Yesterday morning, I called our veterinarian to schedule Shiloh's euthanasia. [breathe. breathe.] While I was on the phone, crying, Shiloh turned to look at me and I felt like I was summoning the executioner. I told myself the whole time that it's days away, that I could change my mind, but there's a part of me that knows it shouldn't be days away. It should probably have been days ago. But how are you supposed to decide that? My God. I know people go through this all the time, but that's a meaningless thought next to the sight of my dog looking at me with her old cloudy eyes.
I know it's time. Her essential Shilo-ness is gone. Has been for a while now. It's been months since she "talked" in her Chewbaca voice, sounding absolutely flummoxed that one would dare stop petting her belly. She was so bossy! She can barely walk now. My back kind of hurts from leaning over and supporting her 80 pounds as her legs slip out from under her across the treacherous kitchen floor. Damn floor -- I almost feel like it's the floor's fault. She's okay on carpet and outside on the patio, but she obstinately continues to seek out any scrap of bare floor she can find. And then she can't get up on her own. I'm up three or four times in the night, down the stairs to help her move, hearing her nails scrabble as she tries to get up, or roll over. She must be so uncomfortable.
Age hit her fast. I haven't had an old dog. . . ever. When I was a kid we had a big Alaskan malamute named Anouk, but after we moved overseas and she didn't take well to apartment living, my parents found a malamute breeder in Belgium to sell her to. She really did go to live on a farm. I swear. There were even pictures of her with her puppies. But my mother's heart broke when she had to trick Anouk onto a train with a stranger, and there were no more family dogs after that. Scroungy cats, yes. And cats live a blessedly long time.
In my early 20s I adopted a black lab mix from the pound and named him Milo. I had him for a year, a long, fraught year. He was a biter, as it turned out. He nipped a kid who ran past on a busy street, and then when the kid's dad tried to shield him, he bit the dad's watch off his wrist. He chased a horse and rider in the Oakland Hills and I couldn't catch him, and I thought there would be a terrible accident and I was frantic, and scrambling, and I could not catch him for some of the longest minutes of my life. Then he bit a paramedic on duty, bad, and that was it. We had done several obedience courses. There was nothing for it. Milo had to be euthanized. It was horrible, and I didn't plan to get another dog. And I didn't get another dog. My parents did. Shiloh.
She was a year old, a perfect specimen of a Siberian husky, at the good old Human Society. The reason she was given up? Cuz she scapes. [sic]. We used to joke about that family that had her before and we called Shiloh the "scaper." Those poor spellers were right, though. She did escape. Did she ever. Huskies are known for it, their independence and wizardly ways of getting out of yards. Oh, and their demonic speed. Ever try catching a year-old husky with the fierce joy of freedom in her eyes? Well, let's just say it's good exercise for you and you don't stand a chance unless it's really hot out and she's driven home by thirst.
My parents were living in Marin County then, the wedge of land that the north toe of the Golden Gate bridge sets down on. They were far north, toward Wine Country, out by the Petaluma River surrounded by wetlands and scrub oaks, and when I moved back in with them for a few months to save money for art school, Shiloh and I fell in love. She used to come and put her chin on the bed and I would wake up staring into her slightly crazed mismatched eyes, one blue and one brown, and we'd go walking or jogging on the levees and in the woods. Long, long walks. Sometimes I'd let her off leash, but I knew if I did I wouldn't see her until she got thirsty enough, many hours later, to give up her precious wildness. Then she'd find her way home from chasing foxes and deer and sleep like the dead for hours. Man, was she fast.
When I moved out, she moved with me. I absconded with my parents' dog. Jim and I met right away, and in a year we moved in together and Shiloh was our dog, but not really. She was always mine. She's never been cuddly or needy, never tried to win anyone over. For years now we've referred to her as our "downstairs neighbor" because even when she could still go up the steps to where we were working in our studio, she wouldn't. And last fall she got old, like age fell out of a tree while she was walking under it and it just clobbered her. Never having had an aging dog before, I had no idea it could happen like that. When we decided to do the radiation for her cancer, I thought we were looking at the inevitability of the tumor coming back in 8 to 12 months, that we would have to decide what to do then. It never occurred to me her legs would essentially stop working in four months, that her personality would be lost to befuddlement, that she could become a creature just existing, not living, in such a short time.
So. Shiloh's vet is coming here on thursday. I don't think I'll be leaving the house much this week.
[Here is an article I found on pet euthanasia that helped me think things out a bit.]
A few months ago, with her sweet step-brother, Leroy:
When she was young:
and I was young too, and my mom's old tomcat was still alive:
with her Auntie Em:
Predator in action (when Jim fed her a teddy bear that was a gift from an old boyfriend):