Reality

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Michelle Phillips

Last week I came face to face with cold, harsh reality.

I was headed to Michigan for a few days for a family reunion, and just days before I left, our dog, Ruby, fell ill. The vet di­agnosed her with a slipped disc, something that is more com­mon in small dogs, much less so in a golden retriever. 

I don’t think that the vet at the emergency clinic conveyed the seriousness of a slipped disc in a dog, and the Internet pro­vided little information on the topic. Some dogs recovered, others didn’t. We did not know how quickly it would overcome her.

The first signs of this prob­lem came suddenly. On a Sat­urday she was fine. On Sunday, she couldn’t go down the stairs. On Monday we were at the clinic, which could only offer drugs for pain relief and re­duced inflammation. For the first two days she would not eat or drink, but after the trip to the clinic, I convinced her to have some water and canned food. 

We were to confine her in a small space, only allowing her to get up to eat or go to the bathroom, which wasn’t a prob­lem because she didn’t want to move. She was struggling to get up and down when I left and I debated whether I should go, but my husband encouraged me to visit my family, who I had not seen in two years. 

By Tuesday of the following week, Ruby could not move her head or her front legs, and I was in Michigan. I had Matt put me on speaker phone mul­tiple times to tell her the things I told her daily: You are the best. You’re a good girl. You’re the prettiest dog. You’re the smartest dog. I don’t know if she knew what I was saying, but Matt said she seemed to be listening. 

As we discussed the options, we decided that she needed to be put down because she had no quality of life and was get­ting worse. Over the telephone I was sobbing and questioning whether we were making the right decision. My sweet aunt Judy offered to fly me home if need be, but I declined.

Matt and I discussed it, and he said, “You can’t do anything for the dog. Your relatives are getting older and you should spend time with them while you can.”

The words stung for a sec­ond, but the fact is, my aunts and uncles, are not getting any younger. My cousin, Angie, and I had even begun referring to them as “the oldsters.”

Later that night, I watched my uncle struggle to manage my aunt’s large and heavy suit­case. His knee is giving him trouble from a 1970s motorcy­cle accident and he was strug­gling to get down a set of three steps with it. I asked my aunt if he should be carrying the heavy object, let alone down stairs. 

She yells from the door, “Jim, do you need help?” 

He responds, “I got it, Peg,” and she merrily goes about her business. 

I open the door just as he rolls up with the bag. He looks at me and says, “You can take it from here if you want.” And I did want to. 

Just as I wanted to carry the fan up the stairs for Judy, open jars, launch and remove a vari­ety of kayaks, paddleboards and floaties from the lake and per­form an array of other random chores. 

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child, and that could not be more true than in my case. The oldsters have always been there for me whenever I needed anything. They have always been the stable ones, the ones that carry me, my brother and Angie when we need it. They have offered comfort, support and some­times loans, or really, anything that we ask of them. They have been to sporting events, dance recitals, awards ceremonies, hospital visits, graduations, weddings, funerals and every in between event in our lives. In fact, they were all truckin’ up to Buffalo, to support An­gie’s daughter at her synchronized swimming competition when I left them.

Their love has been con­sistent, and we have never doubted that we are loved. This included last week when Matt called to say he had made plans to have a vet come to our home and euthanize Ruby. Upon shar­ing the news, I was enveloped with hugs and shared tears for a beloved pet. 

Matt and I assumed after Ruby received a clean bill of health after cancer surgery in the spring that we would have a few more years with her. It was not to be. We miss her dearly and there will never be another like her. The best dog. The good girl. The prettiest dog. The smartest dog. 

Hopefully, I will have more years with the oldsters, and be able to care for them the way they have cared for me. But I should not assume, and I guess that’s what Matt was telling me all along. It just took me a minute to get there. 

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