Fast forward to now. People spend more on their pet care than they do on their own care. It is fantastic that options are available for us to help our "kids," as that is what they are to many of us. No, I won't be sending Toby to college any time soon, but when I see him sleeping peacefully and warm, tucked into his blankets with a full tummy, I couldn't love him more. Mostly because at that very moment he isn't peeing and destroying more of my home, but that isn't the entirety of it. I am in awe of the treatments that are available to our pets and am grateful. The hard part for me is knowing how far to go.
When I was a little girl, routine pet care had not been the norm. You got a dog, and it saw the vet when it got sick, and often that wasn't until the end of it's relatively healthy life. We had acquired a medium sized black lab mix that was named "BJ" ("Black Jack.") One day a Great Dane that lived in the neighborhood visited the yard, and we found out the dog was really Black Jane. Puppies ensued. My dad built a pen in the barn, she had her pups, and it was wonderful as a child to get to be part of it. Until one day my neighbor was walking her maltese on the sidewalk about 40 feet from where the pups were. Jane went ballistic and leaped out of the pen, and straight for my neighbor's ankle. It was a surprising bite as she'd been a predicatable dog up to that point. I remember overhearing my parents talking about how they were going to "get rid of" the lot -- BJ and pups -- and me becoming hysterical with tears. How could they do that to our dog? She was my sister! She had babies! Alas, a warm summer morning I heard a van back down the driveway and before I could even say goodbye to BJ, she and the pups were gone. The Animal Rescue League took them all away. Stoic mama BJ and her beautiful puppies, gone to an unknown fate. My throat still closes when I think of this memory.
I think of why I have so many animals now...knowing that each one will end in tears, eventually. Still, the joy of their presence in our lives often outweighs that pain. The deepest pains of loss that I've felt in my life have been for my cats and dogs. They just don't live long enough. Eventually the time comes when they are old and sickly, and while treatments are available, I can't always afford them. I incurred a lot of debt for my man Tilly last fall, which I gratefully accept as he is still in relatively good health and is My Main Man. Now, it is Toby's turn to need help, and I am conflicted.
He has developed serious diabetes, pancreatitis, a UTI, and an eye infection, all on top of his Addison's disease. He is still wagging his tail and showing signs of happiness, so I can not see euthanasia as an
option. Yet hearing my wonderful vet tell me about all the work ahead to figure out the correct insulin dose and diet brought on a sense of dread. Not just for Toby, but for me. I have spent the better part of almost eleven years dealing with medical issue after medical issue with this pup, not to mention the fallout from his behavioral issues (he's a "marker.") I am tired. Intellectually I can understand that it is okay to put him down as he now has several serious medical conditions that will be very hard to manage.
But I can not do it. Or even think about it, without my throat closing, my eyes filling, and the tears starting. I look at his little innocent pug face and think about how while he has been a royal pain in the ass of a dog, he has been there, wagging his tail, happy to see me, ever since joining my clan. I can't say that about literally any person on the earth. He has been an enthusiastic life-liver of a dog with the happiest tail of any I've ever had. So here I sit, with his sad little face scrunched up in sleep, snuggled up next to his sister Ellie da Pug. This is a toughie.
I can not thank my veterinarian and friend Carol Macomber enough for her help in navigating these difficult waters. I feel immense guilt at not being able to rush to the emergency animal hospital and leaving him there as an inpatient guest to get the best treatment possible. After Tilly's expense, I just can't afford it. That seems brutally unfair on my part. Unjustifiable selfishness at not being willing to just double that debt for Toby. Carol is helping me support and manage him as best we can at home, and I am following her instructions to the letter on when to test his urine, feed him, and give him insulin. She is a GODSEND and I couldn't do this without her.
I feel like the little boy on the train holding his whimpering Pomeranian puppy.
Except the puppy is Toby, the dog I've cursed more often than not for the past ten and a half years. I think we've hit the home stretch, old pal. Maybe, just maybe, we can get you to a place where the insulin will get you to feel better in a consistent way. Maybe, just maybe, the pancreatitis will then calm down. We are treating the UTI and eye infection, and I am cooking you chicken again and researching canine diabetes diets.
All my blowhard talk about not being able to wait for him to go is now in my face as I fill up with tears just thinking of him not being here. Taking baby steps, and hoping that his indomitable spirit kicks in and I laugh about this in a few weeks as me being over sentimental. But there is something in his eyes that makes me think that might not be the case. Only time will tell. I do know that he will not suffer should the diabetes be really difficult to control. I do know I have to try to do this, at least at this point. C'mon, Toby. I love you, pal.