Bear bait is gone.
I can't remember the last time I felt this sad. I'm sadder than sad. I'm crushed. My entire being has been wrapped around a rotting rod of pain which is emanating toxic waste and it's choking me from the inside. It's not like I can't inhale, it's like what I exhale is too dark and thick to leave me.
In the end she had barely eaten for a month and hadn't eaten for five days, unless I gave her people food. I gave her people food. One day she was so crippled that she couldn't even get up. But then she seemed to rally, kind of. And she started to slip and hobble around on her dead leg again, but only when we really worked hard at pursuading her to go outside or join us on the couch. Other wise she would stay in the same spot she had collapsed into for hours and hours, maybe 6 or 7 until I tried to carry her outside or into another room so we could be together. I lied on the floor to be near her. I lifted her onto the couch to be near me. I sat outside. No matter what I could have been doing I just kept coming back to the house because I didn't want her to be alone.
Sometimes when we were outside bear bait hid underneath this one bush. When I called her out of hiding out she found a quiet corner by the garage and scratched out a little dip in the dirt, sat down into it, and laid her head down. Was she testing out final spots? I wondered if she was preparing for giving up.
Every time I came back to the house I was afraid she'd be dead. But I'd find her lying around somewhere odd and she'd thump her tail without moving anything else and it broke my heart that she could be in such bad shape and happy to see me at the same time. And then I wished she would just go in her sleep so I didn't have to make the choice. But every time I found her lying all stiff on her side she'd keep thumping that tail. And I kept giving her the pain killers. I didn't think they were doing anything at all, until I took some photos and saw her eyes. Those weren't her eyes in those photos. They were drugged yes, and I tried not to imagine what I would say if I was on that many pain killers. And then she started crying for me. When I was home she wanted me to be close to her.
I asked everyone I know for advice. People talked about dogs suffering and doing the right thing or the grace in dying on your own and unfortunately I met a woman whose 1/2 paralyzed (but young and pain free) dog uses a wheelchair. A couple of people asked me if we had tried acupuncture. But one woman's words kept echoing in my head becuase she spoke of making the same decision with her dog and asking herself "Is my dog going to get better?" Bear bait was not going to get better.
In the end I chose to have the vet put her down and I am wracked with guilt. I asked the vet to come to our house, because bear bait hated going to the vet. And we lied in the back yard while the vet gave her the shots that slowed her down and then turned her off. I held her the whole time, and told her to run and play and be free and then come back as a mutt one day and I'd find her again at a shelter. And then she was gone and the vet and her assistant carried her to their car and drove away with her old broken body.
Every time I turn around I am reminded of bear bait. I see her blanket in my trunk, or feel that pang of guilt when I drive away from the house without her, or I see her photo on my cell phone screen saver. I have to keep reminding myself that we won't be swimming together this summer, or kayaking or hiking around before dawn looking for a good sunrise vantage point for photographing because I've been looking forward to these things all winter. And then I relaize I will be truly alone when the kids are off on all of their adventures for the first time ever. Because my friend is gone.