Life Without A Dog

Pepper, December 2012

As the hour of our appointment with the vet nears, Pepper’s life, or at least as much as I know of it, flashes before my eyes.

She was the clone of our black lab mix who needed a companion. I can still recall my shock at finding a lookalike, but there she was, in a cage at the county shelter. They estimated she was about four months old. Dani and I took her home that day. I called Bill to ask if it was okay to adopt another dog and he said, “You already did it, didn’t you?”

He came home that night to see her prancing in her kennel in excitement. That was something she always did. She didn’t walk. She pranced. People asked if we’d trained her to do that. Dani suggested Isabelle for a name, but it seemed a little too fancy of a name for her. We should have named her Prancer.

Fifteen years later, we’ve chosen to say goodbye. We used to take Pepper for two-mile walks. A year ago she could walk around the block. But now she struggles to make a circuit around the house. She still eats. She still drinks. We thought we’d wait until one day she just couldn’t get up to do either. But we changed our minds. We reminded ourselves that we don’t know how she feels or how much discomfort she’s in. We asked ourselves how much we want her to struggle.

It’s painful to watch her try to sit down. To see her stumble. To watch her hesitate before she attempts to climb two steps. Most days she makes it on her own.

Not one of Pepper’s better days.

Pepper always jumped to attention when I came home from work, eyes bright, tail wagging, waiting for a petting session. But there have been recent days where she doesn’t even lift her head or wag her tail. Days where she looks at me with sadness in her eyes.

Pepper always knew when it was pizza night. If we ate in front of the TV instead of at the table, pizza crusts were coming her way. I recently discovered she likes cantaloupe. I’m sorry now I never offered it to her before.

Pizza crusts? More please.

No matter how much she shed, how many accidents she had, the fact that her nails scratched the floor and she ruined the rug, she was our furry third child. The one who gave rhythm to our semi-retired days. Thunderstorms and sometimes even a light rain agitated her which made Florida summers a tough time for all of us. But we survived them and we spoiled her in a way we never did our previous dogs. Or our children, for that matter.

I’ve voiced the thought more than once that we treat our pets better than we do our elderly. Every time I visit my mother’s nursing home I wonder why we prolong the lives of those who seem to have such little quality of life. Because we have that choice, we’ve chosen not to do that with Pepper.

As if she knows something’s up, Pepper’s had a few perky days that have made us question our decision. But the bad days, the times she pants non-stop and struggles to get her feet under her have led us to this day.

We can postpone the inevitable or we can choose to let her go. I hope one day I see her again, prancing in heaven.

#elderly #dogs #choices