Tonight I taught our son Rene how to give Sparkey his IV. We will be away for a weekend in September and Rene will care for the dogs and house. We never expected Sparkey to be around for September, and are now reluctant to leave him with anyone except for Rene, his brother and pack member for fourteen years.
Since Rene will only need to do the IV once, I didn't show him how to spike the bag, prime the drip chamber, and other prep. He will simply have a pre-prepared bag ready to go since I will do the IV on Friday morning before work and then again on Sunday night when we return. Saturday night will be for the two boys---the canine and the human.
Rene took in the instructions easily, grasping the concepts immediately. After some guiding words, he lifted the scruff, found the sweet spot, inserted the needle, and opened the line, the solution flowing readily and quickly. Holding the bag up, he squeezed mightily for about seven minutes as the solution flowed into Sparkey's subcutaneous space.
During the treatment, I explained kidney function, kidney failure, and dialysis. We discussed Sparkey's symptoms and what we might expect down the road and what symptoms might force our hand. We kissed Sparkey, fed him his pills wrapped in sliced turkey breast, then plied him with ice cream as a chaser. He took it all in stride and turned up his nose when he had had his fill.
Just now---I am writing at 1 A.M.---Sparkey woke, left the downstairs bedroom where he was sleeping with Rene, drank some water noisily from the toilet, and then loped up the stairs to join Mary and Tina in the upstairs bedroom. He tripped and faltered a few times, and I ran to the bottom of the stairs to assist, but he made it to the summit on his own and disappeared into the darkness of the second-floor hallway, and into the room where Mary and Tina slumber. He doesn't seem to mind that we are itinerant sleepers, moving from room to room based on temperature, weather, and how many houseguests are currently ensconced.
I will so miss that boy when he goes. He was---and always will be---my first dog. He is loyal, attentive, affectionate (less now than before, of course), predictable yet surprising, simple yet deep, soulful, animal yet strangely human. His eyes convey so much, and I watch him watch us, his dulled senses still keen to assess our moods, our intentions, our patterns of behavior. He can no longer hear us say, "Wanna go for a walk outside?" He watches our movements, obviously refraining from getting up until he's sure. Mary discovered months ago that loud and sharp clapping is the best signal to let him know that our intention is clear and a walk is imminent. Two claps and he's lumbering for the door.
Rene marveled at the insubstantiality of Sparkey's hindquarters. We used to say that his hips and butt were so muscular and developed, it made you want to just take a big affectionate bite. Now, bones protrude and the muscle mass is gone, the hindquarters weak and atrophied. Rene also marveled at the way the 1/2-liter of IV fluid infused into Sparkey's scruff hung over his neck like Quasimodo's hump. The Hunchdog of Notre Casa. Rene looked Sparks deep in the eyes. Sparkey reciprocated by kissing Rene's nose.
It's a bond like no other. It's a level of trust between human and animal which dates back millenia. While we don't hunt and gather or protect the cave from predators, we rely on one another and live a symbiotic existence which binds our souls together, cleaves our lives into a domestic whole.
The hole which will be left by Sparkey's eventual departure will be gaping, but he will live in our hearts, his life and its innocent dedication to us inscribed in indelible ink. It is the ink of love and loyalty, and the narrative which it writes is an age-old story. We are living that tale, and we breathe in each moment, welcoming the fact that this is yet another moment in love together on this earth. May we all see how that ink of love fills the pages of our lives, making a mark worthy of remembrance and gratitude for a life well lived.