Sunday, April 26, 2009

In remembrance of Barclay

Today is the first anniversary of Barclay's death. Barclay was our Bearded Collie. He was euthanized in our home by his vet who was kind enough to do a house call.

Barclay was 18 or 19 or maybe even 20 when he was euthanized. No one knows for sure because he was adopted from the OSPCA seventeen years previous as a young dog. It's funny but I've never known the exact age of any of my dogs. That's the one drawback with adopting: I'm always having to make up their birthdays.

And I've never known any of my dogs as pups and so I can only imagine what they must've been like. I imagine Barclay among his littermates. I imagine the first time he felt the touch of human hands. I imagine the first time he opened his eyes. I imagine his first uncertain, curious puppy steps.

I didn't actually come into Barclay life until he was in his teens when I met Elizabeth and he was part of the package. He was still bright eyed and bushy tailed, full of energy and playful but very gentle, especially with children. He didn't much like Huskies, though, because he was beaten up by one as a youngster. He used to go with Elizabeth to work everyday and how happy he was to be with her. But he also had separation anxiety and she tried so many things to put him at ease and nothing seemed to work.

Nothing until we all moved in together and then almost overnight, his separation anxiety was gone. I think it was because of Stella. I think because she was always there even when the humans went out, he got some sense of stability from her. Of course, if he could speak, he never would've admitted that. He didn't like Stella much. He tolerated her but didn't really ever like her.

Barclay really liked Rocky, though, when a few years later, Rocky came to live with us even though Rocky didn't return that affection.

Yeah, it was a weird love triangle at our house. Stella liked Barclay but Barclay didn't like her and Barclay liked Rocky but Rocky didn't like him and Rocky liked Stella but Stella didn't like Rocky.

Part of the reason Rocky didn't like Barclay was because Barclay use to fall on him. After his seizures, Barclay became quite wobbly and would sometimes lose his balance and fall over. So he'd be hovering around Rocky, who was just lying down somewhere having a snooze, and Barclay would be sniffing around and then just suddenly topple on him. Rocky hated that and even though Rocky can be a growling, snapping nutter with other dogs, he never bit Barclay. He'd just bark in bitter complaint and then heave himself up and move elsewhere away from the old falling down dog.

Barclay's love was unrequited.

Maybe they could've been friends if Barclay was younger. Those final months of Barclay's life saw him go into a slow decline. His hearing was gone; his sight was going; his tired old heart was worn out; his balance was so out of tune that he walked like a drunken sailor constantly crashing into the furniture, walls, the floor; his joints ached; his thoughts were foggy; he'd lost so much weight that after one of his last haircuts to keep him cooler in the summer, he came out of it looking like a concentration camp inmate.

And yet, and yet he still enjoyed a good pizza crust, he still sniffed all the sniffs on his short, doddery walks, he was still happy to see me when I got home at the end of the day and he still loved being picked up and held. So, I asked myself was it really time? Was this the best I could do for him? But mostly I wondered how I could have him be put down when he trusted me and looked to me for protection in his old age?

On his last day, we gave him his favorites carrots, pizza and ice cream for breakfast and let him eat until he could eat no more. The vet arrived with an assistant at around 12:20. Barclay was already settled in his bed. When the vet put the needle in, Barclay didn't protest. He was always good that way. Moments later his breathing subsided and then his tired old heart stopped beating. I can only hope that Barclay passed away with a full belly, dreaming about being a fast, young dog again, chasing squirrels through the trees.

I can't say that's what Barclay would've wanted. Ultimately, it's what we humans wanted. If Barclay had been able to speak who knows what he would've said. Even a dog in pain will fight for its life. Who are we to say no to that? Except that we do say no and we do it based on our personal idea of what a dog's life should or shouldn't be. I've known people who have loved their pets but had them put down just because of a broken leg and others who have refused to do so even though their pet was bed ridden, delirious and suffering seizures every day. Who was the coward, who was the brave one and as long as the owners made their decisions in good faith on behalf of their pets who am I to judge? Eventually, we all decide for ourselves on behalf of our pets, through a fog of love and anguish, when to let go.


Miz Minka said...

So sorry for your loss. Thanks for the beautiful tribute to your very special Barclay. I still mourn losing The Best Dog Ever to cancer in 2005, my Hovawart Cody. I knew it was time when one morning he wouldn't/couldn't get up anymore. His passing left a gigantic hole in my heart.

Ian said...

What a beautiful tribute to a obviously much loved friend/family member.

Barclay looks and sounds like he was quite the character.

Perhaps I`m one of those doddering old fools but I have faith that there is a special place for these wonderful companions and they`re young again,pain free and running and playing and everyone gets along with everyone in this special place.

It is so hard to let them go no matter the age.

Great pictures.

House of the Discarded said...

...."through a fog of love and anguish..."

Excellent way of portraying the way I've felt many times as I've held furry loved ones pass on.

Fred, I still hear the anguish in your writing a year later over Barclay.

Barb said...

No matter how long they live, they always leave us too soon.

What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful dog.

And as for this:
"Eventually, we all decide for ourselves on behalf of our pets, through a fog of love and anguish, when to let go."
- damn, man but you can write.

onequarterdal said...

Hi Fred,
Some folks would judge that I kept my old dear guy around too long. However, he was doing his business outside, sleeping well and eating well. Not having seizures or anything, just a little slow and needed some guidance now and then. He was pushing 19 and such a great little guy. He was able to walk on his own, and even though he was deaf as a doorknob, he'd feel the vibration of my car pulling in and would meet me at the door. Its been 7 years and I still miss him dearly. He loved all dogs, so let's hope he's romping with Barclay...Dot

Cathrine said...

I understand completely the guilt and worry about putting an old companion to death. I had to make the decision six years ago for my 20 year old cat. To this day, I am full of the same uncertainty, ambivalence and guilt that you describe.

Whatever Sappho might have chosen, it would not have been what I gave her. Because it is a choice that she could not know existed. The best I can say is that it is what I would want for myself if it got to the same place for me that it was for her.

The best I can hope for is that it was the least terrible of alternatives.

Christy said...

Having just lost my own beloved dog, I have to echo Barb's sentiments....
"damn, man but you can write."

Anonymous said...

No words, Fred; that is just beautiful writing about love and anguish.

JOanne said...

I have had to make this decision about 20 times in my life....I have the little urns in my wall unit to prove it. It never gets easier and,as a matter of fact, I think it gets harder. We question and second guess our decision. Ruth, the vet, said to me once after I had just lost another "best friend" that the greatest tribute we can pay to our animal that passed on is to give another needy animal a home. They would be proud of us for that. I truly hope that this is so. And, by the way, it is her fault entirely that there are all these little, sweet creatures living with me. I will have to do it many more times in my life and I will try to do my best for them and to not make them suffer for my selfish reasons and to ease their way out of this world the best I can. Ruth also said to me that it would be a kinder world if we could do the same for people suffering interminable pain, but we don't. You gave Barclay a great life...he would tell you so if he could.

Yuki's mom said...

Although I knew Barclay from the dog park, I got to know him a lot better as his life approached its end. What a sweet and gentle soul he was.