Friday, January 9, 2009

Pets, "Children", OCD behavior & I don't deal well with loss

Kevin and I actually make a fairly decent living. We aren't the best money managers in the world and if the POD really does shut down(which is more than likely), it's going to be a lot worse. Anyway, that wasn't always the case. When we were first starting out...and still very much enjoyed each other's company (take that for what it's worth) of our favorite things to do on the weekend was to go through the Pet Shop listings in the phone book and go just to look. I usually gravitated towards the fish and Kevin liked the odd and unusual. It was a cheap way to pass the time and we had fun. When we started making a bit more money we started indulging. Since neither of us is into doing anything by measures or half-assed, we soon ended up with a chinchilla (which later became two), two aquariums, a cat, a dog, an iguana and a cage full of finches. (A hamster, Siamese fighting fish and various other things came later.) By all reasonable measures, it was an OCD binge run amok.

We started thinning the herd, finding homes for various things and very sadly, we lost our miniature Shar-Pei to cancer when she was just two. That was certainly a VERY hard hit. (When the incredibly stupid iguana bolted and ran into the side of its tank and broke its neck, it was sad, but nothing compared to the loss of our "baby".) For those reading who aren't playing on the same team, our pets, particularly dogs and cats, tend to become stand-ins for children. For all intents and purposes, they are our babies. To lose Piggy so young was a blow that took me a long time to get over.

(I'm going to skip over a couple of misadventures for the sake of space.) We still liked to visit the pet shops but it didn't have the same appeal that it once did. It was on one such foray that an event took place, without any hyperbole, that changed ours lives. Kevin was supposed to be looking at the birds and I had gone to the back to look at the salt-water tanks. I heard Kevin calling me in a really strange voice and turned to see him running down an aisle with a puppy in his arms. She had her front paws on his shoulders like a hug and Kev exclaimed rather loudly that "I love her!!". My shocked and nearly horrified response was that puppies are not gum to be thrown into the cart at the check-out on a whim. We'd think about it and come back if that's what we decided to do. He relented and agreed to a discussion.

As we drove back the next morning, his mantra was "She'd better still be there...She'd better still be there." I freely admit now that it was one of the best things that ever happened to us. Kangaroo was a hell-child as a puppy but she out grew that and we couldn't have loved her any more. She charmed anyone who met her and while I know I'm biased, she was one of the smartest dogs I'd ever come across. We bought her one of those big, round plush beds. We'd tuck it under our bed during the day to keep it out of the way. At night, we'd tell her, "it's time for bed, get your bed," and she'd grab a corner of it and tug and pull until she had it out from under the big bed and then fluff and scratch it until it was the way she wanted and then flop down and go to sleep. (We never managed to teach her to put it away again...but we tried.)

There are a lot more stories and I wish I had a digital picture to post...I'll keep looking and add it later, if possible. But the important part is that we lost her a year ago. She started having small seizures so we rushed her to the animal hospital where they ran tests and gave her a shot but couldn't figure out what was wrong. They sent us home and told us to go to the regular vet first thing in the morning. It wasn't long after we got home that she had a grand mal seizure and even going back to the hospital, she never came out of it. We had to make the decision to let her go. When she was little, and would bite, I'd bite her back (on the nose) to teach her not to. She remembered that and whenever you didn't do what she wanted, she'd pretend that she was going to give you a kiss and then bite your nose. At the end, we both kissed her goodbye and she lifted her head to bite us both on the nose. Kevin thinks that he was so out of it that she didn't recognize us and was actually snapping...but I know better. It was her way of saying goodbye.

So, I still have a hard time with that loss. But, several years ago, we adopted a deaf dog that had been saved by a rescue but she was still running out of time. They'd called her a boxer but that didn't look right so after researching, it turns out that she's a Dogo Argentino. Her name is Nellie. And less than a year after losing Kanga, Nellie is dying. We found a tumor and had it removed. Less than a month later, we found another and had a second surgery. Before the stitches had even been removed we found another and decided that we couldn't subject her to a third surgery in two months. Where Kanga was outgoing, Nellie is sweet and gentle. She, also, is our baby.
We decided to make her as comfortable as possible and realize that we'd have to have the strength to know when it was over. The vet gave her six to eight weeks. The tumors multiplied and grew but at eight weeks we took her back and he said that she was remarkably healthy and that it might be another six to eight weeks. In the last week she's taken a dramatic turn and it won't be much longer.

I've been wrestling with the question of which is better; to lose a baby quickly, with no warning or slowly. I'm grateful that we've had the extra time with Nellie but it's killing me that everyday, I have to watch her moving one more step toward death.

Nellie worshipped Kanga and was never really the same after her passing. At least this way, I believe that Nellie will once again be with the "sister" she adored. Kevin also believes that while Nellie has never missed out on anything or had a diminished quality of life because of being deaf, that she'll be able to hear for the first time. I hope, with all of my heart, that that's true.

Watching Nellie's labored breathing this morning, Kevin and I agreed that we need to spend the weekend making plans and coming to terms with what will have to happen next week.

My life has been infinitely better for having had Kanga and Nellie in it. There will be a hole that won't heal anytime soon. I really, really hate this!

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