Facing the prospect of my own death, I started this blog to explore my experience with death, and to explore my understanding of life, death and the afterlife (should such a thing exist).I got as far, chronologically, as my grandparents’ and my mother’s death, life sort of got in the way.
Actually, death got in the way. Over the past month, both of my pet Pekingese died. Born, as near as I’ve been able to determine, four months apart, they died four days apart, and basically from the same thing. To the degree that it was negligence, It’s hard to deal with; I don’t want to take responsibility for allowing the situation to degrade to the point that death became an inevitability. We went to the vet, as all this was starting last year – I was still working, then, but was able to make time for a vet visit; but it was a short visit (they only charged me for the yearly checkup, and did damn little of that).
They were old women. They were my millenial dogs, born around the turn of the century – I have a vet bill for the blonde that stated she was 9 months old in April 2000, and I’d been told repeatedly that the black-haired Peke was just months younger than the blonde. They were 14 years old (over 100 in dog years, they’d lived full and exciting lives – born in Arkansas, they grew up and lived out their lives in the North Bay, in California. They each started out in life with a daddy – John and Shawn were living together, and when Shawn got LeiLee, John got BeBe.
BeBe had been raised in a breeding mill, she lived the first part of her life in a cage, but when they realized she would be too small to breed, they released her, and John adopted her. There was a lot of early socialization the darling never quite picked up on – she didn’t cuddle, she wasn’t affectionate – but she was excellent at communication; she wasn’t a “yappy” dog, both dogs were fairly quiet, except when they needed my attention to do or to get something, or to go somewhere (like “out”); we communicated well.
When they were puppies, though, and I was with Shawn, and the dogs had come to live with us (John had left the North Bay to go into a monastery, but even after he left, he never even inquired about BeBe, her status in the house, or her well-being. When he left, he abandoned her – and all of us – for good. Good riddance to bad rubbish, is what I say, but I don’t wish to be ‘unkind’; it still irked me that he could just live out his life as if pet ownership had never happened. After we heard he’s been disinvited to the monastic community and returned to town, none of us ever heard from him, which sparked some resentment on my part over the years, but there was little I could do about it, anyway.
They were my pack, or rather, we were a pack. Shawn had become so jealous of my relationship with the dogs that he claimed, “You stole my dogs.” Aside from whatever personality defects he may have had, I took care of the dogs almost entirely by myself, so it was natural they’d bond with me. It used to irritate him so much that, when I left for work, the two dogs would sit at the door and howl after me, and then when I got home, they’d be at the door to eagerly greet me.
We had become a pack, and Shawn was the invalid member, but I was the one who fed them, and walked them, and bathed them, and gave them significant attention, so it was natural they’d look to me, and not to him, for their needs. Then, when he passed away, in October 2009, it was left to me to lead the pack. We settled in together a half-block from where we’d been living for most of the last four years. BeBe was a show Peke, with the huge coat and undercoat. LeiLee was much easier to care for; she was a sleek-hair Peke, without the undercoat. BeBe hated the brush, she would scream like someone was raping her pet turtle every time I tried to brush out her coat. And I mean SCREAM! You never heard such frantic wailing as BeBe under the brush!
The details of their deaths, gruesome though they are, are really not the topic under discussion, but if I had been more diligent about their coats, they might have lived longer, but again, they were old ladies who had lived full lives, so there’s little room for anything but acceptance, but the grief is mingled with the guilt that I could have pushed harder to keep the mats in their hair under control. What I’d come to realize in the days after putting LeiLee to sleep was essentially how I failed all the people in my life that had passed – my grandparents, my disappointed mother, even my beloved St♥. I may have tried my best, but my best simply wasn’t good enough, and I had nowhere to go for help.
There was Shawn’s other ex-lover, who wanted to be around, who wanted to count, who wanted to be important in Shawn’s life, but was congenitally incapable of taking care of an invalid, without the patience to deal with the necessities of the situation, and without the deep well of compassion that would enable him to see things from the invalid’s perspective, not the healthy’s expectations of functional ability.
I was on my own, and although they lived to a ripe old age, and they had a home and food and companionship, I wasn’t really up to the task all on my own, anyway.
LeiLee was the alpha ‘male’ in the pack, I was just the human guide. The cat, Lyta, had passed two years earlier, at 18 years old, and when BeBe died the night of July 4th, it seems as if LeiLee knew her job as pack leader had ended, the pack was dissolved, with both other members dead; I was a person, not a pack. The day I buried BeBe, I was at the desk, when I heard LeiLee in the kitchen, she yelped once – and that was all. When I went in to check on her, her rear left leg was completely incapable of supporting her any longer. It was as if, with the rest of the pack gone her job as pack leader was gone as well. LeiLee had some sort of degenerative condition, and her left rear leg had been undependable for a while, but the use of the leg would come and go – sometimes she would walk and even run, but sometimes only be able to hobble, but never for more than a day at a time before she was “back to normal”. She hung on for two more days, dragging her hindquarters along after her, but she was already blind, now crippled and isolated from her pack, we both knew it was time. So, Tuesday morning, after the 4th of July holiday weekend, I brought her in to the vet. She died in my arms – the vet had had to install a pick line, being unable to find an adequate vein – and it was peaceful. She’s being cremated now, even as I write this, and her ashes will come with me.
It had been coming on for nearly a year; the blonde had been infested with fly eggs –which hatched into maggots. The first infestation was followed up by a visit to the vet, which was not helpful at all. Without money is this county, no one is willing to “help” you in many ways. “What’s in it for me?” seems to be the question, instead of”How can I be of service to my fellow man?” – AND this is a cultural thing, not a human thing.
People can learn, and grow, and develop maturity; some people just don’t. If people are rewarded for “getting what they want”, why should they seek compassion and altruism, with no direct and obvious reward? It’s the instant gratification crowd that rules the day, while the rest of us rue the day.