To Resist or Assist Dying
My dog is going to die. Chobe’s been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. The tumor on her spleen is already bleeding and there’s a probability that it will rupture at some point soon, which means she would die from internal bleeding.
The diagnosis came just 6 days ago and only 12 hours after hearing from the same vet that my sixteen year old cat, Sedona, also has a tumor. What are the chances of that? Two beloved pets with a similar diagnosis on back-to-back days.
Because Chobe’s situation is much more serious than Sedona’s at this point (and if I’m being completely honest, because Chobe’s a dog), I’ve been almost exclusively focused on her.
It’s so hard to fathom the gravity of what’s going on because she’s presenting as a healthy, happy dog. We’ve continued to go for our daily walks and she trots along with a big smile on her face, sniffing away.
Her appetite is fine and I think she thinks she’s hit the jackpot when it comes to food. I’ve been mixing special meals for her. I’ve baked her doggie cupcakes with ingredients of her favourite things; apples, carrots, peanut butter. And I concocted tuna fudge! (I’ve tasted the cupcakes which are fine but I’m not willing to try the fudge).
As much as my eyes tells me she’s totally fine, my brain knows she could basically die at any moment. As much as my brain knows that it’s for the best that I euthanize her to avoid trauma for all of us, my heart is breaking. My heart wants to believe my eyes. My heart wants to think that the vet has made a mistake. My heart wants Chobe to keep living, forever, if possible.
I feel ripped off because my previous dog Foster lived to be 14. Chobe is only 11 and she should have three more years to be a part of our little family.
It’s hard to see Amy so sad and try to hold space for her at the same time I carry my own sadness. Sedona and our other dog, Clover, seem to know something is up and that Chobe is sick. I think non-human animals are much better at seeing things just as they are; the real truth of the matter.
I’m very appreciative of the focus I’ve put on understanding grief over the last few years. Not because I’ve learned any techniques for avoiding heart break and managing the devastating sadness of anticipating the end of a loving relationship, but because I’ve learned that everything I am feeling is completely normal.
I’ve learned to prepare myself for the things that people will say to try to make me feel better, knowing that NOTHING ANYONE SAYS CAN TAKE AWAY ANY OF MY SADNESS. I know their intentions are good, but NOTHING HELPS. And I have little energy to pretend that what anyone has said has helped. I have no energy and no ideas for how to answer the question of what can be done to help. I don’t know what to do with the offers to talk because as much as it feels good to have people listen, inevitable most people end up talking about their own stuff and I have no capacity to listen right now.
As I carry the sadness, I also notice a sense of being grateful for having the knowledge that the end is near. Not because it gives me time to fit in all the things I wished I’d done with Chobe that I didn’t get around to before. I carry no regrets of things left undone, walks not taken, adventures not experienced, joys not celebrated, or love not expressed. I am grateful because knowing allows me to fully celebrate and be present when we do those things we’ve loved doing together throughout our entire relationship, one last time.
We got to go for one last walk and picnic in Bird’s Hill Park.
We got to go for one last hike in Pinawa. Chobe leading the way, as always being the guide and knowing exactly which way to go. Chasing Clover when she emerged from her off trail exploring. Having one more joyful lie down in the river to cool off and have a sloppy drink.
We went on one more adventure this morning and I introduced her to my sit spot.
We are sharing out last cuddles, kisses, and special treats.
Chobe was with me before I ever met her. In 2007 when Amy and I were traveling the world, I was making a list of names for when we returned home for good once our travel was done. “Chobe” is the name of a river and national park in Botswana and it was the name of our safari bus when we toured in Africa. That name was going to be my dog.
I dreamed of my dog for 6 months and the dog I imagined was going to be a boy. But the day after we got home from Asia and our travels were complete, I dragged Amy to the Humane Society and there she was, “Ruby”. She adjusted to her new name easily and she couldn’t have been a better companion for me. Even as a pup, Chobe was a beautiful balance between calm and adventurous. She tolerated me trying to get her folded ears to stand up likes a German Shepard’s. She convinced me that lip kisses from a dog were so much better and more endearing than full on, sloppy tongue licks.
She still has her uncanny spatial awareness in which she can flop down beside me (or anyone), never actually landing on me, but being lined up with the perfect amount of body contact for us to both feel the comfort of our connection.
Chobe has been my therapy dog. She supported me with three of my most significant life losses. The deaths of my dad and mom and leaving my career. How will I manage the loss of her, without her to support me?
As I sit at my computer writing this, Chobe is at my side, sleeping on the floor close enough to touch my feet. That’s no different than any other day that I’ve worked from home. She sat at a coaching client’s feet earlier in the week, making sure she was taking care of them, as she has always done.
It’s hard to accept I have made the decision to assist her dying. She had an appointment for 4 pm tomorrow. Just 24 hours away.
If I was writing this with pen and paper, it would be tear stained and maybe unreadable. But I typed in on my computer thinking that I want to share it. I don’t want condolences. I simply want my grief experience to be witnessed and to describe my special relationship with my dear Chobe so maybe it can be understood.
That’s another thing I’ve learned about grief. One of the only things the lessens the pain, just a bit, it to be deeply listened to with compassion, acceptance, and no expectations that I feel anything different than what I am feeling.
I love Chobe so much, I will assist, not resist her dying.
I will not resist Chobe dying for one more walk. It will not make me love her any more than I already do or grieve her any less.
I will not resist Chobe dying to see her wrestle with Clover one more time. It will not make me love her any more than I already do or grieve her any less.
I will not resist Chobe dying to share our bed with her one more night. It will not make me love her any more than I already do or grieve her any less.
I will not resist Chobe dying for one of her special lip kisses. It will not make me love her any more than I already do or grieve her any less.