Two complete strangers entered my life in 2007. Both were bearing gifts. One of the gifts is a miniature dachshund sitting right here on my lap as I write this.
Her name is Zoey. Her sister, Lily, another gift, is curled up behind me on the couch. Both dachshunds belonged to one of the strangers before we lost our fur-child Michael. We had prolonged putting Michael down. Sounds cold, doesn't it, that we decided to put down our 13-year-old Springier Spaniel? That was last March, after many, many months of Michael suffering from a wide array of ailments not the least of which was Alzheimer's.
In the latter weeks of his life, I would find him walking around in circles, round and round, and whining, too. He just could not find his resting spot – a place not to be found on earth.
I would set him down, stroke him and say, "There now rest, Michael." My words and his settling down were always followed by one of his full-bodied guttural sighs.
Toward the end he stopped eating all together. When it was dinnertime, he clenched his teeth so tightly as if to say, "Just let me be; let me go." Not even freshly cooked hamburger appealed to him.
This was tough to take. We wanted Michael to bounce back and, well, to be himself again. But as far as Michael was concerned, he had had enough.
If he were out on the loose, on his own without a home, without us to stand in the way, he would have been long gone by March 2007. He would have wandered off to the woods or down some lonesome alley and died peacefully and alone.
But he had a home, a fenced-in yard and Brian and I to prevent him from such a natural ending.
On March 27, 2007, three days after he had stopped eating, we made that unbearable trip to the vet's. In the preceding months leading up to that fateful day, he had been lethargic and at times difficult to rouse.
But now that we were in the car heading into town to have him put down, he was looking up and around in an eerie sort of way. He demonstrated an interest, an alertness we had not seen for some time, as if he were saying, "Finally!" … to be continued.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The National Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2008 Paula Damon