One of my bookshelves collapsed the other day and the handyman said that, in order to fix it, I would have to remove all the books, not just those that had already fallen down. So I started piling them up on the floor of my guest bedroom, which usually doesn’t have piles of books on the floor — as opposed to some other rooms of my house, which do.
But when I took Frankie out for his last pee of the night, I walked through that guest bedroom in the dark, forgetting about the books — and stumbling over them.
Which is when I realized that this is what Frankie must be experiencing. I don’t believe in divine intervention but I think it’s a good idea to take life lessons when they hit you in the face — and almost land you on your butt.
Is This How I Would Want to Live?
As I wrote recently, a lot of the end-of-life checklists don’t apply to Frankie. He never liked car rides, or even walks, so his recent lack of interest in them proved nothing to me about his quality of life. What gave him joy was being with me and being the king of his domain — i.e., our house.
Now the house itself is a source of confusion. In this late stage of canine cognitive dysfunction, Frankie stumbles around blindly, bumping into things, night and day. His diminished sense of smell doesn’t come to his aid.
But I had refused to see things from his perspective. I had so many reasons shored up for the “it’s not yet time” defense:
- He still waits for me when he hears me drive up, often even in the proximity of the door.
- He still wants his food, though he can’t always find it.
- He still kisses me on occasion.
- He is still house trained, though he can’t find his way in or out of the house very well.
- He sleeps through the night.
What it boils down to: Frankie isn’t inconveniencing me — except, of course, for the fact that he tears my heart out every time I watch him stumbling around.
But what about him?
I began re-thinking my excuses.
The Hospice Vet
I’ve mentioned that, once I decided not to have Frankie’s teeth pulled, I began thinking of this phase of our lives together as hospice care. The book-stumbling incident gave me the impetus to make things formal — to call a veterinarian I’d heard about through a friend who specializes in the last phase of life and does in house consults. That is, she doesn’t only come over to administer a final needle, but also gives advice about quality of life.
I made the call — not necessarily planning on planning to say good-bye any time soon, though I suppose a part of me was hoping this limbo period would be over.
She was wonderful. I’ll tell you all about her visit another time. Bottom line: She felt that Frankie was very unaware of his surroundings, that he was definitely confused and possibly fearful much of the time.
That’s no way to treat a best friend.
The more we talked, the more I realized that I was ready (at least as ready as I’ll ever be, which is never) to let go. Because the more we talked, the more I realized that it’s not my Frankie I’ll be saying good-bye to, just a poor clumsy sprite that’s been occupying his body. It’s not an evil entity, just a sad one, but it nevertheless needs to be exorcised, so the real Frankie — a mischievous spirit if there ever was one — can return to take his rightful place in my memory.
Don’t worry. Frankie the imposter is still here. I’ll tell you more about my final plans. Hint: They include spoiling Frankie to the best of my abilities, which are considerable in that department.