So with that being said, I share my experience, strength, hope and weaknesses of how I didn't know.
******************************Brut changed my line of thinking about everything that was dog. He challenged me to think outside of the box. He wanted me to open my mind to the possibilities that existed, like how they think and see the world, but mostly he wanted me to understand him. Brut insisted that I learn how to communicate with him on his level, using non-verbal expression and he wanted me to learn how to interpret that line of communication by listening to him. He even did this until his death this past summer.
Brut taught me of his moods and how to read his body language. I'd give you an example but I am horrible at translating them to another human. I just needed to be able to understand his dog language. It didn't matter if anyone else understood it, it was just important that I did.
As I went through my own adjustments to interpreting Brut, something started to sink in that he had his own way of thinking and ideas about what he wanted. And that included his death.
Brut told me everything how he was feeling, what he was thinking and whether I got it all or not, I practiced with him to get better at delving into his soul to understand more. The conversations we could have with just his ears alone was mind boggling. There was so much more to it than Brut showing me he was angry or happy. We were able to converse about what we were seeing and doing together. I thought I knew that boy almost inside out.
So you'd think with this bonding connection that I would know when it was 'time.' In fact I swore up and down I would know. How could I not? Hubby, Brut and I made a pact that the three of us had to be in agreement on the timing.
Whatever happened we would all decide together.
You'd think that with all of the secrets we have shared together, Brut and I, he would have let me in on this one, but Brut, being Brut, had his own agenda.
See I let go of Brut sometime after seeing the x-ray, about two weeks before he died. I knew then his time was short and it confirmed what I felt. Brut was dying.
After letting go, I don't know why, but I came to realize that the final decision was between Brut and Mark.
Mark was still hanging on with all hopes and prayers that there was still a chance to save him. And Brut made it clear he wasn't going any where until Mark was ready.
They slept the last five nights together on the living room floor. Two nights before his death Mark told Brut through a flood of tears, "If you want me to let you go, I will."
The next day Brut's breathing was short and shallow. He was also the most alert I'd seen him in a long time.
And for some reason even with this knowledge I still didn't 'know'. I knew it like a math problem and that it fit together and made sense that it was his time, but Brut never told me and so I didn't know.
And when we called the vet to come to the house the following day, I still didn't know.
And for several days after that I kept asking Mark, "Did we do the right thing?" He always answered yes and I trusted him.
I would have never believed if you told me I wouldn't know when Brut's time was. It would have a ludicrous for me to even imagine. The dog who told me everything, told me to trust Mark. And that was all he whispered.
Perhaps Brut knew that if you felt the entire responsibility for the decision you would later question yourself. I wonder also though, as I watch my own beloved dog possibly nearing her end of life, do we love so much that can no longer tell what we are hearing? We second guess ourselves about good days wondering if we read too much into them and second guess ourselves about bad days in case we decide 'too soon'.
Another thing I've been wondering for myself is, do I see my girl as she is now, or do I see her through the glasses of all we've been through? Hard to explain but, I don't see an aging dog with chronic health problems, I see my excellent companion who is still herself, even if she does move a bit slower, with more breathing complications. It's hard to stand back and say, look at this dog as if you'd never met her; how is she doing? And at the same time, standing back is another problem because how can a stranger know how she's doing without knowing all those bits of body language you mention. I suppose it's a good sign that we do not take being entrusted with these life and death decisions lightly. But that makes end of life decisions all that much harder.
I don't think it matters how well we speak with our dogs. Some things are unknowable. It would be comforting to know for certain what our dogs are telling us about end of life. But that's a lot to hope for.
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