Thursday, 11 July 2013

Calling it a day

As any pet owner knows, the decision of how and when it's the time to "call it a day" is a difficult, if not impossible, one.

Recently I spent some time with friends who are just about as Cocker Spaniel crazy as I am.

It was a chance to catch up on old times, reminisce about the good old, bad old days and also for me to see - probably for the last time - Oscar.

I hadn't seen him for a while, so in my mind I still pictured him as a puppy - boisterous and mischievous - and as the over-enthusiastic but indefatigably loving  adult.

The reality of seeing the now 16-year-old was a shock.

At first glance everything seemed all right. Oscar was still a fine-looking and handsome devil.

But the cataracts in his eyes were just one of the giveaways that things weren't quite what they seemed.

While his heart is apparently strong, everything else appears to be failing.

He suffers partial paralysis and his once proud and muscled strut is now a laboured sideways stagger.

Those cataracts mean he has impaired vision and, coupled with reduced hearing, he constantly seems disoriented. That's especially true when his owners aren't around and Oscar just stands there, appearing lost in his own world.

He's on medication to control his epilepsy and that's apparently also taking its inevitable toll on some of this other organs.

Oscar eats well - little and often - and while he's able to relieve himself where he should during the day without any problem, the nights are another matter.

Maybe saddest of all, that stump and rump, which both used to wag and sway incessantly, are both now mainly motionless.

His owners, of course, are deeply attached to him. They're devoted even, and cherish every moment they spend with him.

I can't blame them. I'm full of admiration - no more than that, respect - for the way in which they tend to Oscar's every need.

But I cannot help questioning in my mind whether it's truly fair.

I've faced the same dilemma and only with hindsight did I come to the conclusion that I kept my dog Mabel alive for too long because...well, I couldn't bear to let her go when the time was so obviously right...for her.

Although it might be simple and subjective projection, I feel Oscar has lost the very thing that makes and made his life worth living, namely his dignity.

But I couldn't and can't say anything. The topic remained the proverbial "elephant in the room" as I saw how much my friends were grieving in advance and trying so hard to make whatever time Oscar has left as comfortable as possible

So I just observed and held my tongue.  And I hope the end will be as quick and painless as possible.

It's hard to let go and it really is impossible to get it right.

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