I have often joked about my geriatric Labradors and their imminent “one way trip.” That day the pearly gates of heaven would open up and welcome them with open arms (or paws as the case may be.) I have poked fun at the dementia and the incontinence. Making the comparison to a cranky old grandma shouting at her insolent grandchildren to “turn down that racket!” as our old Labrador Lady would bark at the cats, or the puppy, or the wind. And I’ve often kidded about my husband keeping a tick mark on the calendar to mark each day of the doggy death march, until the one glorious day that we would not have these geriatric, incontinent, dementia plagued, cat box picking, bread stealing, noise making dogs. I didn’t mean it. I really didn’t. And neither did my husband.
He had to take Lady to the vet today—my husband, who never really felt as though he was overly invested in my old dogs. They were never really his. He was just the one who got stuck cleaning behind them or shopping for their expensive, grain-free dog food. He only complained a little. He accepted that when we got married he got me, the kids, and the dogs—a package deal. So today the deal…the package deal…came with a somber responsibility. Our much maligned Labrador—the one who somehow learned to smile with all of her teeth, like some dog version of the Phantom of the Opera, like some snarling vicious animal, smiling for nothing more than whatever bit of attention she could garner—was sick. The kind of sick that you can’t treat with a pill or a shot. It was the kind of sick you can’t cure.
My husband—the man who claimed he didn’t like this dog—shed a tear for Lady. It was the hardest thing he ever had to do, letting the vet take my dog on her final “one way trip”. It didn’t happen the way we had planned it. It wasn’t an easy decision, or one taken lightly, but it was the right decision to make under the circumstances.
Everyone at our house cried for Lady. We were all sad to see her go. All of us. Even the other dogs miss her already. I think we will all miss the middle of the night pokes with her paw. We will all miss her irritating barking at the back door to go out, and then barking on the other side of the same door to come back in the minute she was out there. We will miss her ridiculous snarly smile, the one that terrified neighbors and repairmen alike. We will even miss her horrible snoring, and wretched dog farts.
It’s almost funny how you don’t realize how attached you are to a pet until they aren’t there to pee on your floor, or chew your best shoes, or drag cat litter through your house, or steal the last loaf of bread from the counter, or drool down your leg while you’re watching TV, or wake you up in the middle of the night to go out when they don’t even have to go. Somehow you don’t mind any of those things in retrospect. It’s more like losing a member of the family—that cranky old grandmother that you joking called “the old bitch,” but really loved a whole lot.
My other old Labrador, Cybil is lying on the floor by my bed. She knows that her old friend is gone. They were like the Golden Girls, waiting out their old age together. Now Cybil is the old lady of the house. I’ll be sure to give her the respect she deserves with that new title. And I won’t even complain when I step in cold dog pee in the middle of the night. Not for a while anyway. After all…life is too short to cry over spilled pee…or something like that.
Until the next time…I’ll be appreciating my incontinent old Lab while she’s around. I might even give her a loaf of bread…for old time sake…