June 2, 2013

North Cairn: If only this dog had nine lives

(Continued from page 1)

I walked to where she stood, bent over her to see if she had a bit of rawhide or a twig stuck between her teeth. As soon as I touched her, she toppled against my legs and collapsed in a heap.

And the seizures started: her body first rigid, then her feet twitching in swimming movements, her eyes full of disorientation and fear. I sat down on the floor beside her, murmured the habitual promise that everything would be OK and prayed that it would turn out to be true.

It was the beginning of six hours of rolling seizures, each lasting a few minutes, then relenting, only to start again moments later. When we passed the first hour mark, I knew it would be a long day, exhausting for her, heart-breaking for me to watch. But sometimes the only gift we have to give is witness.

I whispered to her a long time, recounting stories of her puppyhood, reminding her how I had adored her from the start, urging her to go if she needed to, pretending that I would be all right without her as constant companion.

She shuddered, rested, stiffened, relaxed, while the first sunny afternoon in days drifted by. And finally, just before the dinner hour, the seizures ceased and she slept.

I sat in a wing chair and watched her for a long time, a leaden heaviness in every limb of my body, the start of lonely grief like a rock in my heart. I let her lie, untouched and undisturbed in her hard-won slumber, as though her calm was not exhaustion but the peaceful stillness of any ordinary day.

Suffering suggests that truth, how hard it is to accept the final facts: how powerless and alone we are, trapped in bodies that come apart at the seams. As long as her nerves last, I will tell myself the well-practiced lie about how we will go on doing what we have always done -- taking walks, filling the cupboard with rawhide and dog biscuits, then emptying it again, as if life were nothing more than treats and trust in happy endings.

Maybe that's all we can do, crossing species boundaries -- just sit, as time exacts its tolls, and befriend the departures as we greeted the arrivals. Perhaps all we have, ever, is the comfort that loyalty brings. Little else is needed; nothing more granted or earned. This bond, I expect, is all there is beyond the tremors of the body, the eclipse of days. Love, and love more.

 

North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

ncairn@pressherald.com

 

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