But that isn't where my attention has been lately. For the last couple of weeks, I have been consumed by grief. In the early morning hours of March 7th, I lost my shadow. My sweet poodle, Joy, passed away. I thought my heart would break.
1/3/1997 - 3/7/2011
I knew it was coming - for the last six months or so, she had gotten thinner and thinner. She still ate, and pooped, but her muscles were wasting. Someone had recommended that I add brewers yeast to her food, which I did for a while. But soon after starting that, she had her first seizure. I was feeding her a premium, well-balanced dog food, and I suppose the additional protein of the brewers yeast put a load on her kidneys or something, so I stopped adding it to her food. She had a few other seizures, several months apart. Most recently, she could barely walk on her back legs. When I took her for her walk (or really, just to check her smell-mail) I didn't let her walk on the concrete anymore. I carried her over to the greenbelt, let her walk on the grass and go visit the "dognip bush". She couldn't see very well, or hear very well, but to the last, her nose worked and she so enjoyed checking out all of the smells. And though she slept most of the time, she would still follow me around the house whenever I was home.
Sunday March 6th was my son Matthew's birthday - he came over for steaks and we celebrated his day. When he got up to leave, Joy gazed over at him from her perch on the couch, and he went over to her and said goodbye and patted her head. I cleaned up the kitchen, and as I removed the steak scraps, I cut up a few and put them on top of the food in Joy's bowl. When it was time to go to bed, I carried her upstairs and put her on the blanket nest in my bedroom where she liked to sleep.
But she wouldn't lie down. She kept pacing and stumbling, getting into strange tight spots and getting stuck. I kept picking her up and putting her back, but she wasn't able to settle, so I picked her up and carried her downstairs. She kept pacing down there, then began retching like she was going to throw up. I tried to support her, thinking she'd feel better after she got whatever was bothering her out of her system, but nothing ever came up but drool. Thinking her stomach was upset, I thought the steak pieces would spoil before she got to eat them, so I went in the kitchen to get them from her bowl and throw them away. She had already eaten them.
Joy laid down on the floor, and I laid down next to her, petting her and talking to her. She seemed uncomfortable and wasn't moving much. After a while, I picked her up and put her on the small couch, still petting her, and she seemed to relax a bit. By this time, it was 4:30am and I was exhausted. I decided to lie down on the big couch, and reached over to put my hand on her nose. She made a little cooing sound to me, and I made the sound back to her, and we did that back and forth 5 or 6 times. By then she seemed to have calmed down, and I laid back on the couch and fell asleep. When I woke up, she was gone.
I wish I had stayed awake to comfort her until the end. I googled about the drooling I noticed, and then read about the retching without throwing up being a sign of bloat, something I didn't know anything about. It wouldn't have changed the outcome, I suspect - it's a serious condition that often requires emergency surgery, something I don't think she could have survived. I wish I hadn't given her the steak scraps - most of her life, I was vigilant about not giving her any table food (except pieces of apple, that she adored, and I also always gave her the end pieces of bananas.) I'm guessing she wolfed the steak scraps down - a rare treat for a dog accustomed to kibble and milkbones.
I'm a very lucky person, I've realized - I'm new to this grieving thing, because I haven't had much practice with it. And I'm not doing very well with it, either. I've been able to go to work - only missed one day, and I only missed one chorus rehearsal. But it has been hard, oh so hard. One minute I'm calm and fine, and can talk about her with ease. The next minute, a wave of sorrow washes over me.
I regret that I didn't take more pictures of her over the years - I've got some, but not as many as I'd like. I wish I had taken a picture of her lying underneath the baby grand piano - she loved to lie down there while I played. I wish I had a picture of her lying down on the carpeted stair landing. She used to look at me from there like she was saying "Hey! Are you going upstairs or downstairs?! Make up your mind!"
Mostly, I'm very lucky to have had such a great dog - she really lived up to her name, and brought me great Joy. Her nicknames were Joyful or PoodleHead (that one was given to her by the trainer at her obedience class when she was a puppy, and it stuck.) When she was younger, we'd run around the back yard and play catch with each other. Our back yard has a retaining wall with a slope behind it, and she loved to run across the yard and take a flying leap up to the slope, and then run along the side and bark if there were dogs on the other side of the wall. She never was one much for fetching - if we threw something, she'd look at us as if to say "You expect me to do what?!"
We have an island in the kitchen, and she loved to chase around that, too. She'd steal food if you left it on the counter. A group of my weaving friends met here for lunch one day, and someone left a round of cheese near the edge of the island counter. It disappeared. Someone commented that is was to be expected, after all she was a French poodle.
Joy loved taking long walks, and I'd let her lead - sometimes it felt like she was my tow dog. :-) The Dog Whisperer would not have approved, but she already had me trained that way.
I don't really expect anyone to read this, but it helps to say it "out loud", so to speak. I miss her with all my heart.