Sadie is almost sixteen years old, her birthday is next July. She is beginning to show the inevitable signs of aging. Sadie has moved from the definition of ‘Senior” to something resembling ‘Elderly.’ Watching her age is painful – and presents moral and economic delimas.
Sadie is half Schnauzer and half Cocker Spaniel – sort of like our President – but older. She has the fourteen pound frame of the Schnauzer and the blond color of the Spaniel. Over the years she has been a fierce protector of our home. She used to climb on the back of our couch so she could look out the window, surveying the boundaries of safety. Anyone who happened to walk buy would get a good tongue lashing, a warning to stay clear of this property.
When not on guard duty Sadie would prance trough the house. She was always ready for a good game of dodge-the-grandchildren. Sadie loved to ride in the family car. She would assume her position in the passenger’s seat, front feet planted on the door armrest, and verbally warn others to keep away.
We have fed her well, with only scientifically approved dog food. Even her treats were called “Science Diet.” While relaxing in the evening with my bowl of ice cream, Sadie was crunching on scientifically approved morsels of nutrition. She would smile, knowing we were enjoying a treat together.
But life is changing for Sadie. She no longer prances through the house. Her stride is more of a wobble. When the grandchildren come over Sadie retreats upstairs to the comfort and safety of isolation. She has always been good about fetching me to open the door when she had business to do in the back yard. Not one to waste any effort Sadie would take care of her business and then circle the perimeter to make sure there were no intruders. Neighborhood squirrels and cats had learned to beware of the White Knight. Nevermore, as Poe might refrain.
Because we have given Sadie better health care and a more nutritious diet than we give ourselves, Sadie has enjoyed a long life. Today we find the affects of aging battling with science, and eventually aging will prevail. Enchanted swords can only hold aging at bay, can delay the inevitable, but can never win the final battle.
A couple of months past we noticed that Sadie would sometimes urinate on our living room carpet. We soaked the stain with paper towels and paid more attention to the old girl. We found she was knocking at the back door more frequently. She was unable to ‘hold her water,’ as they say. We found that she was unable to wake us in the night, and unable to control herself.
We called the Vet and they told us to get a urine sample. Now just imagine that for a minute. I had to get a urine sample from a dog. As much as I love Sadie, the idea was repulsive. Fortunately for me, Sadie squats. I took a plastic lid from a coffee can to the yard on her hourly venture. When she squatted I merely slipped the lid beneath her. She made her contribution. I poured the contents into a jar and headed for the vet. Sadie has a kidney infection. She is on antibiotics. They also discovered a heart murmur. Heart pills are now a daily staple. Sadie’s diet is a prescription blend to help restore her kidney function.
Health care for aging dogs creates a real dilemma. As with aging people we have to ask when health care is counter productive. When do we issue the “Do Not Resuscitate” order? I talked to the Vet the other day and she suggested I might start thinking about what I want to do with Sadie’s remains. That was a shock, but not a surprise. What are my options, I asked.
We can ‘put her down’ with no pain, the Vet said. Then you can have her cremated for $35 if you do not want the ashes. It is over a hundred dollars if I want the ashes. The idea of cremating a pet and saving the ashes on the fireplace mantle was a shock to my sensibilities.
When I was a boy, back in the 1950’s, our pets were always buried in the back yard. I suppose we could do that today – but we would have to call 1 800 DIG RITE to secure a safe burial site. Back in the 1950’s our dogs never survived to old age – they were often knocked silly when they caught the car they were chasing.
The world has changed. We have elevated our pets to the position of family member. I understand this at a deeply emotional level. Sadie has given me that profound gratefulness of a steady and faithful companion. Her steady love has never wavered. She is my friend and confidant. She is my life companion.