Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Only an empty place

Farewell sweet Sophie.  She has been known as Soph, pumpkin, the beast, pumpkinette, muffinpie (everyone in my house can be a muffin), puppykins, pupster, Sophster, a demon of shoe eating evil, Soph-a-loaf (as a puppy she often looked like a loaf of bread while sleeping), half of "Soby" when in the middle of a roiling, rolling ball of puppyness all intertwined with her dear friend Toby (you couldn't see where the Toby began and the Sophie ended)   When I said my farewell I called her my baby. And mostly I called her mine.

People have asked me lately "how are things?" and mostly I discuss how the upcoming changes in our family life are intimidating: aging out of Early Intervention, having to fly solo on making therapy choices for Hannah, Claire starting Kindergarten, having two drop off points and two pick up points for day care each day, and now I have a new change for the list - we are a family without a dog.  In only the first two hours without her I had twice looked to her to see if she wanted to come out when I stepped outside.  Repeatedly since Monday, when I had her put down, I have looked to where she normally camped out and I've been so startled to have seen only an empty place. 

Sunday night I said my real farewell to her, when I'd carried her outside to go potty.  She'd been 48 hours since her sudden onset of "idiopathic neurological inflammation" - meaning the wiring is fried in the old dog's brain - and 36 hours since we'd begun a course of steroids that should show signs of working 24-48 hours after beginning treatment.  I knew then that she wasn't improving enough for me to feel it was fair to force her to stay for me.  I can only imagine what it is like to suddenly develop noticeable nystagmus (rapid jerking of the eyes) and to experience having one's entire visual field jerk back and forth repeatedly, causing a pronounced head title, dizziness, clumsiness and a general utter lack of well being.  After I helped her to walk and to do her business, I hunched down and cradled her shaggy head between my head and shoulder and I sobbed to her all my sorrow to send her away, all my regret that I'd not had more time for her since I'd had children, all my joy in having her in my life for fourteen years, and I told her I could let her go to Dog Heaven if she was ready. 

I am glad I could give her a peaceful ending.  I am glad that I didn't waffle and wait a few more days to see how she did, I am glad I had the courage to see it through and send her on her path.  I wish I'd laid down near her to cuddle her sooner before the vet came.  I wish I'd read Dog Heaven to her more than once that day.  I wish I'd petted her more in the years since she became so old and stinky.  I wish they'd all live longer, to match their families. 

Even on the day I had her put down, Claire shouted at her sister to stop her from walking in the grass and getting her feet covered in dog poop and then she quickly remembered that Sophie would no longer be pooping in the yard.  Since then she keeps noticing the good things about not having a dog, and then quickly adds that she misses Sophie and she is about to cry.  I keep realizing how I am not yet ready to be glad I don't have a dog.  I like my glass to be half full but counting my blessings in this regard is not yet on my list of things to do.  It took me days to get the dog food and water bowls up off the floor and have the kibble tossed out.   I keep finding myself listening for toenails going clickety clack across the floor, and for her annoying heavy panting and sharp coughing/gagging throat sounds that have become the soundtrack of my life and are now strangely absent.  Last night Claire decided she wanted to give her picture of the day to Sophie, so she put it in the place where her bed was in the corner of my room. It is only an empty place.