It’s been a rough couple of months.
Our oldest dog, Lammy Lamb, has been getting nearer to the end of her life, and I have been struggling. I’ve had to make the dreaded decision before — only two of the 9 dogs we have lost over the years died in their sleep– but for some reason, this time it is especially hard.
Lammy Lamb came into my life when I needed her most. I was trying to claw my way out of a deep, suicidal depression. She was nine-years-old, and not like any dog we had ever had. She was hilarious. In a world that I was finding increasingly baffling, and uncomprehendingly cruel, the laughter she drew out of me was no small feat.
She came to us with the name ‘Desiree’, a moniker too high class and polite for such a little rascal. Being a Jack Russell Terrier, she was clever and mischievous. It kind of comes with the territory. She loved being the center of attention, and she loved to be babied.
“The removal of all of the bottom teeth between her incisors left a wide space, and where before her tongue had rested against those teeth, now it often protruded a half-inch or so out of her mouth. The result was a face with an expression so adorable we were often reduced to baby talk when addressing her. Like two little girls with a favorite doll, Dalene and I dressed Desi in baby clothes and took turns holding her and rocking her. She loved the attention and would let us hold her for hours. Whenever we passed her back and forth like an infant we wouldn’t be able to keep from laughing. She was such a stiff little dog, but so content to play the baby, dressed in jammies with her tongue sticking out. Never had a dog been made to feel more loved and welcome in our home.” (from Circling the Waggins)
Her curly coat and peculiar gait reminded us of a little goat, and so she became known as “Lammy Lamb”. At nine years old and true to her breed, she was full of life and full of business. She kept busy by aggravating the other dogs, and teaching them bad habits.
“Lammy-Lamb has (also) taught Waldo how to chase the cats. He caught on immediately and takes great delight in tormenting them. (…)
Lammy-Lamb does not chase the cats. She leads the charge, but as soon as she knows that Waldo has taken up the chase, she backs off and watches while he bullies and chases and is scolded and shamed. Lammy-Lamb is a very bad influence. If she didn’t live here, I wouldn’t let Waldo hang out with her.” (from Circling the Waggins)
Lammy Lamb has been circling the exit ramp since December of 2013. She had a honking tumor on her adorable doopa that had reached a crisis stage. It was surgery or euthanasia. We opted to give her a chance, and she had the surgery. Throughout 2014, she was back to her feisty and incomparable self. But by April of this year, her health had begun to head south.
We gave her everything we could think of to give her quality of life. When she began to lose weight, we switched her to a high calorie food to help her keep the pounds on. When she was having trouble retaining body heat, we dressed her in a onesie. When she began getting forgetful about going outside, we put her in diapers. I washed her soiled bottom sometimes five times a day. When her eyes failed and she began getting herself into sketchy predicaments, we crated her at night for her safety. When she had trouble getting traction on the floors, we bought her traction socks; and when those weren’t as successful as we’d hoped, we bought her shoes. On cold nights, I took her to bed with me and curled my body around hers.
Lammy Lamb had bad days that were very very bad, and good days that were amazing. But it was a roller coaster. After a run of bad days, I would begin to struggle with what should be done. She became very sick and dehydrated, and in a last ditch, we gave her lactated ringers for ten days. She regained her strength. She ate with gusto!
Then, three weeks ago another low so frightening I became resolved and made an appointment, but Dalene convinced me to hold off, and the following day Lammy Lamb bounced back with new vigor.
Each up-and-down-and-then-up-again, the ability to make a decision became harder.
Now, it’s only a few months short of her eighteenth birthday. She has been with us for half of her life. Her spine is so bent, that head hanging, she staggers like a drunken crone. Her movement across the room is often achieved via a combination of drunken stumbling, somersaults, and scoots. Sometimes, when standing still, she places the top of her head on the floor to balance herself. Everything has become a struggle.
The only thing left to do for her is hold her, which she loves — except when she doesn’t. Then she makes her will known by kicking her legs like any two-year-old taking a tantrum.
This past Saturday, she stopped eating. We have not been able to tempt her palate even with Prime Rib, so we know that now it is truly time. I took her outside today so she could lie naked in the grass for thelast time. To feel the sun on her bones, the breeze in her fur. I will take her to bed with me tonight and cuddle her as long as she’ll allow.
Tomorrow, I will help her run free again.