Around twelve years ago, I went to a pet store to kill some time. There, I saw the sweetest pup. She wasn't exitable and frenzied like the other prisoners of commerce in the petstore. Instead, she seemed content and sweet as hell (if hell were sweet). Plus, her ears met over her head in such a way that it looked like she was wearing a hat. Cute, cute, cute.
I told Romy, who was my girlfriend at the time, that she should avoid the pet store because I saw the sweetest pup there. Of course, this piqued her curiosity, so I took her there. And when she saw the pup she said "No". The pup looked too much like her last dog.
But we didn't leave immediately. Instead, a staffmember took the pup out of her cage and carried her around. She saw us looking and asked if we wanted to go to the "puppy love room". (If asked this question, I recommend that your answer be "no, thanks" unless you intend to actually buy a dog). As she played with Romy's scarf, we fell in love with her. Puppy love.
We decided to walk away and think about it. Was this the sweetest pup in the world, or would it be just as easy to find one equally sweet later? Besides, wouldn't it be better to buy from a breeder instead of progeny from what was likely a puppy mill? We went to other pet stores to look at other pups, just to get an idea of pup personality. And no - not one of them was as sweet as the one we saw. So we went back to the pet store, bought the pup, as well as a crate, food bowls, leash, collar, food and chewtoys.
It took some adjustment when we brought Nikki into our household. No longer could we come and go as we pleased. Instead, we had to make sure Nikki was accomodated - from housebreaking and walks, to meals, grooming and playtime. The rhythm and tone of our lives changed, almost as surely as if we had a child. (Although it's frowned upon to put your child in a cage while you go to work). This was our little family.
When Romy and I broke up, she asked which of us would keep the dog. I wanted her to keep Nikki. I already felt guilty, being the one to leave. There was no way that I was going to take the dog too. So, for the last 6 or so years, Nikki has been Romy's dog, although I visit. I had offered to pay for part of veterinary costs, but Romy refused. And like the house and the garden, Nikki became Romy's and Romy's alone.
Romy and I email often, and call sometimes, and visit a few times a year. Lately, Nikki has been the subject of emails as Romy asks for my thoughts on some behavioural changes Nikki has been exhibiting. She would sometimes bite or growl for no reason, she refused to use uncarpeted stairs, she yelped as though in pain for no reason, she needed to be lifted into bed.
A couple of months ago, when Nikki had her first seizure, Romy was understandably distraught. I drove right over. The vet did some tests but could find no reason for the seizure. Time passed and Nikki seemed seizure free (altohugh who knows what she was getting up to when no one was looking). Then last Thursday just after bedtime Nikki had seizures again, a cluster of them - one after another after another after another never ending. Romy went to the emergency vet's and treatment began.
Later, in the daytime, at the regular vet's, tests were done. Before the results came back, Romy was encouraged to take Nikki to Toronto on Monday to have MRIs and CT scans to see if a brain tumor was the issue, and whether the tumor could be removed surgically. When they tried to wean Nikki off the diazepam, she had another seizure. An x-ray was taken which showed two masses in Nikki's chest, Romy was told an ultrasound and biopsy in Toronto would better pinpoint whether the spots were cancer or something else. And finally, by the time Romy had to bring the dog back to the emergency vets for the night/weekend the results of the blood test came back. The blood tests suggested that Nikki had pancreatic cancer that likely progressed to her liver and her brain.
Although the daytime vet wasn't so explicit, the emergency vet's greatest kindness was being frank with Romy. The prognosis was hopeless. They could try to wean Nikki off diazepam again to see if she'd seize -- but thought it was likely that she'd seize again. And if she did seize again, they wanted to know what Romy would chose to do. Romy didn't know. She wasn't ready. She went home and called me. I drove right over.
She wanted to do the right thing, she just didn't know what the right thing was. Could it wait, was it too soon? She and I and a box of kleenex went to the vet's. We talked to the vet, who seemed quite sure that it was the right thing to do, without telling us it had to be done. But Romy needed someone to tell her what to do. "It's not the wrong decision", I said. But how could anyone really be sure. We all want just one more day. Just one more day.
We sat with Nikki, who looked fine because she still had enough diazepam in her that she wasn't seizing (but was nicely mellow). We sat and held her, and hugged her, and petted her, all the while crying. And when we had readied ourselves as much as we could, we called the vet into the room. Seconds later we were in the room alone, still crying, holding and hugging and petting the soft body of our dog. "She's your dog, too", Romy said.
Was it too soon? Based on the xrays, blood tests, seizures and behavioural changes she wouldn't have long to live. And whatever time she had left would be painful.
But just one more day?
It will always feel too soon.
October 1994 - March 2007