Life for Truffles had been on a downward trajectory for a longer time than I cared to admit, as denial of such matters has been a recurrent theme in my life. It all began with a little trouble pushing her torso heavy body up from the floors at the hospital. I was soon lamenting that I had let her eat all of those treats when I first fostered her, as it has been difficult to lose a single pound of the ten she put on while delighting in all of those delicacies.
At first, I excused the slippage on her hind legs for the shiny well-waxed floors of the hospital, and tried to compensate by having her nails trimmed short at the groomers every other week. When that didn’t work, I put her in puppy gripper booties that were often seen later in the housekeepers dust pile. For a while, it worked well to put a sticky Coban tape around her paws for better traction., but she often gave me quite the look about that. But still, it was just getting too difficult for her to keep up with me. The nurses felt so sad at the thought of her impending retirement from the Rehab unit that they tried to get carts and rollers to help her around the hospital, but it soon became clear that it was too much effort for her.
It was hard to believe that spinal stenosis could take her body out when her spirit still thrived. Her desire to get up and be present with the patients was so compelling that she would drag herself in to a patient’s room if she could. Patients would take heart that she was trying so hard to get around, despite her aging body. For a while, I would pick her hind end up and then she would take off just fine, wagging her tail the whole way, placing her head at the side of a patient’s bed to feel those warm loving strokes on her head.
One morning, my sweetheart was carrying her down from his bedroom when I heard him slide down with slippery socks down on the last four steps, arriving on his bum with Truffles still draped across his forearms. Our lives soon became about where we could travel with her, and how to lift her carefully from Seattle to Vashon in cars of comfort. He has friends staying with him at his house that have 3 children that would curl up with her on the floor at every opportunity, so we tried to keep her at his place as often as possible.
But then one evening she did that Lab thing and "ate something" somewhere in the fenced acre I have. She must have snarfled down something awful, which I never saw but could only imagine, as I have four cats that live to disembowel anything within their clawed clutches. I am sure that whatever it was, it wasn’t pure protein and essential vitamins.
Later in the middle of the night, when she started going projectile at both ends, I knew we were headed for trouble, as that excessive squatting was only going to irritate the stenosis in her spine.
It was a long week of carrying her outside many times trying to keep up with her systemic purging as the medicine began to work on her infection. Trying to trick her into her meds was not an easy task. Between her regular meds, antibiotics and anti-diarrhea meds, we are talking about a lot of pills here. As she is rather toothless, she could easily eject them out the sides of her mouth with one quick tongue movement. I had to get more creative.
So I switched her to the basic BRAT diet, with a mash made of boiled sweet potato, rice, and chicken with ground meds dissolved into a couple of tablespoons of smelly cat food to enhance the formula.
I was in town one afternoon when a friend stopped by who loves my cooking. There are not too many places to eat way out here on the Point, so by the time visitors come, I make sure to always have food ready. Eyeing one of the several Tupperware containers in the fridge, he called me afterwards and told me had been so hungry that he had helped himself to one of them.
"Not your usual flavorful cooking, I was wondering what kind of spices you used," he commented when he called. "But thanks, it filled the void." I told him he would probably pass a lot of gas but not pee or poop for a while, that any and all infections should clear, and he should be feeling no pain for the rest of afternoon.
It has been several weeks into this that I began to realize that no matter how much I cuddle her, stroke her white haired chin or wash her bottom with warm water and lavender shampoo, she is not returning to her usual goofy, gleeful self.
There have been a few good days that gave me hope when she showed signs of improvement. A few days of normal output and appetite following lazer treatment to the spine, other days she could sniff the cats and follow them around the yard after she had acupuncture. But then she started to refuse any food that had medicine in it. That week, a lovely woman came to the house who has the ability to communicate with animals. At that time, with Truffles tail wagging and getting upright, she felt that Truffles still wanted to be here. On those days, I would load her in the quilt-lined wagon and take her for a ride around the property so she could have a break from the landscape of the living room.
But more recently, those brown eyes were staring at me with quiet contemplation, not exuberance. And today she started the morning off with those into the distance looks, as if she were communicating with the unseen.
I remember that this phenomenon occurred with my mom before she passed this winter. I was sitting next to her in the hospital where she was all of 75 lbs, lost of sight and hearing for the last couple of years. She was sharp as a tack, however, and did not possess a religious bone in her frail body. So when she would sit bolt upright in her last days and reach out to someone or something and smile deeply, I was perplexed.
"What is it, mom?"
"Oh they are just angels, can’t you see them? Look, there is one here and one over there,." She would point, "And one right next to you." "Oh, you must see them, there are so many of them." I held her tiny hand and wept while she fell back to sleep, beautiful and exhausted.
I can only imagine that it is similar for Truffles right now as I am curled up next to her, holding her paw.
As I did for my mom, I am whispering in her ear and reminding her of the wonderful time she is going to have when she crosses over, when she is reunited with my mom that she so loved, and all of her friends that have gone before. Then she will be free of this painful body that holds her here, and her spirit can roam in the infinite forever.
The lovely animal communicator lady came again to talk with us for the second time.
After caressing her head and soft brown ears while asking her questions that Truffles actually nodded to, she sadly told me that Truffles so wanted to be here, but her body could no longer sustain that desire.
Truffles the Wonderdog left us shortly after I wrote this. I am reminded daily of the certainty that by risking it all if we love deeply, we are left with the knowledge that at any moment, life can change and leave us standing on pretty shaky ground.
But I endeavor to remember that it is not a loss, simply a change, in that love transforms us and everyone around us when we let it into our hearts.
Though mine will be broken for a little while, I remain so grateful for the time that I had with her, and to VIPP for shepherding her my way and touching all the lives she helped heal with her loving presence.
She is smiling on us now, hoping we remember to embrace, adopt, foster and love all that life brings us, particularly if it comes in a chaotic, drooling and seemingly unmanageable package.