The decision was made. It didn’t take long after all the facts had been gathered. For a little while, until the results were in, I kidded myself into thinking that little Rachel’s weight loss, her sudden lethargy and her constant drinking were symptoms of something, if not benign, at least curable. I brought her home from a vet’s visit feeling optimistic, her vitals were good – something could be done.
Ottie had been none too pleased about our new “acquisition” and made sure I was informed of his displeasure by leaving a turd in the dining room every single night for a straight week. Once I acknowledged he was unhappy but I still loved him best, he acknowledged Rachel’s presence, while still making sure she knew her place in the pecking order – on the lowest rung. Portia, less mommy-centric than her über jealous brother, took more kindly to the newcomer by leaving her be and by not being too obvious in her efforts to steal her food.
Having a dog is a walk in the park. Two dogs need some adjustment but, in the end, they balance each other out and keep each other company in my absence. Three dogs suddenly tripled my workload – different foods for different ages and stomach needs, the challenge of diapered nights that still left some accidents, four-legged creatures around my ankles at any given time whenever I am home, making me run to the bathroom for some privacy. And then the walking, three dogs pulling me in different directions, my arms getting the best workout ever, all the time praying no other dogs or coyote cross our paths.
I instinctively knew something was very wrong when Rachel’s appetite took a dive a couple of weeks into her stay here. Ottie and Portia possibly knew too and became kinder towards her – scientists are aware that dogs can detect disease both in other animals and humans although they can’t explain how they do it. Portia went so far as to share the same bed and fall asleep with her head on Rachel’s back, in a kind of comforting gesture.
Once I got the news it was cancer that was eating her little body, I made the decision not to pursue aggressive treatment in an effort to buy a few pitiful months. Rachel started refusing food, no matter how delicious, how soft or how lovingly prepared. With a heavy heart, I made arrangements to have her euthanized tomorrow. There would be a little grave in the backyard, alongside the other two dogs who roamed around here long before her. Despite having been with our posse for just over a month and knowing full well that a dog adopted will at some point be a dog lost, letting go of an animal is always intensely painful and different every time. I spent the afternoon at work in a bit of a daze, dreading having to come home and seeing her.
And then I did. She came trotting down the stairs, all skin and bones. She followed me down the driveway while I was taking the trash out, she stared at me with curiosity as I was cleaning my closet, in an effort to keep my mind occupied. That’s when I called the vet back. If I gave her the Prednizone, how long before she might recover some appetite? It’s not a cure, it’s just a palliative that might or might not buy a little more time, a month maybe, while keeping the dog comfortable.
I realized that the decision of letting her go tomorrow was to appease my anxiety, the heartbreak of watching her slowly go in front of my eyes. Rachel is not in pain yet and, while not strong enough to run or jump, she is still happy to trot around the house and the yard and watch me do unfamiliar things she finds interesting.
With a chef’s attitude, I pulled out a blender and pureed an improvised concoction I thought she might find irresistible. I made her smell it, she pretended not to want it and then she started licking it off my fingers. About a cup of it. After refusing burgers, soups, baby food and whatever other dog food I could think of.
At least, I can still cook. She might have to go in a week, two, a month or three days. But when she is ready, she will let me know.