Thursday, 2 July 2009

Dark Day

The sun is bright and the breeze blows, but it´s a dark day at the Peaceable.

Today in Leon the veterinary specialist gave us the news: the knob on Una´s bad knee is cancerous, a fast-spreading kind.

There are all kinds of heroic things we can do, but none will spare her much suffering or extend her life much farther than a few months.

She´s still walking and eating and snarling at Tim and barking when anyone comes to the gate. She still puts a paw on me when it´s time for a scratching. She´s still enjoying life.

But she knows, and we know, she´s not the dog she used to be, not since last November. That´s when she and Tim simultaneously leapt from the back of the car after an expedition and Tim landed smack on top of her, twisting her rear left leg beneath her.

No more long walks along the canal. No more rodent-digging in the Promised Land, or long leaps over ditches. Just short walks in the cool morning.

The first vet said it would get better, but it did not.
Another vet, a month later, said we should´ve done something right away.
And now the third vet, the specialist in Leon, said it´s been re-injured too many times. She didn´t keep still and quiet long enough for the initial injury to heal up, and she kept hurting it over and over. And that´s how the cancer got started.

Una´s about six years old. She is a terrier-Dalmatian mongrel who showed up at our house outside Pittsburgh on September 1, 2003 -- the first day of Paddy´s official retirement, and two months after we married one another. She was still a pup, completely untrained and unmannerly, more of a crocodile than a dog. She gave him much to do with his first few months alone in a post-industrial rural area called Jeannette, Pennsylvania. They drove each other up the wall sometimes, and forged a close bond.

I wasn´t so easily won. I was the "bad cop" to his "good cop," I disciplined her and taught her that walking on the kitchen counters is not a good idea, and that groundhogs and wild turkeys and small children are not toys. And even though I was the hard-ass, (or maybe because I was,) she decided she loved me best.

She still is street dog, a barely-domesticated creature who´d just as gladly dine from a dumpster as a demitasse.

She adapted to life with ferrets, llamas, ponies, cats, chickens, other dogs, pilgrims, and other animals. She moved with us three times, one of those involving an 18-hour international airplane trek. But she´s had it good.

She has hunted raccoons and possums in the semi-wild state parks of Pennsylvania, and field mice on the Spanish meseta, and house-mice everywhere in between... she´s a terrier, and lives to stalk wily rodents. She´s leapt snowdrifts and dodged lightning bolts and baked her hide in the sun of two continents. She´s begged for scraps at the best tables, and rested her chin on the knees of sages and wandering bums.

We don´t know how long she´s got, but we´ll spend the fortune it takes to buy her painkillers.
The vet says we will know when it is time to say goodbye.

And meantime we can only scratch her spotted belly, and slip her bits of meat, and say soft words to her.

And we can cry.


Anonymous said...

Indeed a dark day, but there's still plenty of sunny ones left for now...

Big love to that spotted rodent-eliminator machine...a loveable, coarse-haired ball of affection and good spirits,
thinking of you all,

Laura said...

I'm so sorry for your sad news. What a beautiful gift you have given Una. How many dogs get six years of varied and exotic experiences and the love and affection of so many friends and strangers... you have enriched each others lives and Una will forever live in the treasured memories of the pilgrims who have been in your home and of those of us who only know of her from your blog and photos. Hold her close in the coming days and know that many others will hold you close as well.

claire bangasser said...

I could not say it better.
(((((((Una, Patrick, & Rebekah)))))

Timecheck said...

You will know and they will know when the time comes. I've been through five cats now through 50+ years of adult life. One 12, one 13, two 17s and an 18. Never gets any easier, but as long as they enjoy some good moments and the remainder of their time is resting and easy, you both share some happiness. One day they just clearly don't want to do it anymore.

Beth said...

Dearest Reb & Paddy, my sincerest sympathies on the news on Una. Been there, done that, as they say, so I know it really sucks, for lack of a better term. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers. Always, Beth

Gareth Thomas said...

Hi Reb and Paddy,

Well, I'm not a dog person, as you probably remember (!) but I know how much you love the dogs so I can understand how sad this is. I'm on my parish placement in east London at the moment, and last week a dear old simple soul whose dog was on the way out of this life asked me, "Will my dog go to heaven?" I know what the Catechism says, and it doesn't offer much comfort, so I decided to be a heretic and offer pastoral support instead. "Of course dogs go to heaven! It is full of them." This was not a lie. The Dominicans are known as "God's Dogs" (Domini canes) There are many Dominican saints. Ergo...

Una will have a place in heaven. Do not doubt it.

Ryan said...

Really sorry to hear about Una - I'll have many happy memories of her scruffing about and acting a fool. Sending good thoughts your way so the tough days aren't so tough.

Much love.


Deborah said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Una.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your sad news. What a beautiful gift you have given Una.
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