Monday, March 18, 2013

Somehow That's Enough ...

(I wrote this a week ago, and even now I'm in two minds about whether to publish it. But, here goes ...)

Chi's been unusually companion-seeking today, coming firstly to Debs (of course) and then to me seeking a pat, a word of encouragement, a lap - who knows what - but seeking comfort nonetheless. You sense there's usually not much but occasionally a great deal going on inside that compact, dome-shaped skull of his. I'm worried that he's soaking up the last drops of sentience, that he's preparing himself - and us - for a time when he's no longer here.

Rational Me, the me I inhabit for most of the week, completely understands that Chi's days are numbered in the tens, perhaps the hundreds, certainly not the thousands, while Romantic Me remains with fingers-in-ears and hands-over-eyes in determined ignorance of the patently obvious effects of time and a difficult, life-shortening upbringing. Chi came to us about 7 or 8 years ago and somewhat late in his life, having been found wandering the streets of Fairfield in Sydney without microchip or tag. Given his general cluelessness now, he can't have been without a home for long. We'll never know the tragedies he's endured nor the travesties he's suffered, but he seems marked - perhaps defined - by them even now. When Chi blundered into our family he came with appalling teeth, a visceral fear of males, an apparently insatiable need for affirmation and reassurance, but with a naive determination to be - to use an awful, if apt cliche - the best dog that he could be. In the Aussie vernacular, Chi's a trier.

It might have taken him three days to learn how to use the dog door for coming in as well as for going out, but he did. When we needed to install a platform on either side of that dog door because his arthritic legs found the lip too high, he eventually mastered that too, if only after a few face-plants on re-entering the house with excessive enthusiasm. He may also have been slow to learn how to shake paw on command, running through his extremely limited repertoire of tricks before magically alighting on the right one, but learn it he did. He doesn't seem entirely frustrated by his failures but instead seems energised by the fact that they move him somehow closer to an answer.

In truth it's unlikely that our aging Chihuahua-cross-Pomeranian will emerge the other side of the coming winter. He's old, he's unwell, and he's heavily-medicated and much the happier for it - there's apparently something to be said for 4 ml of opiate twice a day, though we don't expect him to be writing Alice in Wonderland or Kubla Khan anytime soon. In earlier times, absent the benefits of modern veterinarian medicine, he'd be gone by now. He coughs, he finds breathing sometimes difficult, he's arthritic and demented, he's a heart murmur and a collapsed trachea, he's few remaining teeth and a tongue that seems determined to venture out on its own, he sometimes fits when exposed to the light, and he often fails in his heartbreakingly-valiant attempts to toilet on the other side of the now Everest-like dog-flap that stands between happiness and humiliation. But his eyes and his manner betray a canine soul chock full of hope, adoration, wonder, amazement and appreciation. It's only rarely that we witness a Chi who's had enough of life.

When he goes, please let him go peacefully in his sleep; I don't think I can bear watching the life ebb out of another cherished family member.

I'll be frank. I don't believe there's an afterlife, a place where all my pets will spend eternity sniffing behinds and rolling in indeterminate, smelly happenstances (the dogs) or eating fish and Sun-bathing (the cats) while waiting for Debs and I to join them. On the best evidence I can find, once our hand is played and the cards have been swept up by the dealer, that's it; there's no re-deal.

To me that makes the passing of our pets all the more poignant and momentous. It's not goodbye for now and it's goodbye forever. That means appreciating them all the more while that's still possible, and acknowledging that their time - like ours and those we care about - is limited and precious. It also means understanding that the extent to which I'll miss them once they're gone is a direct reflection of the extent that they matter to me now.

Maybe that's enough. I guess it'll have to be.


  1. your blog made me very sad almost weepy

  2. Tony,

    This is a beautiful, moving tribute to a resilient canine whose life you and Deb have utterly transformed and enriched.

    Our Buddhist friends would certainly agree that it is impermanence that makes life so precious.

    Perhaps those special moments, those knowing looks or playful gestures which mean so much to us are just transitory, but just maybe by keeping us connected with our own humanity their effect persists well beyond ..

    For the forthcoming AFL season I say: Go the mighty Chi!



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