood fast - from an ulcer, a tumor, a cancer, or an auto-immune disease, we still didn't know. And that's where the story really begins.
Rushed to an emergency clinic in San Leandro on Tuesday morning, Poochini, we were told, needed two transfusions just to save his life for now, and we were presented with the recommendation that he then have an endoscopy, to try to pinpoint the problem, followed by surgery to remove the ulcer or tumor they might find. We said yes to the transfusions, which required Poochini to be kept overnight, and said we would think about what to do next. We kept thinking, "If it's an ulcer, we should treat it with medication and not subject him to surgery, and if it's something else, we should let him die and not subject him to surgery." In other words, if we know what the problem is, will it really change what we should do about it?
I didn't sleep well Tuesday night. And I came to realize that while I was worried about Poochini I was more haunted by the knowledge that he was suffering, in a strange place with strange people, when all he wanted was to be at home, in his doggie bed, surrounded by the people he loved. Poochini has lived a wonderful life by any animal's standards, and this is how his last days were going to go? Two transfusions, more torture to identify the problem, and more torture yet on a weak and bewildered dog, to try to fix him? When all he wanted to be on his doggie bed, where he feels safe, even if it meant dying?
We have decided to go with hope instead of scope. As I look at Poochini right now, curled up in a little ball trying to get well, he is still weak and he may get better or he may get worse and I don't have any illusions about the odds. But he's where he wants to be and he's with those he wants to be with, and he's happy. Right now, in this moment, he's happy.
And for all the unconditional love, and all the joy, he has given me over the years, I feel the least I can do for my beloved dog is to let him live or die where he wants to be, with the people who love him in the place he feels safe. I would give the same advice to you or to the people and pets you love. I guess I think sometimes we should go gently into that good night, since the only alternative may be not to. Right now I think that "gently" is Poochini's only request.
Thanks for listening.