Thursday, August 27, 2009
It was inevitable, but hard . . .
Last Thursday, we took Rufus to the vet for the last time. It was inevitable, but hard, because he was not clearly dying, not suffering intolerably. He had gone three days without eating (which was a kind of benchmark I'd set earlier for deciding he was declining beyond pulling him back to a reasonable plateau) - but then had finally eaten the night before the scheduled appointment and was seeming somewhat more energetic. Still, he was wobbly enough to fall over if I tugged a bit on the leash.
He just plain wore out (he was over 15 years old) - kidneys shot, something growing in his sinus cavity that blocked his breathing, hearing and eyesight nearly shot, trembling and wobbly legs - it was getting harder and harder for him to brace himself to pee.
Then we were going to be gone for three days for my niece's wedding and had lined up a young man to care for Rufus, but the previous Monday when Nick came over to visit, Rufus seemed particularly ill, clearly not willing to eat, and quite weak. I thought leaving Rufus in Nick's care would be hard on both of them, and would likely just postpone the inevitable for a few more days.
And then the new school year was starting, and I couldn't imagine how we could continue to pour the time and energy into trying to get Rufus to eat that had consumed many hours of these late summer weeks. I couldn't come home in the middle of the day to let him out, and Peter would be traveling to Mankato to teach twice a week so unavailable those days.
Also, I had also vowed earlier to myself not to drag the inevitable out past the time that there was any reasonable quality of life left for Rufus.
But it was hard, because as weak and limited as he was, Rufus was still the same character he had always been, still interested in some of his favorite things (the sound and vibration of the vacuum cleaner - going into the car for a ride). Who were we to make this decision for him? (But how could we duck the responsibility for giving him a gentle end?)
And it was a gentle end, thankfully. I'm still torn with some regret and uncertainty around having had to decide, for playing the role of God in his life. Mostly I'm sad when we come home to an empty house.
A few weeks ago I wrote a longer story of Rufus's life with us which you will find here.