I spent last night curled around Seneca, my ancient and bony dog. I have not been sleeping with her the past few weeks because her incontinence has become so severe. But on this short night, her last, I did not care.
Today I will take her to the vet for the last time. I’ve been putting this off for weeks during her long and gracious decline. She rarely complains. She mostly does as she is asked. She will go anywhere with me, waiting patiently in the car. She has always been well mannered and willing to please.
Well past one hundred in dog years, Seneca has lived her whole life with that kind of grace. I’ve had her since she was seven weeks old. Runt of the litter, my standard poodle was chosen for me by the breeder for her gentle temperament. When I picked her up that day nearly fifteen years ago, she readily transfered her affections to me the moment I pulled out of that driveway, and has been my true and loyal friend ever since.
This has been an incredibly difficult decision to make: to help my dear friend have a good death (euthanasia from the Greek literally means ‘good death’). I have watched friends grapple with it, have gently encouraged them to let their pets go. It is indeed much harder from where I sit. I deeply do not want to lose my dog. I have cried like a six year old, losing her puppy. And then the other day I blurted out to a friend: “How can I do this to her?! All her life I have had a vow to protect her from all harm!”
My friend asked me: “Haven’t you done exactly that? Aren’t you still doing that for her?”
I have to admit that I have, every step of the way, given her the best life a dog could have. I began to see that I am not failing in my promise to her. I cannot prevent her aging, arthritis, the atrophy of her limbs. I could not prevent her dementia or it’s confusion and nightmares.
I can prevent further distress from these things, and I can prevent seizures or other painful experiences as she approaches her death. It is completely in line with my vow to her.
Last night as we curled together, I drifted in and out of sleep, and cherished the sensation of her warm, gently breathing form. I wrapped my arms around her and the words came to me “I have your heart.” I was saying this to her, as she has always said it to me.
Rest in Peace, Seneca
May 1998 – November 2012