Heloise, R.I.P.

My dog, Heloise, died Friday at five in the morning. Because she had bloated with air horribly that morning—balloon proportions—for the third time in three months and suffered from degenerative myelopathy, which had prevented her from being able to get up from a prone position for the last two months, I felt it was finally time for euthanasia. I asked the nurse at Eagle Rock Emergency Vet Hospital to inject the overdose of anesthetic, which stopped her breathing and heart. She stopped suffering.

Heloise had always been a rather anhedonic dog. Although she would moan in pleasure when I rubbed her ears and wag her tail briefly when I came home, it had been months since she showed any of those signs of joy. For the last six months, she had been cranky, snarling, and whining. Sometimes her cries and whimpers in the night made me want to lash out at the universe about the cruelty of her condition. Of course, I had the power to decide to put her to sleep at any time, but I waited until the very last moment.

I had tried a special harness with which I could lift her easily from the special pet bed made for incontinent dogs. I had bought her a wheeled ambulatory device that suspended her in a sling and allowed her to walk clumsily around without the usual falling on her side.

In the end, I failed to come to grips with the duty to end her suffering because I had known this dog for years as a cranky and whining creature fully healthy. I thought, why should I put her to sleep only because she cries in the night wanting to be helped out of bed? The rest of the time she sleeps and eats just fine. Yet I became sleep-deprived and logy day after day from being awakened every hour and a half to Heloise’s cries. I got to the point where I saw her cries as hyper-sensitivity—the martyred wails of some old Jewish lady kvetching on in the night.

The fact is that any creature, human or not, would be sad and frustrated at not being able to get themselves up out of bed. As my friend, Ron Stringer, reminded me, dogs can’t pick up a book and read when they’re not able to walk. Their world is more radically altered by ambulation problems than is ours.

Heloise, forgive me.

Jerry Brown (the former California governor)—when running for President—was once asked about how he felt about sending troops to war. He replied, “You mean, really, am I willing to kill somebody to be president?”

I could never be President. I’d never be able to make any decision that involved ending anyone’s life for any reason. To guys that go out in the back yard, put a rifle between their dogs’ eyes, and shoot at the first sign of old age—guys like George W. Bush— I say: I wish I could be a little more like you, fellas.

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Posted at 2am on 01/25/2005 | comments are closed Filed Under: Daily

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"The sleep of reason
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