Saturday, April 19, 2014

our old friend

This is my buddy Papaya, also called Pappy. He's been with us nearly a year and a half. He was the dog of a couple renters the sister of a woman involved with our rescue was evicting. They said they couldn't take him along and intended to put him down so the rescue took him in. They didn't give anyone a clue how old he might be, so he could be anywhere from fourteen to eighteen.

He had a poor reputation for being snappy and easily angered by the time he came to us for fostering. We discovered after close watching he is nearly blind and deaf, and so long as he wasn't surprised or startled he was all right. We got in the habit of touching him as we passed to get him used to us and that's all it took. After a few days he bonded enough to me that I could lift him onto a vet's table and in and out of the car. He started sleeping on a dog bed beside us or sometimes on one in the living room. A few weeks later we came to the conclusion no one would ever want an old, crabby, snappy dog so we adopted him.

Monday, the day after Easter, our vet is coming here and if the weather is good we will take him outside on the grass and she'll inject him and he'll die.

Pappy isn't sick, at least not physically. He's got stomach issues and arthritic hips we've given him multiple medications for and the little walking he does has probably completely shred the ACL joint of his rear right leg so that it swings almost free when he takes more than a few steps. Beyond that, he could probably live another year or two. But his behavior, never really the best, has grown worse. Our largest dog, Beans, alpha of the house, took it on himself to teach Pappy where everything was, it seemed, as he'd either lead him or nudge him in directions for doors and up the deck stairs. But in the last seven months Pappy has taken to barking almost non-stop when he sees Beans and has attacked him several times. We don't know if Beans may have hurt him or if Pappy is only imagining he's a threat, but after a while of this Beans retaliated, going for the top of his head instead of his throat, and leaving a deep gash there. That was around Christmas and after that we secluded Pappy in the kitchen, calling it his "Greg Brady" apartment and referencing his groovy room divider beads.

His animosity toward Beans has only increased, to the point where he goes into a fit of barking whenever he sees him or, in the past month, imagines he is nearby. We put a towel and then a blanket over the baby gate that seperates the rooms, but Pappy would mark constantly on it--and sometimes in other places in his room--so we've folded a shower curtain over it because it's easier to clean off.  His attitude, never the best toward anyone beyond us, sometimes blooms into full-blown paranoia when he barks and snaps at things he seems only to imagine. Our greatest fear is that he will bite someone who's come to visit and who we can't warn to move slowly first, especially a child.

He's a Shiba Inu and we had never heard of that breed before he came to us. After a year and change the most we know about these dogs is they are independent, often unaffectionate dogs that act more like spoiled cats. They have a high pitched shriek often called a Shiba scream that can be ear-piercing. He's nipped at us occasionally, fortunately never breaking the skin. Dogs can't tell you what they're experiencing, of course, so we can only assume he's growing more senile and sensing imaginary threats.  He developed a dolphin-like grin in the past month that the vet explains is the mark of a stressed dog in panic mode.

Still, as I say, he could live another year. Maybe two. But what determined our course is what he enjoys rather than what he fears. He loves to go outdoors, sometimes putting a peppy step to our walk down our long driveway to the mailbox and back, after which he's exhausted and can sleep so soundly we think he might have solved the issue by dying in his sleep. He loves to go for rides and tonight we took both Kiwi, a dog we're considering adopting, and him on errands with us and then for a drive to Dairy Queen where the employees treated them to little cups of vanilla ice cream with a dog treat on top. He sometimes cries out at night and one of us will go in the kitchen and lie with him on the floor, petting him and talking soothingly, until he starts to drop off again.

Sometimes his life is full of joy. In this, his final week, we've bought expensive meaty canned food to mix with his usual fare and we give him fatty treats and sometimes even food we're eating. Dogs and cats should leave this life on a good note and we want Papaya to die knowing there are still moments of pleasure and exhultation in his day rather than it becoming a chore he--and we--must labor to get through.

Most of our other animals have been creamated but one, Rayzen, was buried out back. We've often wondered, if it's true animal souls remain where their bodies are, if that's a lonely spot, and decided Pappy should join him there. I dug the hole today. They never knew one another but I don't think that matters. Besides, we don't think his remains should be closed up in a can tucked on a shelf but allowed, like Rayzen's was, to give sustenance to the worms and grubs and other crawlies under the grass there.

1 comment:

  1. A lovely farewell, Bob. Thanks to you and Jayne and the other critters for giving him a year of enjoyment and a graceful exit. (Ellen W)