I’m really depressed tonight. I’m in Boston tonight for a business meeting tomorrow, and I phone Barbara a couple of hours ago before I headed off to dinner (at a very nice Afghan restaurant) with a friend of mine. Barbara told me that she’s increasingly concerned about Isaac, our last remaining “planned” dog. Isaac is just about 15¾ years old (he’ll be 16 in early March) and he’s been doing pretty well until recently. But he’s having increased mobility problems. His rear legs are so weak now that he cannot stand up from lying down most of the time, and it’s getting to the point where he can’t really stand on his own any more. Barbara and I are headed off on Saturday to the Tampa, FL area where we’ll work on and sail our 40′ sailboat. Barbara’s unsure whether Isaac will be in any sort of condition to leave him with our (very reliable, I must say) petsitter, Amanda. It’s not that Amanda would ever neglect Isaac, but he often gets dehydrated because he can’t stand up to go take a drink. It’s very hard for us to be sensitive to this problem, and it’s almost impossible for somebody less involved with Isaac to recognize it.
I’m horrified at the thought that we might have to release Isaac to the Rainbow Bridge on Friday (I get back from Boston late on Thursday night and we leave early on Saturday morning). Isaac, whose registered name is “Scherzando Prophet of Joy”, is the last dog who came to Utah with us from Colorado. He’s the last dog who knew the last dog who knew Merlin, which is a sort of watershed for me. Event 20 years after Merlin’s death, I still cannot imagine life without him. Losing Isaac just magnifies my grief and horror at losing so many of my furkids.
About a year and a half ago, my (human) brother was killed in a car crash. My mother has said several times that losing a child is the hardest thing she can imagine, even harder than losing my father several years earlier. I don’t pretend that it’s exactly the same as losing a human child, but my Shelties are my kids, my only kids. Barbara and I have a sort of shrine in our family room in which appears no fewer than 25 boxes containing the ashes of dogs and cats we’ve loved and lost. With all respect to my mother and all parents who have lost their children, I really do comprehend the magnitude, the gravity of such losses.
Whether it’s this week, or December, or next summer, we know that Isaac (like all living creatures) will die. I hope that it’s with our timely help so that he never has to suffer. But it’s incredibly, awesomely difficult to be responsible for making that decision. I don’t much like playing god, never have. But these guys depend on us to do what’s best for them, and it’s my responsibility to do the Right Thing.
Janis Joplin famously sang, in the Chris Christopherson song, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…”. Well, I never want to be free from Merlin, Ellie, Annie, Lady, Isaac, Fafi, and the loooooong list of Shelties who have entrusted their lives to my and Barbara’s care. But it can be so hard…