Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Wake

It was shaping up to be a nice family Christmas. Debra was hosting -- her first Christmas as a married lady. Thomas was home from Dallas, and took Mary Ann and I out for a good steak dinner.

But when we came home, Fluffy the dog was nowhere to be found. It was a cold and rainy night, so I pulled out the big black mace of a flashlight and started walking about, checking under the cars and in the garage -- his favorite places to wait out the rain. No luck. Mary Ann was getting seriously worried, but I was less so. Fluffy was well trained to stay on the property and in general I trust animals to behave in their own best interest. I just assumed he'd found a nice warm place to hide and didn't feel like getting out. He was old and moving slow these days.

But down by the pond, I saw him, lying in the grass, soaked in the rain watching me. I told him to get up and come up to the house, and after a moment, he tried. He moved slowly and could barely stand. Now I was worried. We got him to the house and Debra arrived, ready to help. They cleaned and dried him, and although he was warm, he still could barely move. Mary Ann called our best Animal Expert, Bettye Baldwin, and found a pointer to an Animal Emergence Center in Round Rock. It was nearly midnight on Christmas Eve, but we carried him out to the car and headed off.

Whether human or animal, waiting is a big part of any emergency center visit, but by one A.M. Fluffy had been examined. By two, all the tests were in. The best guess diagnosis was liver cancer, and the Vet didn't expect him to live another three days. It was a really hard call, but Fluffy had reached the point that when fed, it he accidentally nosed the bowl a few inches away, he couldn't move himself closer to reach it.

It came to me that he had gone down to that place by the pond to die. He'd gotten a warm bath and all cleaned up, and loved on by his people, but it hadn't changed the inevitable. I sent the rest of the family home and attended his quiet peaceful death there in the examining room.

There is a corner of the property where almost all of our dogs are buried, and I brought him home, wrapped in his shroud.

It was nearly three o'clock on Christmas morning when I got home, and every one was still there in the living room, talking about Fluffy, the other dogs we've lost, and the two puppies at Debra's house. I pulled up a chair and listened and talked. It was a wake. Fluffy's wake. Good memories, laughter, and a few wet eyes.

I finally sent Debra and Jonathan home while they were still awake enough to drive, with no one planning to get up early.


Bill Crider said...

I'm very sorry to hear about Fluffy. It's always tough to lose a good dog. I'm glad your Christmas was otherwise a good one.

Karen said...

So sorry to hear about your dog.