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In Memory of Arnold
(To enlarge the photo of Arnold, click on the photo or link)
The second day is always the hardest.
I am sincerely grateful to all of you for your concern, your help, your words of encouragement, and your prayers.
I may never take up the thousands of shards of newspaper she has spread from the kitchen, through the office, and down the hall. Every place I look I see her. I woke at a start in the middle of the night, my heart racing. I know it was her coming back to be with me.
What is most difficult for me is dealing with her high level of intelligence. She was so close to human ... just down the line from apes and dolphins. I found myself taking care not to even think bad thoughts about her illness because I knew she could read my mind. I know that to be true. I had to do my crying in private.
After she met Brett at the hospital, other employees there were making a big fuss about her. She met the two vets, and met Richard Hoyle, whose concern over her health via long distance telephone had been truly remarkable. Richard and Phyllis Battoe, both minipig sanctuary owners, have held my hand through this ordeal. Both were heaven-sent, and Richard volunteered to stay up with her and be with her during her recovery period because he knew I had to periodically leave to care for the other animals at home.
But worse, far worse. When she and I and Brett were alone, I saw some stuff in her eye and got a tissue to wipe it out. Her head was kinda half way down in the straw, and when we moved her some so we could get at her eyes, I saw a steady stream of tears running down her chops.
Brett exclaimed "she's crying".
Indeed, she was. Throughout this ordeal, for months, I kept telling her to be strong, and be brave. She was. She was incredibly brave. But she knew something was happening to her that she had no control over. She could not eat. She could hardly drink. She knew she had to leave us. So, she cried. My little baby cried.
She probably would have survived the surgery. What the vet found were massive tumors in the rear portion of her stomach and tumors throughout her intestines. He said he couldn't resect her intestines, because of the extent of the tumors. Then he commented that if she were human, the surgeon simply would have taken a look, then sewn the patient right back up and sent him home to die.
He indicated that the only option would be chemotherapy, but that at best it would only extend her life for a few months. Well, there was another option ... sending her home to die.
Knowing the pain and anguish and suffering she had already been through, having been up day and night with her for well over a month, and that the only reason she was still alive was the deep and abiding love she and I shared, I had to make a decision. So Richard and I went to her side on the operating table. The vet brought me a high chair, and told me to take as long with her as I wanted. Richard was quietly standing over her.
I must have kissed her and told her I loved her a dozen times. She was sedated, but I knew she could hear me. I rubbed her chin and held her tiny warm legs, which, under the florescent lighting, were beginning to show signs of turning yellow because of the months and months of her liver not functioning properly due to her inappetence. I knew I had to let her go, but the bond of ten year's duration was solid; no longer having her by my side was unthinkable, unbearable.
But now, it was time for me, not Arnold, to be brave and strong. I had to say good-bye to this wonderful, magnificent, dedicated, loyal, loving companion. No more gentle grunts when we spoke together, no more nights sleeping together on the cold, hard floor, no more tummy rubs (which I think I enjoyed as much as she did), no more trips to the potty with a guaranteed brushing afterwards, no more watching TV together with the accompanying fig newton or two. No longer being able to hear her dozen or so separate and distinct voices ... her whistle, her shreaks, her dog barks, her grunts in various pitches, and, of course, her screams. No longer being able to enjoy watching her as she busily made her bed, tail wagging furiously. No more 'knocks' on the back door ... she always banged her food pan against the door when she was ready to come inside. No more 'Good Morning, Arnold', as I passed by her bed on my way to the kitchen to begin a new day.
She died quickly and peacefully.
The vet told me to take all the time I wanted with her. He asked if I wanted to look at what he had found inside of her; I told him no, that was for him and for Richard and for Phyllis, and maybe even for Virginia Maxwell, who was the only vet at Virginia Tech who truly cared about her. Perhaps, they would learn from her and be able to diagnose and help other animals with a similar problem. Looking back, prior to the time in July when I noticed a urinating problem, she had taken on a very sedentary life, occasionally sleeping for 18-24 hours at a time. That should have alerted me, and maybe is not even significant; I simply attributed it to her middle-age. What should have alerted me more, however, is that I frequently would have to force her to get up and go out, and she invariable would scream and yell and holler. Her Aunt Kathy wanted to hear her, and one day when I was getting her up, I called and let Aunt Kathy listen to the ordeal.
The vet offered to lend me one of his dogs to take home with me for company; he was unaware that I already have a virtual zoo here at home. That was so nice of him ... obviously a concerned, understanding, and compassionate person, which I find lacking in many vets these days.
I made arrangements to have her cremated. I already have a closetful of cremains from many dogs and cats whom I loved, and intend to have them all with me in the cardboard box when I myself go to the fire.
Richard walked me to my car. The sky was spitting a gentle rain. I thought to myself 'Arnold is still crying'. Then, suddenly, a single, gentle clap of thunder. I said to Richard "that's Arnold". Richard said "yes, she's crossed over the Rainbow Bridge". And I could see her, walking along alone, proudly, gently grunting, nose twitching, tail wagging in the air. My wonderful, irreplaceable little girl had crossed over the bridge.
The trip home was quiet and uneventful. The dogs were happy to see me. I took the first shift out for their walk.
Suddenly, a warm and gentle rain began to fall.
Arnold was still crying. But this time, we were able to weep together.
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