Life Energy is, like a taper or a lighter, finite: It lights, and emits brilliant rays, easily when we are youthful and in excellent health; but, with the inevitable decline of the body, the lighter fuel begins to diminish and the sharpness of internal mechanisms starts to clog up and become ever-blunter until it is barely possible to produce the tiniest flicker of flame. One day, no fire emerges. The taper has served its purpose.
So it is with my beloved elderly border-collie, Jumble. Another sad step in the slow dimming of his flame has occurred – and, for twenty minutes early this afternoon, I thought I was going to have to pick up the phone and make that call all Own Gods and Goddesses dread.
Jumble’s control of his excretory processes is becoming haphazard and, at some point last night, he crapped on the bed. Not the best awakening I have ever had, let me tell you.
In days gone by, he would have been shamed and embarrassed and upset. Now? He doesn’t notice, is increasingly unable to distinguish between inside and out.
The solution was obvious, and I set about manifesting it this morning: Drove to the cavernous Tesco in Shepton Mallet and bought a child/pet safety gate. I took the hound with me because his separation anxiety makes him more likely to have these little accidents.
All well and as good as could be under the circumstances. I got home, dragged Jumbs gently out of the car. He was slow – oh, so very very slow – and, as we got in through the front door, he collapsed, one of his back legs giving way for no obvious reason. I managed to get him into the kitchen – and there he lay, unable to get up again, for about quarter of an hour, while I hovered around him, stroking his head for reassurance, distraught, phone in hand, not sure whether the end of the taper had arrived or not. Truly distressing.
To my intense relief, he got up by himself and pottered into the garden seemingly none the worse. But I do not think I can let him climb the stairs any more, both for his own safety and for reasons of hygiene.
So, after lunch, I put the gate up in the doorway between kitchen and Living Room – and left the back door open so that my old pet could go in and out as and when he wanted.
It is very sad, feels, in some ways, like putting an old person into a home – because, in both cases, this move towards a smaller and safer environment is tacit acknowledgement that the afflicted one is not going to get better. With humans, relatives often sign DNR* forms on behalf of their loved ones. In my mind, and sore heart, I have already put my signature on something like this for Jumble, and, when the time comes, am not going to accept any pointless, heroic measures.
My only consolations are that he is used to the gate system – and, of course, that I did not have to summons an emergency vet to euthanize him. Not this time, anyway.
I can feel that his life energy is reducing; that his flame is taking ever-longer to light; that the complicated mechanics within his taper are rusted and slow and take an age to spark up. But he is still with me; he still has a small flame and an enjoyment of food and limited exercise and the garden.
One day, there will be no flame left. His taper will have run out of time.
*Do Not Resuscitate…