This is not how I wanted to break my dry spell of blogging, but life is what it is.
This was our last morning with Terra, aka Terrapin, the mixed-breed brindled beast that has served as our household’s middle manager for the last 14 years. We called her Best Dog, because she was the best dog you could hope to start out with — already housetrained, very good with separation, respectful of things, but still loving and excitable and prone to see fun in the world. When we later adopted two more dogs, we stopped calling her Best Dog (because, you see, in the fiction that dogs understand you it would make them feel bad), and instead called her First Dog. She was the first dog Aileen and I had as a couple, and the first dog Aileen has ever had as a household pet.
Last night at 2 AM, Terra lost control in her hindquarters. This was the second time in two days, but where she recovered from the first bout after a few scary minutes, today she was still unable to walk, or stand, or even sit up long enough to have breakfast six hours later. We took her to the vet, where the doctor was very understanding of our situation: it is incredibly hard to make the call to let a dog go when she’s still lucid, but we didn’t want her to be a prisoner in her own failing body. She hated being picked up and carried around, and for that to be the only way for her to move from place to place… she wasn’t going to be happy. Not the creature that was formerly known as the Brindled Bullet. Not the creature that followed us from room to room to make sure things were in order, or who demanded that I knock off work at 5 PM promptly so I could go sit on the couch with her and bond for half an hour before it was time to feed the dogs.
It was a hard decision to make — and at the same time we’d been getting ready for it for months. We don’t know how old she was, but conservative estimates put it at about 16. As she slowed down and her arthritis got worse and she slept more soundly (in part due to the painkillers), we would stop and look at her sleeping just to make sure she was still breathing. If Lyca decided to roughhouse, there was a chance Terra would get knocked down and have troubles getting back up — and of course, stairs were an increasing issue.
But those twilight years are just part of what we remember. She invited herself up in front of the old gray pickup when we took her home the first time, and felt very disappointed when we got a new truck that didn’t have a bench seat for her to sit between — “between” became a key concept to her, really. She’s the only dog I’ve ever known who didn’t pick one person out of a family as principal contact: we were always a duo to her, so instead she bonded to a schedule. Aileen makes breakfast, I make dinner. I was the Walker, Aileen the Washer. This is how it works.
14 years, at present, is over a third of my entire life up to this date. It was a good long run. I would do it again, though I think this time I’d be more tyrannical about keeping her from jumping up and down from furniture. Mind, it’s going to be a little emptier around here for a bit. Safety Dog is not around to tell us what is or is not safe. The furry alarm clock won’t make up for the digital one. Lyca will have to bear an extra burden of attention.
But as dismally sad as I am, this is why dog ownership is what it is: I’m still very grateful to have done it. I feel I am in part a better person because I had that beast relying on me, and looking out for me. She was, in the end, Best Dog.