We were just sitting on the deck together, and I was reminding Murphy of the very first time we were in that exact same position: back in October 1998, when she’d just come home to live with me. She was 11 weeks old, my introduction to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
Today she is over 13-1/2, and dying from a splenic tumor.
Time is clearly on our minds these days.
Last week she was in crisis, having breathing difficulties because the tumor had apparently bled—it’s internal, hidden, silent except for her loud breathing. We learned that the bronchial infection we’d fought for two months was gone. What was left was what dying from a splenic tumor looks like.
She wasn’t in pain, was hungry and interested in life, and even the necessarily dispassionate vet was telling us she was a long way from dying. That was clear to see. I was grateful. I’d take what time we could both get, as long as it was time on her terms.
Good time. Time that was comfortable, that made her want to stay in her body. With me. With all of us.
As the bleeding ebbed and the fluid absorbed in the last few days, she began to breathe easier, and cheerfully greeted the babysitter who came to stay with her and Alki, her Cavalier brother, and Grace the Cat, so I could attend to business. A few hours away, that’s all, and only because staunch, experienced friends have generously come to help.
Friends who agree to come knowing that time might end on their watch. Brave people who’ve been there before with their own animals, and know what it’s like.
Time heals all wounds, they say. But not this one.
Today it was sunny and cold in Seattle, with a stiff wind that rarely leaves our beachside neighborhood. Then, just a few hours ago, the wind died down, I took Alki on a walk, and came home to sit on the deck with Murphy. We’d done that a few weeks ago, but she was too weak to sit up and peer out at the world. Instead, she curled in my lap and the warm sun soothed her old bones.
She was stronger today. Just like when she was a puppy, she stood with her hind legs on my leg and her front on the deck railing, watching people and dogs and cars go by.
That’s when I thought about how much time had gone by. Over 13 years.
She is deaf now, but she can see, and she’s generally alert and interested. She has her moments when time stands still, when she gazes off into the distance, when it’s very clear that time has taken its toll.
If that’s what time does.
It passes, and we wonder, where did it go? As we sat on the deck together in the cooling afternoon sun, I thought of all the things I could be doing: writing another article, cleaning house, updating my website, the things we do to live.
Ironic, that, because what we were doing together right then was living. On her terms. And mine.
What mattered? The time that was passing in those moments.
As I held Murphy tightly, giving her the security to lean into me for support so she could spy on the neighborhood, I closed my eyes to relish the feel of her warm body in my arms, the soft beating of her heart, the things that will be gone in a few short weeks.
Time ends bodies, true. Weeks from now this time will only be poignant memories.
As I held Murphy, I knew that I won’t regret the unwritten article, the dog hair bunnies all over the floor, an old date on my website.
I would only regret not holding her there on the deck on this sunny afternoon, for as long as she wanted to stare at the world.
So we sat there together as the afternoon cooled, until she was ready to come in.
Now I write the article, and all three of my multi-species family members snore beside me in my office, proof that the human-animal bond can be as ordinary as it is strange and wonderful.
Murphy breathes, the soft gentle snoring of old. This crisis has passed, for now. They say that the final one will come abruptly, some day. Some time. But this much I know.
Time is still with us.
© 2012 Robyn M Fritz