Missing Maisie

Posted by Eliza, September 11th, 2017

My dog, a Maltese/Yorkshire terrier mix, turns 11 this month, and it’s cliched but I can’t believe how fast and far we’ve travelled in that time. She’s considered a senior dog now, and I too count myself an elder. We’ve aged and learned together, this lovely soul and I.

The subject of mortality very much in the air as my mother is reaching the end of her life, and I am more and more given to appreciating each day as it unfolds. I now know – in ways I haven’t – how precious they are.
Time has a way of bending as we gain experiences, confounding in its layerings, crazy wrinkles, and speediness . Perhaps that’s why I realize I’ve been grieving in anticipation. Such grief is real, and I’m aware of it today more acutely than I have been, as I await the results of a lab test Maisie had taken two days ago.

Anticipatory grief. How many shapes and textures grief has, as I’ve learned from the folks who’ve come to me with important decisions to make about their animal companion’s illness, approaching death, and euthanasia. “What is best?” can be the hardest of questions, especially for another. There are complications, issues of quality of life, quantity of life, and resources. So many about resources, which we want to believe are infinite.

For example, some might be exhausted by the needs of an aging or ill beloved. They might worry that a pet is in pain, or suffering in some hard to name way. While it may be hard to discern, with some conversation and confidence, Most of us realize that the answer to what’s best lies within their relationship to their beloved animal. If asked, I share what I know about animals and dying; I encourage them to talk frankly to their vet; we talk honestly about resources – theirs and their animal companion’s – and how to creatively deploy them. And often we wonder together about which of the possible outcomes makes the most sense, now and in the future.

We need one another – we who love, those who love us, and the medical staffs who support us – more than ever when making these decisions. We need expertise, yes, AND we need space and time and a recognition of limits. We need to be challenged as to what the limits might be – they might be broader or lesser than we imagine. I can tell you from my own experience that denial, pride, ignorance or a combination of them can get in the way of gaining insight into what that elusive “best” might be. And sometimes, darn it, there might only be a best of not great options.

So I wait for a call from my vet, light a candle, and hope – but I try not to cling too hard to what may not be. Like all of life, there are more shades of grey than black and white. As in a beautiful, unsettling photograph, we must learn to appreciate the richness and the mystery offered us by all the shades of grey.

Rev. Eliza

We find many ways to remember.

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