I Want to Carry that Load
As you know I exercise regularly. I lift small weights (8kg) and a kettlebell (6kg) and I feel fit and relatively strong, for someone who’s not quite 5 foot (and probably shrinking). The push ups I do at Sharon’s bootcamps also help my strength but I’m only small. Therefore, I don’t know how I did it, but yesterday I carried Boss halfway back from the park. I reckon she weights about 30kg so, go me! Though this, of course, is a sad thing really. I’d better start at the start.
Saturday my son, Joel called in to see Boss, knowing this may be the last time he does. I asked him to take Mahli to the park so Boss and I could take our time, as I don’t want to tire her out. Mahli was over the moon to have Joel to play with so off they ran, at pace. Meanwhile Boss and I were going so slow we were nearly walking backwards. Every four or so steps she’d stop to get her breath. Her back legs wobble as she can barely hold the weight of the ever-growing tumour. Eventually we got to the park and Boss got to sniff the grass and be temporarily as happy as a dog could be.
Then we faced the walk back. We only live seven houses from the park. It’s not a long walk, but as we headed back I wondered just how far it probably seemed to Boss. Joel ran home with Mahli and Boss and I walked even slower back. At the time I said to her, “Well, Bossy, I think this might be your last walk, sweety.” When we got home she spread out on the tiles and went to sleep with wheezy breaths. She no longer snores and she used to be a loud snorer. I just don’t think she has the energy to even snore. I realised I would soon have to face my fear of putting her down.
Joel had to head back to Brisbane and he kissed Boss on the head and gave her a long pat. I began tearing up again and, though Joel held it together I’d place a bet that he cried as he drove up our street and spent a good part of his trip feeling sad. He probably still is.
That night we had to go to the presentation night for Currumbin Eagles. Bevil got ready first and a storm started brewing. Both dogs hate storms, so when claps of thunder bellowed in the distance Boss started shaking and panting. I lifted her on the lounge and stroked her. “It’s okay, girl. The storm will pass.”
Then I went to my room to get ready. I had my dress on and was standing in my ensuite ready to apply makeup and Boss came in (which she hardly ever does). She circled me and then lay down on my left foot, as if to say please don’t go. Bevil must have been reading my mind because he came in and said, “If you don’t want to go. I’ll just get a cab.”
I told him what Boss had just done and tears slipped from my eyes and my bottom lip quivered, as I said, “I can’t go. I have to stay home with her. She can’t be scared on top of being sick.”
Come Sunday, it’s sunny and warm and the mandarin blossoms waft through the house. Bevil and I read our papers with the dogs at our feet. Boss is as keen as Mahli for bacon scraps and I see this as a good sign. Soon both dogs circle me excitedly as I put my runners on. Mahli has a ritual of jumping on and off the lounge and nipping at Boss in excitement while Boss barks loudly. Boss joins in with her bark but it is deep and hoarse. She sounds like someone else’s dog.
I hadn’t planned to take Boss but she looked at me so yearningly and kept barking I decided maybe she was up for it after all. So, both are in their harness and Bevil decides not to come. I wish he had now. The thought drifted across my mind that I may need him but I didn’t pursue it.
We went out the front door and Mahli tugged a little but she’s learnt to slow down when Boss is coming too. I think she understands the old girl cannot do anything at Mahli pace. We get outside our gate and Boss stops for breath.
I say, “Are you sure, Boss? You can go back in”. I try to lead her back but she heads up the path defiantly and at a quicker pace, though still as slow as the snails in my garden. We stop start, stop start and Mahli busies herself with lots of sniffing.
We get to the fourth house and Boss sits down in the middle of the driveway, just as the owner is trying to drive in. I mouth my apology but Boss won’t budge. After a couple of minutes she gets up again but then barely gets halfway to the next house before plonking down again. Mahli’s getting confused and I’m gently coaxing Boss. “How about we head back? You’ve done really well to get this far. Come on, girl.”
I tug her towards the house. She won’t budge and her breaths are raspier. I touch her chest and can feel the weird rhythms of her tired heart. Oh, my God, don’t die here, I think. I say, “Try and get up, Boss, we’re not far from home.”
Mahli is jumping up to my hip. She doesn’t know what’s going on. I decide I’ll have to pick Boss up, but I have to keep hold of Mahli’s lead because there are people up the road with two small dogs and Mahli would chase them given the slightest opportunity.
I squat down, holding Mahli’s lead firmly in my right hand, my left goes under Boss’s front legs and my right takes her under her back legs behind her tumour. Boy is she heavy. Mahli jumps again and I tell her to settle down, “It’s okay. We just have to get Boss home.”
Boss is deathly quiet and barely moving. I walk towards our house and only get to the next driveway and my breath is racing. Mahli’s nearly bowling me over and Boss is a tonne of bricks. A small car slows and the driver, an old man, winds down his window. “Are you alright, love? That dog looks heavy, do you need a hand?”
My eyes fill with tears and I try not to blubber as I say, “Thank you, but it’s okay I only live just there.” He drives on.
Then I hear voices from behind. My friends Glenda and Mal live in the next street. They are walking their small dogs. Glenda says, “Donna, I just realised that’s you.”
I turn around and swallow the lump in my throat. “Yeah, Boss can’t make it so I’m carrying her home.” Mahli tugs towards the small dogs. “I’m having trouble holding her and Boss. I don’t want her to run after your dogs.” So Mal offers to take Mahli for me.
I’m trying not to cry my eyes out but manage to get to the front door, which Mal opens and let’s Mahli in. I thank Mal, I think, but I’m not sure as I’m too relieved to have gotten Boss home. Mal leaves and I walk into the dining room and straight into Bevil’s arms and I cry all over his shirt. I mumble about how I had to carry Boss home. I know it’s time to let her go.
What’s her quality of life if she can no longer go for walks? What’s her quality of life if each breath is hurting her? Her eyes now look so sad and I think she know it’s time too.
To clear my head and because Mahli deserved it for being so patient with Boss, I took her for a run around the block. A run always makes me feel better and we ran at speed because Mahli was so excited to finally be going at the pace she liked. I realised as we ran that it would be just me and her from now on. Baaaah, yep crying again.
My mum rings later in the morning and I tell her Boss has gotten worse. Funny how Mum always phones when I need to talk to her. Later in the arvo, she surprises me by calling in with a couple of books to distract me and, of course, to see Boss. Mum and Dieter love Boss. They’ve babysat her when we’ve gone away but I’m still so pleased Mum has dropped by because Mum always makes me feel a bit better.
Boss greeted her at the door with her usually licking of Mum’s legs and even Mahli remembered her (Mahli is not so great with visitors). Mum couldn’t get over how big the tumour was and how skinny Boss was everywhere else, like above her eyes it’s hollow and we can see her bones poking out.
Bevil, Blake, Joel and I have discussed it, and I tell Mum, “We’re going to put her down on Tuesday. We don’t want her to be in any more pain.” The tumour has grown from 28cm wide to 32cm wide in only four days. It must be pushing on her heart as well as her lungs and as the vet told me, she’ll be in pain if it starts to do that. No amount of cortisone can make her feel better now.
I’m not looking forward to tomorrow but I know in my heart that it’s right. Blake will be with me and we’ll both get to say our final goodbyes and Boss will have her dignity to go to sleep peacefully and meet up in Doggy Heaven with Sarge and Bully.