Thursday, August 13, 2015

Requiem for a Very Good Dog

Zelda left us in April. It was April 3, to be precise. Her kidneys had deteriorated beyond repair and she was suffering. It was clear that it was time to say goodbye. She was only 8 and a half. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but it was the right thing to do.

I still miss her constantly. I'll never get to kiss her neck scruff, play with her velvety ears, or smell her doggy scent again. No more trips to the little park across the street or snuggles on a cold day. No more post-bath zooms around the apartment.

She came to me as a baby. Animal Control brought her to the Humane Society in Savannah as a newborn with another puppy and their mother. They were fostered until they could be adopted, and when they were old enough, I selected the puppy that snuggled up to me as soon as I picked her up.

I nursed her through a bout with kennel cough (props to my mom for helping a LOT with that). I took her to PetSmart puppy classes. I laughed as she scooted around the house and terrorized the then-14-year-old Bichon that had been with my family since 1992. I cuddled her and played with her.

Then I brought her to New York when my family moved. She bonded with my dad so tightly it could be like no one else existed if he was home. I taught her how to be a city dog. She taught me how to be a better human. She got sick from medicinal side effects and I cried and panicked while she was hospitalized to treat the resulting hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. I felt intense relief when she recovered.

I got hit with a massive depressive episode. She snuggled with me when I couldn't get out of bed. She licked tears off my face. When I could force myself to go out she greeted me with joy as I came home. When I wanted to fade away into nothing her needs made me stay alive.

I came through it. She was still there. She still loved me. No matter how hard I had been for other people to be around me, Zelda never got frustrated or overwhelmed by me. She just loved.

When I moved out of my parents' apartment, she stayed behind. The bond between her and my dad was so strong it would have broken both of them to be separated. It hurt my heart to not see her every day, but it meant the joy was that much stronger when I did. Every time I walked through their door I was greeted with the purest joy.

She first developed kidney issues in 2012. I knew her life would probably be shorter than most dogs' are. I sobbed when I learned that most dogs only live 1-2 years after diagnoses. I made myself a promise that she would live to see 8 years old, at least.

We kept up with her health, changing her diet, keeping her on medications, and getting her tested regularly. She stayed relatively healthy despite all this. I planned and got a tattoo of her portrait on my left leg.

She made it to her 8th birthday. I didn't know it would be her last.

February 2015 came around and she grew more and more lethargic. She went to the vet. Her blood sugar was off the charts and she was diagnosed with diabetes. I tried not to think about the fact that this exact thing had happened to my grandfather shortly before his kidneys failed and he died.

She didn't get better. The vet did an ultrasound and discovered her kidneys were almost completely deteriorated. She was hospitalized. When she came home, we continued to treat her problems. It became hard for me to see happy, healthy dogs and not cry because my own girl was no longer healthy.

Finally, it became clear she would not get any better. The call had to be made. It was the most difficult decision ever, but it was right. My parents and I were in the room with her and held her as she passed. We sobbed. Even the vet cried.

It is now August. Sometimes I think I am ready for another dog, but most of the time I know I'm not. I miss having that kind of friend and companion in my life, but I can't give away that much of my heart again yet. The part that belongs to Zelda is still in pieces.