"...but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years."
(from The Dash, by Linda Ellis copyright 1996)
I've been missing Bennie a lot this past week. Maybe it's the holidays. Maybe it was my birthday, which is when I usually reflect on the previous year rather than on New Year's Day. Or maybe it's just that my heart has healed enough to allow my brain to start thinking about her again.
I still can't believe that she's gone. That little dog was a fighter from the moment she wandered into my life right up until the moment she took her last breath. I knew she would fight the ending. I told Mitchell that she would. I worried so much about it that I considered putting off the appointment for another day. I wanted her to give up, but she wouldn't. Her body had given up; it was her spirit that hadn't. Her final days consisted of a cycle of her lying down on the bed, sleeping, and going out to the bathroom. She had stopped eating altogether three days prior. Her seizures had increased in frequency and in severity. I witnessed two that I thought would take her life. Yet, still she fought.
She fought the injection by the vet. She had to be catheterized. She jerked her leg back again. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, "STOP!!! JUST STOP! I'm taking her home!" But, I didn't. I knew that it was time to let her go. I knew that her life had lost all pleasure. I mean, really. This dog had lived to eat, and now she couldn't be enticed by any of her favorite treats. I knew that she must be in pain. Her liver was not working properly. She was toxic. It had affected her brain. I knew that it was time. I knew that my duty now was not to take her home and keep trying to keep her alive. I knew that it was my job, my duty, my responsibility, to help her die. I knew that I loved her enough to face that task.
But, the truth is that I had already fixed her--at least a couple of times. I had already saved her life. She probably wouldn't have lived more than a few years longer if I hadn't found her. She was so heavily infested with heartworms that her heart would have become unable to beat. She was nearly bald and would have likely lived in constant pain and discomfort from her irritated skin. She was not yet spayed and would have probably become pregnant again and again, bringing litters of unwanted puppies into the world and becoming more and more depleted and malnourished with each pregnancy and nursing cycle. She would continue to wander loose, perhaps being hit by a car, maybe being picked up by someone with less than noble motives, certainly never knowing as much love as I would eventually feel for her.
She wouldn't have received treatment for her heartworms, or if she had, she may not have survived. She nearly died on me following her second injection. She wouldn't have had the x-rays that revealed the pain that she lived with daily, her ribs splayed outward on one side, her left rear femur bone had been out of the hip socket for so long that it had created a pseudo socket from wearing down the pelvic bone, and her left rear kneecap refused to stay in place due to the angle of her hip. She wouldn't have received the care she needed when one of her molars became infected. It was during the pre-anesthetic bloodwork for that tooth extraction when her liver issues were first hinted at. She wouldn't have been on a daily supplement to support her liver from that first early warning.
She wouldn't have survived the gall bladder issue that emerged in May 2012. She had only missed one meal. Most owners wouldn't rush their dogs to the vet over that. I did. I knew better. The stars aligned and she received an ultrasound that day that diagnosed the severity of the problem. Her vet had just been to a workshop on the same topic. She knew that surgery was the best solution, but didn't feel that Bennie would survive it. She prescribed a medication that was compounded especially for Bennie. I believed that she would heal, and she did, surprising every vet who had seen her. She wouldn't have been put back on the gall bladder medication when things seemed "off" again later that year. She wouldn't have had the last sixteen months.
And when she had the first seizure, she might not have gone to the vet immediately. She may not have been diagnosed as being in the end stages of liver failure. She may not have gotten the medication that helped her body shed the toxins that were building up within it. She may not have gotten a choice of chicken salad (from Leblanc's, not Albertson's) or hot dogs or cat food or cooked chicken or whatever-she'll-eat. She may not have been able to stretch a two-week prognosis into a two-month process of living each day to the fullest--a prolonged kiss goodbye.
She would not have had any of these experiences. She would have lived and died in Indiana. She would have never seen the inside of a U-Haul truck on its way to Chattanooga. She would have never lived on or near a mountain. She would have never spent a week without power after an early Nor'easter. She would have never been to the city that housed the famous coffee shop where her namesake "donuts" were made and sold by the millions every year.
She would have never, ever, ever have been as loved as deeply, madly, truly as she was by me. And, I never would have known what an amazing little soul she was. I wouldn't have been saved by her. I wouldn't have known her constant and faithful companionship. I wouldn't have experienced her soft moments. My life would have been much emptier.
I miss you, Bennie. More than words can ever say...