Friday, August 21, 2015
The Reality of Aging Huskies, Part Whatever
Autumn and I are learning how to live with her new condition. I'm trying to accept it as merely a new weft in the fabric of our lives. Sometimes Autumn lies down in the middle of a walk, recovers, and continues to hike 4-6 miles. Sometimes she lies down, won't get up again, and needs to be carried home. Sometimes she declines even to head out with us, walking to the top of the driveway, then turning around and walking home of her own volition. I continue our run with just Starbuck and Linden those times. I'm glad she is learning to judge her own abilities and is unlikely to leave me stranded, although I have neighbors lined up ready to give us a ride home, if need be. People have reached out with compassion and patience.
I'm a bit at a loss as to how I allow myself to feel. I don't feel as if I have the right to complain. To have two beloved dogs live with such a high quality of life until past 16 is an incredible, almost unbelievable blessing. On the other hand, it still hurts. It answers for me, in crisp black and white, a question I've been noodling over for several years. Several years ago, I mentioned in passing to my mom that I had cut my finger chopping veggies for dinner. She was horrified, to what seemed to me a level that was out of scale to the minor cut. She said, "Be more careful!" I replied, "I *am* careful, but sometimes shit just happens." She replied, "No, if you are *really* careful, you can avoid cutting yourself. For example, when you are tired, don't cook. Order takeout." The differences in our perspectives of risk management astonished me. Is it really possible, I wondered, to live a 100% pain-free existence? Now I know the answer: nope. Even if you find the World's Most Perfect Dog, and she lives an enchanted life, beloved by her musher from the day she was born, and then given to you, and you give each other every happiness and support that two generous, but intelligent hearts can give each other, she can and will still break your heart one day.
I can't rail against the injustice, because God has been more than generous to us, giving us far more than most dogs and humans have together. Tonight I am having friends over for dinner, and looking forward to meeting their several month-old baby. They had another baby, who was stillborn at 8 months old. He had a name. They loved him and held his tiny, still body and took photos. They honored him. And they never got to meet him. They are wonderful parents, both to their living daughter and to their son's memory. Even if I were one of them, I'd know it'd be illogical to rail against the injustice of losing a beloved son. Because fate is indifferent and hands out blessings and cruelties to good people and bad people alike. How much less of a right do I have to complain as we approach the end of the life of a beloved, long-lived, indulged dog?
I took Autumn and Linden to a doggie physical therapist last week. I wondered if she could unlock the mystery of Autumn's episodes of paralysis. She could not, but she did offer some relief for the general old-lady pains of both of them, suggesting a regimen of pain killers, continuing their glucosamine pills, and adding another joint supplement, Adequan. Adequan is polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, a different building block of cartilage from glucosamine chondroitin. It's a drug that is injected twice a week during the loading dose period, so she sent us home with the drug and some disposable syringes. I read the literature it came with, and it has proven quite effective in restoring joint mobility in 35 limbs suffering degenerative joint disease, in 24 dogs. Additionally, toxicity tests were performed on 32 beagles, who were divided into 4 groups of 8 and administered either saline, 1X, 3X, or 10X the recommended dosage. At the end of the test, all 32 beagles were euthanized, and necropsies were performed to evaluate the effects. I think about those 32 beagles. Why did 32 beagles die so that Autumn and Linden could have a slightly more comfortable old age?
I guess all I can say is that in this world, pain and suffering are meted out as randomly as blessings, and into every life falls a bit of both, and neither side is 100% avoidable. When I think about how my life has unfolded so far, I feel I have had the most impossible luck, living a life that is really far richer and better than I deserve. And yet here I sit, on the threshold of an intense grief that I know is coming sooner and sooner. The thing about dogs is that even if they have the bestest life and the best of everything, it still always ends with heartache, and that's the way it is and there's not a damned thing you can do about it. There are no more magic pills that our excellent vet can give us to make it all go away.