I am only a little disturbed by the number of times I have fantasized about putting a gun to our dog's head and pulling the trigger. There, done, goodbye!
The dog in question is Calvin, our sixteen and a half year old Petit Basset Griffon Vendee. In human years that is one hundred and fifteen. At this stage of his life all he does is poop, pee, sleep, drink and eat, all of it within the confines of our house. Our paper towel consumption has become a deforestation threat. He is feeble, as any centenarian has the right to be, and needs a ton of help just to continue to exist, as any centenarian does. At odd times of the day he circumambulates from living room, to dining room, to front hall, to living room, with no apparent agenda. Sometimes he stops and stares at the floor as if trying to remember what he got up for in the first place. That adds senility to his list of infirmities. I am acutely aware of his restlessness, even when upstairs in my studio. I hear the clickety-clack of his claws on our hardwood floors. It irritates me. I think he wants or needs something, but don't know what, and I don't want to stop what I am doing to find out. Please! I scream in my mind, just lie down and go to sleep! I have begun to understand the attraction of medicating old people into submission.
My wife, a nurse, is much more charitable. She coos softly to him, telling him what a wonderful dog he is and how much momma loves him while changing his diaper or cleaning up after him. I understand in those moments what a beautiful human being she is. My wife is not happy about the difficulty I have dealing with it. She reminds me that I could find myself in a similar condition some day. That, I think to myself, is the point around which my irritation pivots. Calvin emphatically reminds me that all beings die and that those fortunate(?) enough to have long lives can look forward to an extended period of diminishment before death finally overtakes them.
In my worst moments I swear to my wife that we will never have another dog after the dogs we have are gone. We had three, but lost one last winter to kidney failure. She died on Valentine’s day. It was very sad to watch, but a relief when the moment of her passing came. So now there are two, soon to be one. Not soon enough! I catch that horrible part of myself thinking.
I wonder what is better, dropping dead suddenly or gradually fading into oblivion? It's a choice between quick, but too soon or slow and not soon enough. I don't even want to think about the middle ground of an extended terminal illness.
This is an opportunity to practice acceptance of the universal ebbs and flows, I tell myself. We are one with the universe, we are stardust.