Somehow our home became filled with old dogs. Flatcoats have a shorter than average lifespan due to a small gene pool that is riddled with cancer. In a few months, Linus and Patty will turn 7. Two of their littermates have already died of cancer. Their half-sibling Randi is 10. Surrey the Beagle is estimated to be about 8. At age 2, Mulder is our only dog who can genuinely be described as young.
Emily was already old, though still very spry, when we adopted her 9 years ago. Her health deteriorated in recent years with her heart murmur worsening as she grew blind and deaf. She lost the ability to navigate her way around the yard by following her normal paths. Then she lost the ability to find her way around the house. Finally, all she could manage was to walk in little circles.
We had to carry her to her food bowl twice each day, carry her outside to potty, carry her back inside where she had to wear a diaper since she would no longer ask to go outside to potty. Lately, I have searched her for any hint of recognition but found nothing. It was heartbreaking to hear her soft cries and to be unable to comfort her – not only was she terribly startled each time I tried to gently approach her, she did not seem to recognize me or take any comfort in my touch. She seemed like a vacant shell.
All my previous dogs have had cancer and I’ve had to euthanize them despite their appearance of otherwise good health. Emily was the first dog with whom I’ve ever experienced old age and dementia. It was not a situation where she was terminally ill but rather a quality of life issue that we had to consider. I feared that without some clear medical diagnosis, I would wait too long or decide too soon. But then, those are normal doubts which I know I’ve had with other dogs and I’m sure many of you have had as well.
With Graham, the decision was sudden and even though she was 13, I was vastly unprepared. With Emily, I feel like I’ve been preparing for some time. It was the first time I ever scheduled an appointment for euthanasia as opposed to the more usual trip to the emergency vet at 2 in the morning. But of course it’s still a very difficult thing.
Emily taught me so much, especially about the behavior of tiny dogs. She was fiercely independent until her mind failed her and even then, her body obstinately refused to be in harmony. We love her very much and I know she loved us in her own very special way. We will miss you Emily.
We buried Emily in the yard yesterday, next to the still fresh dirt from Graham’s grave. She looked very peaceful and sweet and it was a blessing to see her that way once more, even in death. She hadn’t been “present” in a long time and I am grateful to have seen her seemingly at peace one more time.
This is a photo from 2007, taken after we just woke up from a nap on the couch: