the friends

I’m here for you.

Do you actually only love someone when you love them more than yourself?

I look up from Ann Voskamp’s question on page 140 of The Broken Way and I see Maxy sleeping peacefully on the family room floor.

I’ve been so tired.

Tired of living like a shut-in, as most caregivers do. Tired of changing diapers and wiping piddle trails off the floors. Tired of hoisting a 46 pound bag of bones to feet he can’t find, feet attached to legs that collapse under him, or that never unfold at all.

“Help me out, buddy” I say.

He collapses to the floor again.

“Come on, Maxy,” I say impatiently, “you can manage to find your feet when dinner is ready.  Help me out here!”

“Sorry Bud, I know you’re old and I’m trying to help you, but I’m old, too, so you try and help me.”

Maxy is my 15 year old hound dog, who likely has degenerative myelopathy – the canine version of ALS. His hind legs have grown increasingly weaker over the last year or so and we can expect that as the disease progresses his upper body and breathing muscles will be affected, too.

“When he gets to the point where he can’t stand at all,” the hub said a few months ago, “we’ll have to put him down. Otherwise he’ll have to pee and poop laying on his side and he wouldn’t want that.”

Not a minute before, I thought in reply. Not a minute before.

But now I think about the people who take control of their lives, who would have put him down long before they stopped inviting people over because their blanket-covered family room floor smells like pee; people who would be out chasing their dreams, doing their thing.

I think about me who spends an hour each morning and again each evening preparing ketogenic meals, doling out medications, supplements and chemo to my beagle as I check them off a legal-sized spreadsheet. Me, who spends the hours in between doing laundry and wiping Maxy pee off the kitchen floor.

Sometimes I wish he would hurry up and go.  Sometimes I ask God to hurry up and take him. Peacefully. While he’s sleeping comfortably, with the sleepy background sounds of his family gently cradling him.

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He’s awake now, head up, looking around, looking out the doorwall.  He looks bright, alert, like he’s enjoying the peace and quiet of the afternoon.  There is no way I can schedule his death.  Not while he still looks content. Not while he’s still so enthusiastic about his meals.

Do you actually only love someone when you love them more than yourself?

“I’ll take care of you for as long as it takes,” I whisper.

He looks at me as though he knows my thoughts.

Do I love Maxy more than I love myself?

Or is it that I love being the me who will take care of him more than I would love being a me who wouldn’t?

“Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus said, “that he lay down his life for his friends.”

 

 

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “I’m here for you.

  1. Anonymous says:

    He is so precious, I am so very sorry this is ripping your heart out. As you know we both went through this a little over a year ago. It so so hard. I am praying for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tammie says:

    Prayers for Maxy, you and your husband in this time. May you each rest in God’s Love and God’s Presence. May God’s peace and comfort surround and fill you.

    Hugs!

    Thank you for sharing this and your messages elsewhere, and pointing us to hope and life in Jesus Christ!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Julie. You clicked “Like” on a comment I left on my friend Tricia’s Freedom Through Empowerment blog today, so I stopped by here to see who/what you’re all about. Nice to “meet” you.

    My wife Denice (a genuine “dog whisperer”) and I have fostered or helped transport a couple hundred dogs in the last 15 years, working with collie, sheltie, golden retriever, and keeshond rescues across many states. We have adopted about 15 of those dogs, often the ones who are in the last 4-24 months of their lives and have been relinquished by their owners. We despise owners who choose to abandon their senior dogs. So whatever the opposite of “despise” is……(“adore?”)……. that’s what I felt reading your piece “I’m Here For You.”

    I would like to share how we feel about the burden of responsibility you’re facing. I won’t lie……this is intended to try to give you some advice. But I won’t word it that way, or it would sound too presumptive and intrusive upon your life, your home, and your spirituality, all of which are your private business. It’s not my place to give you directions, but I will describe what we believe for ourselves and why.

    We’re not cat people because for us, cats’ usual air of aloofness and indifference just isn’t something we are able to “bond” with. Spunky, eager, humorous, intelligent, active dogs just capture our hearts. For us, it’s a two-way commitment of pure loyalty. Denice can look at a picture of a dog’s face on a shelter’s web page and psychically feel their pain and fear, and also their potential for joy and love. Especially when they’re 11-12 years or older, she aches for them to be happy and feel “wanted” in their final years. That’s what us humans owe this unique “partner species” called canine that God gave us, because that’s what a good dog gives us every day — happiness and belongingness. I think that’s why some homeless people who have dog partners are so desperately inseparable. They are literally each others’ only friend on earth, and they would each die for the other.

    What Denice and I have come to strongly believe is that dogs’ trust in, and devotion to, their human masters includes the inherent faith they place in us to make judgments about their quality of life and their ability to “exist as a dog should exist.” Through every year of healthy life, and with every healthy breath they take, the herding & hunting breeds desire nothing else but to “accomplish” tasks cooperatively with a pack leader (their human master). They want to give all their capabilities to their human, and receive all our love and praise and safety in return. It’s an ethereal bond that God gave us to cherish with our dogs. But when their bodies can no longer answer the instinctive call to “do” what they exist for, Denice and I believe it’s time for our pack leader responsibilities to rise to the highest state of duty.

