I write today to soothe a pain that I can’t medicate and to express a feeling that has no word to describe. Our first canine companion is named Charlie (Sir Charles, Chuckers, Choololaluba, etc) and he was a perfect little red headed Golden Retriever puppy – for about 5-6 months.
Charlie never dropped and we had to subject him to a surgery that more mimicked a spay than a neuter (neuter is what’s used for male pets). A little after moving to FL, Charlie began to display amphibian eyes (bug eyes) and we learned he had ocular atrophy that didn’t hold his eyes properly in his head – nothing to do but medicate and hope it went away, and it did. Then, we received a major shock when Chuckers had his first grand mal seizure. A lifetime of meds for our lil’Charlie. No biggie; we medicate and Charlie was still Charlie through the veil of phenobarbital.
A little under 6 months ago we learned that Charlie had cancer in one of his front legs in the elbow. He’s struggling to get around and we’re doing what is possible to make him more comfortable. He is, however, no longer shining through those big brown bug eyes.
Back to 1999, we were preparing to leave FL as the environment didn’t suit us. We had passed a beautiful female Golden Retriever that was sequestered in an outside patio – during heat, rain and nappy weather. We felt sorry enough for her situation we approached her owners and offered to take the dog to a large parcel of land in NC. They declined and we drove our moving van to NC. Several months later, we were in our new home for just a few weeks when we got the call: “Lady” was in a kennel in S.Florida and if we still wanted her we could pick her up.
So, I jumped into the Suburban and drove 18 hours straight to Kendall FL and picked up Lady (what an awful name for such a beautiful girl) and drove straight home. That was a stupid altruistic gesture that I’ll be hard pressed to replicate (the non-stop round trip, not the rescue). When Charlie saw Lady, they looked at one another and immediately started playing and were inseparable. When we snapped a picture later that first day, we commented that Charlie’s courting through the screen of the patio all those months were realized in this initial meeting at our home. Charlie and Lady were officially a couple.
Lady was pretty uneventful as a pet, with the small exception that she is an escape artist. We chalked it up to being pent up in that outdoor space for two years. A year ago, during our first Mastiff “Tank” cancer treatments, Lady was diagnosed with a Mast cell tumor in her back leg. We scooted Lady into surgery to remove the tumor in the hopes it was localized, but a few months later the tumor recurred. We’re now helping Lady up the stairs and her mobility (like Chuckers) is severely limited.
We have an unfortunate and difficult set of choices in our near future – Charlie will likely cross the bridge sometime very soon and Lady isn’t far behind him. We’ve had to euthanize a pet before, and it is ‘never’ easy. We’re now faced with bringing two pets to the vet for the last time and it’s tough to know what to do. One of the options is to bring the couple to the vet at the same time; another is to wait until there’s no other plausible option. Both are suffering from inoperable cancer and are not happy.
This process is cathartic for me; writing helps to settle my mind and clear my heart. If anyone reads this I seek not to share my misery but to make sense of it and qualify those feelings and situations. Life isn’t fair, loss is guaranteed and love is in the present. My memories of Chelsea, Indie and Tank are vivid and filled with joy. That Charlie and Lady will leave us is guaranteed; the loss will hurt and all I can do between now and then is love them and do my best to choose our next steps wisely and compassionately.