When The Inevitable Arrives

February 11, 2010
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It’s been almost a year, but still the fear of the inevitable’s entrance into my life again remains. The concept that everyone reaches his or her age, that eventually we all have to die, had never really sunk in. Never before that moment had it ever applied to me; it was just something people say to comfort others when they have to let go of a loved one. But the moment my mom came to the porch swing where I sat and said, “Cassie, we need to talk about Moxie,” I realized that this concept had just entered my life as a reality.

Moxie, our Maltese that we adopted from the shelter when I was in 5th grade, could never really be categorized as ‘healthy.’ She was usually under constant pain that our efforts could never truly fix. Her previous owners had been exceedingly cruel to her, something our efforts could never really reverse. Despite her rough shape though, we took her in, knowing that we were probably her last shot at happiness. We gave her treatment for the problems her owners had caused, including 2 ear surgeries for her ear infection. But still it was only temporary relief because her ears were so damaged, not a very good outlook for our dog in the first place. Combining a good diet, exercise, love, and care though, we kept her alive for quite a bit longer than everyone expected. However, our luck could only continue for so long. And last summer, I was faced with the realization that our luck had just ended.

“Cassie, we need to talk about Moxie,” were the simple, heart-rending words that started the conversation. “She’s not doing well, as you know, and… well… I think it might be time to let her go. She’s suffering so badly and I feel terrible watching her limp around and cry whenever anything comes in contact with her ear, and I know you feel the same way. I haven’t told your father or brother yet because I wanted to give you time to deal with this first.” Those were the tearjerkers. I broke down and cried in her arms as she tried to comfort me. “I know this is going to be hard. We’ve had Moxie so long and she was closest to you.” But that wasn’t the only reason I was in tears. It was picturing coming home and not being greeted at the door by my loyal loving friend. It was seeing other people go for walks with their dogs while I stayed inside unable to experience the freedom and joy of walking my own dog. It was falling asleep at night without my dog cuddled into my side. The combination of all these losses I’d have to face was too much, and all I could do was sit there wrapped in my mother’s arms and in my own sorrow.
My mind drifted towards thinking of how valuable my time left with Moxie was, and suddenly I stood up and went to find her. She was on the couch, asleep with her dreams - her only tranquil place left it seemed. I picked her up and sat on the couch with her in my arms, sobbing into her neck as she pressed her little body into me and fell asleep, totally comforted that when she was with me everything was going to be OK. I must’ve sat like that for an hour, simply reliving all of the experiences I had shared with my dog; teaching her how to sit, scratching her in her favorite spot, fixing her dinner, helping her when I found her struggling to do something. These memories and these feelings slashed through me like a speeding train, and as I was slammed, one suddenly stood out. Her pain is going to go away. She’ll be free from the limits her suffering and injuries have put on her. She’s going to be alright and its because we’re letting her go.
This one source of comfort was enough to push the others aside. Of course would have to go through with putting her to sleep. We couldn’t keep her for ourselves, or because we were scared of the feelings that would come with putting her to sleep. We had to do it for her, to save her from the pain. Keeping her for selfish reasons, just because we were afraid of the alternative – we would be just like her previous owners, keeping her for our own gain. We couldn’t put her through that again. This soothed me, knowing that we were doing it for her. And although we would be losing her, at least we still had all of the joy she had given us over the years. I went to bed that night incredibly sad for my loss, but also happy for Moxie’s gain.

A few days later, as we were calling our friends to let them know the news, my friend’s mom told us maybe she had something. She was an infectious disease doctor, and she told us that she wanted to look at Moxie. We said yes right away and she was at our house five minutes later. As she examined Moxie’s ear, the source of most of her pain, she asked us if we had tried giving her acetaminophen. When we replied no, that the veterinarian said it wouldn’t be effective, she pulled out her phone and dialed the hospital she worked at, calling in for a prescription of this medicine. It arrived at our door the next afternoon, and we quickly figured out the dosing and gave it to her. Within hours she was walking around, totally fine, as if nothing in the world had ever been wrong. It was the miracle cure! I wept with silent gratitude, so thankful that she had found a cure that would keep my dog with me. The weight of pain and apprehension was lifted from my shoulders and I held Moxie close to me, in awe of the tumultuous week I had had and of the wonderful, miraculous end that I could have never predicted.

In retrospect, I realize that this experience has the prospect of teaching us a lot. It teaches us to cherish things before we are finally pressured into doing it by a time limit. We should be more appreciative while there’s still the chance, and we should never be afraid of making sacrifices for those we love, no matter how painful it may be for us personally.

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