Tuesday, March 07, 2006

We're gonna miss that pooch

You may have noticed a blip in the posting frequency a couple of weeks ago. That was because Mac, our golden retriever, died on the morning of February 21.


(You might be wondering why a female dog would be named "Mac." She originally belonged to my Japanese brother-in-law, who didn't realize "Mac" was a masculine name. But by the time we got her, when she was about 6 months old, the name had stuck.)


Mac was twelve and a half years old, which is a pretty good run for a golden. At least that one way we've tried to console ourselves. But that didn't make her passing any easier on us.


She had been suffering from cancer. We first noticed the tumor just behind her left shoulder in October. The vet said that she was too old to have a good chance of surviving surgery or radiation treatment. And if he operated less invasively than usual and missed some of the cancer as a result, the tumor might come back with such a vengeance that she would end up dying sooner than if he had never operated. So decided against surgery or radiation.


The tumor grew in size steadily and relentlessly. Mac went from walking with a limp to barely walking at all and finally becoming completely immobile.


The day before she died, her condition had deteriorated so badly—we had to hold her head up so she could drink water—that I made the hardest phone call I ever made: I called the vet to see if he could come to the house and do what has to be the toughest part of his job. However, I was informed that the doctor no longer made house calls. Since there was no way I was going to carry our by then completely immobile dog through a strip mall parking lot and into the vet's office just to have her put to sleep, we decided to let nature take her course. Fortunately, that happened the next day.


She had been hospicing in the middle of our living room, and right up until the end, she was her old sweet, attentive self—making eye contact, wagging her tail in anticipation of a coming pat, pet, or rub, and gently smacking her lips in satisfaction when the pet finally came. My wife was a nursemaid to Mac, who actually seemed to thrive on the extra attention that her ailment brought her.


Which is why the end was so painful for us. We're still not over it and deep down probably never will be.


The point of this posting is: Enjoy your loved ones—whether four-legged or two—now while you can, because they won't be around forever. Contemplate each living thing in your life—yes, teenaged humans count, too—and ask yourself, If he or she disappeared from my life today, whether to the other end of the country or to the great hereafter, could I look back and be satisfied with how I treated that person? Did I appreciate that person or pet while he or she was around?


I wish I had done more of that kind of thinking about Mac.


—Mellow Monk


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