I had to take my dear dog to the vet yesterday to see if we can keep her around a bit longer.
Chelsea came into our lives early in 1995, after the first of many miscarriages we’d suffer. She was a way of filling part of the space in our lives we hoped a child would one day consume. But she was much more than a substitute. She quickly became a quirky and important part of our little family.
Chelsea is a black and white English springer spaniel. She was the runt of a litter bred by an Amway employee. We brought her home and put her in a kennel in our family room. After several nights of her non-stop crying, we moved her into a bed in our room. It wasn’t long before she was curled up at our feet every night. We tried kenneling her during the day, but after she ate the tarp protecting the bottom of the kennel, we decided to trust her. She didn’t let us down.
Chelsea has boundless energy and good cheer, and a relentless capacity to fetch. When she was younger, we could literally spend hours throwing a ball off our deck, watch her chase, retrace her steps and then bring it back. Chelsea didn’t have an off switch..when we came in the house, we’d have to put the ball away or she would just keep bringing it to us. We’d put in on top of the refrigerator, and she’d sit and stare at it, willing it to fall. She has a crooked little smile that she gives you when you walk in the door, whether you’ve been gone for days or just to the mailbox.
At nearly 13, she’s deaf and blind in one eye, relying mostly on her still keen sense of smell. Because she can’t hear, she’ll lay blocking our bedroom door in the morning so she knows I’m up — and that she’ll be fed. But recently her behavior has changed. She’s became destructive, chewing clothing or whatever she can find on the floor or clawing at our door frames. When we come home each evening she’s in a panic, barking furiously and jumping on us. She falls while going up the stairs. She still races around like a puppy but is just as likely to plow into something — doors, cars, whatever might be in the way. She is often hurting herself as much as she was her surroundings.
So we went to the vet expecting the worst but came out with some hope. It appears Chelsea suffers from an anxiety disorder and canine cognitive dysfunction — doggie dementia. If she’s strong enough to take medication for either malady, we’re going to give that a try. She has a few options, so a few chances she’ll be able to live happily a while longer. And that was good news, as we’re not ready to say goodbye, even though we know her time with us is limited.
Our children don’t know life without her – she was there first. Although we’ve been preparing them that even if this works, she’s an old dog and may not make it much longer. They were as relieved as we were that we aren’t going to have to say goodbye just yet.
Last night I bought her a new chew toy on the way home. She brought it to me to throw and challenged me to play tug of war. Which I gladly did. Because I don’t know how many games of fetch or tug of war we have left to play.