Friday 12 April 2013

So, you can choose: life or death

I should have been an actress; I could cry at any given moment:  just give me a moment . . . let's see. ah yes, that picture of an abandoned greyhound . . . wwaaahhhh.
I was at the vet's yesterday with the old dog (nineteen now) as she had recently become very doddery, sometimes collapsing, back legs non-functioning and when she didn't want to walk further than the big almond tree down the road and was panting like a traction engine I thought perhaps it was . . . time.
Mark and Ezra have said their provisional goodbyes and I feel in control as I drive down to town; this will be easy, she's had a great life; well, we don't know about the first ten years as she was a rescue dog, but the last nine, pretty idilic as far as we can judge.
She is reluctant to step over the threshold at the vets; does her wavering, dog sixth sense suspect something? or is it the smell of previous trips she can remember? We sit and quake while I push the tears away with thoughts of book editing and jobs I haven't done.
Two vets share this practice - husband and wife; she is always so kind that I feel the tears pricking at the thought of what she might say, but in fact it's the husband we see - more of a Bruce Willis sort of a vet: Madame, ave no fear, we can conquer any maladie . . . c'est vrai qu'elle n'est pas dans un très bon etat, MAIS . . . we look at the old trembling dog and agree that she is far from dog show status, but he is going to do tests! He inserts a needle and covers himself amply with ageing dog corpuscles, merde! . . . voila ma petite tou tou. Madame, if you would care to wait in the salle d'attente, cinq minutes.
Five minutes. It's a beautiful day, should I have left the dog to lie in the sun for half an hour first? given her some fresh meat, a last supper?
The other door opens and the wife vet calls me in, all big concerned eyes and soft words: shit, here I go, the tears are coming, that awful feeling when you are sitting with a group of people watching that part in a film: stare at something else, 'oo, that plant needs watering, maybe we should repaint the kitchen,' sniff.
She lifts the dog so carefully and feels her legs, chest, back: Oo la la, she has pain, ma pauvre. I know what she is going to ask me, but I can't get the words out as I am crying instead. She has no doubt seen it all before, a thousand times; she runs through the two options. I must choose - life or death. She is obviously of the opinion that now might be a good time: perhaps we could gain another two, three months, but with the heat of the summer . . . ? I'm ready to agree, I've done all the thinking beforehand.
I'm about to nod when Bruce Willis rushes back in waving a bit of paper: Mais NON! she is not at the end of the roll yet. (Love this French expression) I, am certainly at the end of my roll now, emotions truly out of control. He lifts the dog, takes her into his room and explains in rapid French all about her blood sugar, kidneys, heart etc; all will be OK, just a small bag of drugs: two of these tomorrow, a squirt of this, one of those for ten days: Voila madame, ring me next week.
The reception relieve me of a frightening amount of money and I step back into the bright sunshine, sniveling with a red face and a pounding headache. I place the dog carefully in the car and drive back home feeling pummeled. I wonder how the vet team can be so opposing in their view on life and death, but as I watch the old dog sniffing around the kitchen on her endless search for any crumb and occasionally looking at me with her green glowly eyes, I feel re-connected with an old friend and that's a wonderful thing.

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