    We have absolute faith that dogs go to Heaven. God rewards them with all Heavenly grace for their lifelong devotion to their masters. Unlike physically-disabled humans who can read books including The Bible, listen to artful music, peruse nostalgic old photos, talk on the phone with grandchildren & great grandchildren, watch the history channel documentaries of great Americans or the travel channel shows about beautiful places or the discovery channel shows about fascinating science, etc………..dogs can only lay and long for their bodies to somehow allow them to romp and roll and fetch and play again, like they used to do. We believe the absolute most important thing we must do, and that He expects us to do responsibly, is recognize the point when the enjoyment and contentment our dogs absorb from our presence is less than the enjoyment and freedom that awaits them in Heaven. We believe that “over the rainbow” lies a place of infinite meadows, rivers, woods, and bouncing tennis balls where their spirit can bound happily this way and that, free from their broken earthly bodies. We do not believe that God forbids man to exercise this responsibility of stewardship over the lives of their loyal pets. We believe that God entrusts us with that duty, and that God actually judges us partly by our responsibility in compassionately exercising it.

    For us, this has nothing to do with selfishness with our freedom, or inconvenience/embarrassment in front of our friends who drop by. In fact, we try with all our morality and spirituality to be sure we’re not clinging to our pain-wracked & immobile dog-buddy because of our own emotional selfishness. We believe God grants us strength and dominion to do what is morally best for His creatures who lack our strength and wisdom. Denice and I try to be sure we don’t elevate our own emotional grief above the physical pain our dog is feeling. When the time comes, we try to be sure we pay the utmost respect to the reality of our dog’s lost ability to “be” what they instinctively know their existential purpose is: to be active, athletic, productive, helpful, willing servants to their human masters.

    God bless you, Julie. I’m praying that you find peace in your soul, in the circumstances you face.

    – Jeff

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Jeff, for taking the time to share kind, compassionate and helpful words. I know what you mean about Denice being able to look at a dog’s face on the internet… I always know a good boy/good girl when I see one, too.

      This isn’t our first rodeo. We lost a beloved beagle to lung cancer a little over a year ago and I wrestled then as I am wrestling now. With her, the decision made itself when her chest started to fill with fluid and it was apparent she was having difficulty breathing. Even then, that loyal little sweetheart didn’t want to leave me but we said a tearful goodbye.

      Two weeks later we adopted Dixie – an 11 year old beagle who has colon cancer. Maybe that’s why I’m tired – in the span of four years I’ve lost my dog, Lucy, to hemangiosarcoma and then my dog, Bebe, to lung cancer, I’ve been caring for Dixie, who has colon cancer and now I’m watching Max’s decline. My weariness is more emotional than physical. So much sickness and decline. On the encouraging side, though, Dixie is doing very well right now.

      Max was quite the athlete in his youth – the fastest dog at the dog park, and the friendliest, too. He used to greet every newcomer at the gate and then walk them back to the gate when their owners were ready to go. I’m sure he misses those agile days, but he also seems content just to be with us. And he isn’t in pain. If he were, the decision would be a no brainer. Degenerative myelopathy isn’t painful. He has muscle atrophy and weakness and he’s losing sensation in his hind end, but there’s no pain.

      We’ll say goodbye when he can no longer stand or walk at all. Sooner if he begins to withdraw and seems disinterested in life, in food. I looked into his little 3 month old eyes when my daughter spotted him on the internet and I knew he was a good boy. I trust those eyes will tell me when he’s ready to go. But I’d much rather he just drift off peacefully on his own.

      Thank you, again, for sharing the wisdom you’ve gained over many years of loving dogs. And thank you for loving them. There is a senior dog rescue organization that I follow on Facebook. God bless them, God bless you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I knew this post was going to make me cry when I saw the title and the picture and it did. Bless you Julie and bless Maxy.

    The guard dog at the veterinary clinic I used to work at had degenerative myelopathy (he was a German Shepherd and they are predisposed). Buster was such a nice sweet dog and so robust and healthy in his younger years so and it was hard to watch his slowly progressing paraparesis (and all that goes along with that).

    It’s so hard to watch our old dogs fade isn’t it? Maxy is fortunate to have you. Take care of yourself Julie. I’ll keep you both in my prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your prayers Gail. I always hope you’ll read the posts I write about my friends because I know you’ll understand.

      The emergency animal hospital listed Max as part German Shepherd years ago and I wondered why – I know his mom was part beagle and I had always guessed that his dad was a Golden. But maybe his dad was a German Shepherd after all. Max was the same as Buster in his youth – athletic, healthy, sweet… He’s been a great dog. I woke up this morning to the sound of my husband taking him outside for a “break” – gently coaxing him – and it hit me that I am going to be a bit of a wreck when he goes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • In my neuro textbooks, this condition is referred to as “German Shepherd Degenerative Myelopathy.” I know what you mean. I have a friend now who has an older Boston Terrier named Joey (he was a stray who she and her husband adopted because when they found the owner, he didn’t want the dog). Joey is old, blind, and a suspected Cushings patient and they are struggling with the decision to put him down. He’s been fading fast. He’s still eating good so they can’t do it. I understand that completely. My friend, Abby (Joey’s owner) and I always say we’d rather be stabbed in the eye with a needle than make the dreaded euthanasia decision for our beloved pets. I know you’ve been there before Julie so you know. It’s one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make with my cat back in 2013. I thought it would kill me. I went through anticipatory grief when I suddenly realized he had already lived 3 years or so past the average lifespan of a cat.

        Hang in there!

        Liked by 1 person

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