Our granddog is sick. Almost a year ago, Eloise was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and underwent radiation therapy. The tumor shrank and her seizures could be controlled with medication. My daughter Sharon and her husband Anthony hoped their beloved French Bulldog, now seven years old, might make it to eight or nine.
This fall Eloise developed a pain in her neck and was initially diagnosed with a ruptured disc. Further investigation, however, revealed another tumor, this one on her spine. More tests, more scans confirmed that no other tumors had cropped up in her body, so Eloise was cleared for another round of radiation, more meds and steroids. But the message was clear: other tumors will eventually appear and then it will be too much.
Pam and I watch Sharon and Anthony as they care for their cherished pet, day after thirty days of radiation—for which a dog must be sedated, carrying her home after treatment, doing it all over again tomorrow, trying to show up for work, cancelling vacations, struggling with exhaustion and grief. We are sad, but they ache.
The cycle of a dog’s life is so much shorter. Unless we are in, say, our eighties, to receive a dog into our lives is to agree to go with this creature through the giggles of puppyhood to adolescence and adulthood, old age, decline and death. Unlike children, where the unspoken expectation is that they will see us to the grave, pets are our sacred charge from beginning to end.
This is what we cannot exactly explain to children begging for a puppy. It is also the reason even huge dog lovers might one day say, I can’t bring another puppy into my life. I just can’t go through that cycle again.
But while we have these precious lives in our care, we have an extraordinary opportunity. Because a long life for a Frenchie may be a dozen years, we can walk with someone we love from the beginning of life to its end. We can, if you will, practice the life cycle. We can learn, grow, fail and triumph, let it teach us how to love and care for humans, those whose lives we know only partially and may not see to the end. All because we had this chance, once and again, to love one mysterious soul and be faithful unto death.
David, thank you. So sorry to read about Eloise and the ache of those who love her.
And then I feel some guilt. Should I, should anyone, grieve like this, for—an animal? But then too I hesitate to say the word. Of my own Lulu, I have begun to say “being.”
But as as you say we all know someone who keeps watch right now with a loved one near death. And parents who have lost a child—the greatest grief.
And yet I do grieve for Eloise. And I think of our dear Lulu—some day.
I remind myself that love is not limited. I have a growing, an infinite capacity. I can spend today a grieving love for Eloise which in no measure diminishes my love for others.
Blessings on Sharon and Anthony and you and your family. And blessings on Eloise.
Thank you for a lovely eulogy upon a eulogy. When Athena became incontinent and filled with pain from her spine, we had to decide to euthanize her. I still talk to her, 13 years later. And can remember her smell and all her doggie ways and how she’d know when we spelled out a word, it meant TREAT or WALK and that lab tail would start moving side to side knocking over anything in its way.
David Anderson says
You know what it’s like to be in love with a dog. Thanks
We are so sorry to hear about Eloise. Sharon and Anthony are in our thoughts and prayers.