Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dear, Sweet Gilbert

Time to say goodbye to yet another piece of my heart. Thursday brought the sad realization of giving mercy and taking death into our own hands. Auntie and I made the decision, after a week of sudden immobility, refusal to eat and drink independently and wetting himself because he just could not stand, Gilbert, our 17-year-old Jack Russell Terrier had to be put to his final rest.
Gilbert came to Auntie when she was a young, college girl in Michigan. She adored and cared for him as well as each of the happily spoiled pets throughout her life. As she went off to Europe for a year, Grandmother and Grandfather were good enough to take him in and continue loving and caring for him. Change happens and Auntie returned home to move to Massachusetts. As Gilbert had become Grandfather's little shadow, he stayed with my grandparents.
Sadly, my grandmother has Alzheimer's disease and my mother (who has turned out to be the kind of person no one would really want in their life) decided to bring my grandparents out here to help take care of them. Things quickly went downhill with what can only be described as some sort of schizophrenia on her part and she deserted my grandfather's side for sudden selfish (and completely asinine) pursuits. Her abandonment turned into Grandfather wanting to follow her back to Michigan to live with the rest of the family and be near his selfish daughter again. All the while, darling little Gilbert labors along, adoring the man that has been the constant for the majority of his long life.
One day, this constant decided that the old boy was "always getting in the way and under (Grandfather's) foot." So what does he do? Grandfather called my sister that worked in an animal shelter for a year to ask her if she knew of any shelters where he could take Gilbert to be put down! Because he was "in the way!" That is not right, Auntie and I said and we took Gilbert into our custody. The first few weeks were a little difficult with his wandering and looking for Grandfather and accidents because he was a bit disoriented looking for the way out. Once he settled in, though, life with Gilbert was sweet. He'd bark to go out, he'd bark to come in, and he latched on to me for reasons unknown to the three of us. He'd follow me everywhere in the house. It got to the point where we had to keep him from going near the stairs unless he was being carried, for fear that he'd fall and really hurt himself. That didn't stop him. He'd find ways around barriers keeping him from me and I'd constantly find his dark, saucer-like staring longingly up/downstairs as I'd turn the corners. Auntie would tell me how he'd sleep all day but come alive when he knew I'd come home or into the room when I'd been gone to work or in my room. I let him kiss me whenever he felt the urge (though his halitosis was abhorrent due to age.) Nevertheless, I loved him as best I could and he returned the favor. I recall playing with him and another sweet pup long since past (a black chihuahua named Licorice) long before moving at the age of twelve. I have known Gilbert for more than half my life and that is what made this decision all the more difficult (though decisions such and these are never easy.)
Taking him from Grandfather when we did gave him another playful, rambunctious (more than ever expected from a pup his age) 5 months with Auntie's other (two) dogs, with whom he would romp when the passion and ability struck him. So when his inability to function properly came about, Auntie and I were at a loss as to his affliction. We took the three dears to a vet Auntie was never comfortable with, and for good reason. Though I care not to retell the details, I can tell that the three were tested for disease and Gilbert was found to have Lyme Disease. Claiming him from Grandfather, we knew not how long he had been afflicted, but asked the vet his opinion on being euthanized at his age and with this illness. The vet said that, though he was old, he would not dream of putting him down. He gave us pills for the Lyme's and the instructions; two doses each day with food and call him in a month to decide on further treatment. We came away thinking all was well but within two days, he was truly worse. This was when he could not stand, walk, drink and would not eat. Auntie then called and spoke to the vet she knew and trusted.
This brings us to the sorrow of putting down a beloved member of the family, though tossed about, but finally reclaimed by those that ever really loved him. I'll not relive each moment of his euthanization, but once the needle was emptied, the nurse gingerly checked his heartbeat. It had stopped almost immediately. Gilbert was ready to go. I had whispered to him the night prior and once during the carride to the vet that, should he feel he was ready, he mustn't hold on for our sakes. We would miss him terribly (so much more than Auntie nor I had imagined) but we would never want him to press on in pain or anguish (we never heard one yelp from him) just to keep us happy. He could let go if he felt he was ready. We love him very much and always will. These were my final sentiments to our dear, devoted friend.
And I will always love him.
We brought him home and buried him in the orchard in the front yard just below one of the newly planted apple trees. When the weather clears, Auntie and I will plant Forget-Me-Nots, Pansies and Johnny Jump-Ups. (He used to lie in the patch of Johnnies when Grandfather kept him.) When we enjoy the orchard and all the fruit that it will bear and all of the happy times we will have there, he will be with us.
And my heart will always miss him.

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