Saturday, May 30, 2009

The End

I've been avoiding writing this post, because I just didn't know what to say. We put Jenna to sleep on April 23rd. She could no longer walk on her own, and she had lost all control of her bladder and bowels. She still felt reasonably well at the end - she was eating and drinking and she still loved to be petted - so it was a difficult decision to make. But the vet advised us that there was really nowhere to go from there, and her mobility and functioning were only going to deteriorate. We have always promised her that we will do whatever we can for her, but when there was no longer anything we could do, we were not going to let her linger in pain or misery just for the sake of keeping her alive. And Jenna was not the kind of dog who was content to lie still on a blanket on the floor, constantly being cleaned and fussed over. After a couple of days of this, it was clear to us that it was not a life for her. It was just a slow death.

Jenna has always lived for her daily long walks at the dog park. She was a leaper of fallen trees, a chaser of dogs, an eater of shoes, a raider of garbages - a wrecking ball with boundless energy and a fearless, headlong, often disastrous approach to her life. She has always been a survivor. Most dogs would have had it after the first 4 or 5 times she almost died: she fell through the ice on the river, ate a kilo of raisins and almost had kidney failure, ate a wild mushroom and had a seizure, smashed her head on a tree (from galloping around like a lunatic) and developed a neurological disorder, and then she got Evans Syndrome and lost most of her blood cells. She was a regular patient at the emergency clinic. But she lived through all of that. She was indestructible. Jenna the Tank. I really was beginning to think she could beat anything. Even cancer.

I'm not sure if we did the right thing. I hate it when it comes down to the final decision, because no matter what we do, I always feel like we've done the wrong thing. I panic when I think about the fact that she's gone, that I let it happen, that I was there while the vet put the needle in. How could I have done that? How could we have chosen that? Did we kill our dog? I know it's supposed to be the right thing to do. But I understand why they don't let us do it to humans. It's the most horrible decision to ever have to make. It's nothing but guilt and doubt and panic and terror that you've made a colossal, irreversible mistake. It's responsibility for an entire, sacred life that you have to bear. That's the part I struggle with the most.

And now she's gone, and the house is empty. We are dogless people. We are not going to get another dog, at least not anytime soon. Harlem and Jenna enriched our lives immeasurably. Sometimes, when life got really busy, walking the dogs was the only thing we did together consistently. Long talks at the dog park were our best means of resolving disputes or connecting to talk about our day, our plans, and our dreams. The dogs were even ring bearers at our wedding - they've been there through all our ups and downs. They've given us so many gifts. Now that they're gone, we miss them, we grieve for them, but we still have those gifts they gave us.