I should have known, that Wednesday two weeks ago, when the dog was sitting in the passenger seat looking at me as if trying to memorize my face. In the past 12 years, I have never seen the dog look at me that way. The dog is a terrier, and not given to serious attitudes, nor to long and soulful gazes.
Perhaps the dog knew, as I do now, that she will soon be making a journey and that, after she makes that journey, it will likely be a long time before she sees me again. I was taking the dog to the vet, and since she is 12 years old, I did not expect the news to be good.
I did not expect it to be as bad as it was. Bladder cancer in humans is treatable. Bladder cancer in elderly dogs, who weigh 20 pounds, is not. The symptoms can be dealt with, but the idea of replacing the bladder with a synthetic one, as is done with humans, is out of the question.
The symptoms can be dealt with. With a catheter in, the dog continues to enjoy walks, play with the younger dog, and have daily baths. With the catheter plugged, the dog can come in the house for a while. The dog is not in pain. The symptoms can be dealt with.
The alpha male-me- is in pain. The dog has been a part of my life, a friend, a family member, for 12 years. She has not been a pet; the term “pet” is demeaning. A well mannered dog is a part of the family, with family responsibilities. Hers have focused around child care.
The 11- year-old grandson is struggling to cope. Armed with the intellectual awareness that his dog is old, he tries to attain an emotional understanding. He also fights to grasp that reality from the distance of Florida, where he knows he has no control over what happens here.
The 7-year-old granddaughter denies that her dog is old, and prays every night for God to make Bonnie better. I try to steer her in the direction of “God, please make Bonnie keep feeling well, and keep her feeling happy.”
That is about all that I can do, as well. I know that, if there were not cancer, there would be something else, very soon, in the life of an elderly dog.
There are no easy ways to let go of a friend of 12 years. It is always hard, the price we pay for having dogs — or cats, or horses – in our lives.
In the meantime, the dog does not know she is sick. I will not be the one to tell her.