The tile sucks heat from the bottoms of my feet as I wander through the house. The contrast to my hot fuzzy head is pleasant, as is the six-pound ball of tangled hair and wheezing snores cuddled against my neck.
Snocone, our completely crazy mill dog, is slipping away from us. Neurological damage, caused from 8 years or so crammed into a cat carrier, is going to finally get her. She circles to the left for hours, falls and bangs into walls. Her little birdy bones jut under my hand, the muscles in her hindquarters are atrophied from the deadly progression of the damage, and sometimes she cries in pain and confusion.
It's two in the morning and a lovely cocktail of flu and Parkinson's has made my chest tight and painful, my cough is skewed. My lungs lock at the exhale and refuse to give, a portent of the years to come. Scary, scary shit at the loneliest hour of the night. The trials of our dying dog are exhausting, and I haven't slept for days, but feeling her relax against me, letting my heartbeat soothe her into sleep, this comforts me too.
After four years, it's time to put our lovely little girl down.
"She isn't going to make this easy," my vet warned.
Snocone has finally begun to open her senses to the world. She wants to run with the other dogs in the house. She has left her world of isolation and looks to Jim and I for comfort, companionship and to ease her pain. She has learned to beg, to demand, and trust us to provide. When she is held by the vet, or groomer, she searches the room to find me, then meets my eyes. She doesn't plead, she demands I bail her out of her predicament.
At twelve years old, she has finally learned to crave contact with us and trust us to be there, she wants with all her dogness to be our dog -- and her body is letting her down. She has no intention of curling up in a corner and dying quietly. We're going to have to make the decision for her.
Every time we try to discuss it, tears cascade down Jim's face. His stroke keeps knocking down his walls of self-control. I know the flood of tears are a symptom of his current state of mind, he can't stop the wave of raw emotion.
It doesn't make it easier to watch him clutch his dog and cry. He has lost the ability to take care of others, instead he is cared for, a very hard place for him to be. He can and does care for Snocone. She has eased his way on the very rough road he's been dumped on.
I walk the floor. Brockle is at my hip, his head barely touching my thigh. Snocone shifts and sighs. The weight of our future digs its talons even farther into my shoulders. I think about the cold tile against my feet and the tiny dog, so relaxed, in my arms. Tomorrow, in the light, I'll pick it all up again, but for now, it's just this.