Monday, February 20, 2017

Life After Death

It's now been a week since we lost Linden, and six since we lost Autumn. A lot of the concerns I had had while they were still with us never came to pass. Starbuck adjusted fine to hanging around the house by herself all day, even coming upstairs with us at bedtime to say goodnight. She still doesn't sleep with us, which would be my preference, but she just loveloveloves her couch:

I'm not even as devastated as I had thought I would be. I'm sad, I'm heartbroken, but I'm not gutted. As I wrote in an email to DLM after Autumn died:

It actually didn't hurt as much as I had thought it would. Autumn was so tired and mentally woozy, she seemed ready to go, and she drifted off so gently, with her head in my lap. My most overarching feeling about the whole situation was and is gratitude. When she was younger, I would occasionally worry how I'd cope with her inevitable later passing, but it hurts more to imagine it when they are young. When they are old, it becomes obvious that it's time. I'm sure you have experienced that. I saw a documentary a year or so ago about a British former champion rock climber, now retired and living in a little cottage and clearly unable to climb. She was asked how she felt about her recent sedentary existence, and whether she missed climbing. She smiled and said, "No. That was then. Now I sit here and read." and she clearly meant it. That was a marvel to me at the time, and it makes me fear my own aging less.

With Linden, it was a bit more sudden, and a bit more shocking, but still, you can't realistically expect that much more time with a 17.5-year old dog. If any dog could have lived forever, it would have been the bouncing Booger, but alas, no dog does, no matter how much we love them.

Life is easier to plan now. Starbuck doesn't have to pee as often. She has no pills to take (except an over-the-counter glucosamine, which is liver-flavored, so she takes it willingly). When we plan to take a 6-mile hike in 90 minutes, by golly, we take a 6-mile hike in 90 minutes. We don't have to stop and rest, dawdle, or turn around because she has changed her mind. She happily gobbles down her breakfast and supper, which don't require any enhancements (beef for Autumn, and chicken for Booger... no, wait, Booger has changed her mind and will only eat beef today... no, wait, today Booger will take her supper with those salmon skin scraps, thankyouverymuch!)

Especially after Autumn started to show signs of dementia, the elderly ladies were so much work and care that I was afraid I'd be incapable of judging when it would be their time to go. Was I letting them go because they had no quality of life? Or was I letting them go because I myself was tired of all of the work? At the end though, it was crystal-clear when their final days were winding down. Neither was suffering, nor in pain. But Autumn had been mentally "gone" for days and could barely walk. Linden didn't even want to get up to bounce around the yard, per her usual morning routine. I'm thankful for that clarity, and we definitely did not let them go too soon, nor too late. I'm thankful that I got to hold them and pet them as they passed, and that they knew that I loved them until the end.

I'm also thankful that they lived to help me find DL, and also that we got Starbuck when we did. She was indeed a great companion to Booger after Autumn died. Booger would have hated being alone, but she was also going a bit woozy herself in those days, so it would have been difficult to introduce a brand-new dog at that point. Starbuck is so sweet and loving, she was and is a perfect companion. I also could not imagine coming home to an empty house nowadays. It would be unbearable.

They were so beautiful in their old age--they never got skinny, and their coats never got thin. They were blessings even in those little ways, leaving me with only good memories and beautiful photos!


bt said...

Such a beautiful post.

mdr said...

Would be great to find someone Starbuck's age? They keep each other better companion as they grow old together, and you won't have to cater to two different age dogs. You have smart "qualifications" , do not be swayed by others. Also be careful not to pick up a dog mainly because she resembles Linden or Autumn. Best luck.

e. davis said...

A heartfelt tribute to Autumn & Linden & a life well lived- just beautiful.

Arvay said...

@mdr: Thank you for your kind thoughts. We're looking to stagger ages from now on since we don't want to have two elderlies at the same time again--so much work, so much stress, and so many vet bills!

@bt, and @ e. davis: Thank you for your kind thoughts!