Friday, December 14, 2007

Waiting for The Blue Fairy

In the Disney version of "Pinnochio" the Blue Fairy is a lovely, shimmering dame who bestows the gift of life upon the wooden marionette with the promise of making him a 'real live boy' only after he proves himself worthy. In our house, we use that mythology as an inside joke towards one of our dogs, Hannah, the Timid. We've always had a laugh at her expense about how some day the Blue Fairy would come and make her a real live dog.

Well, today is the day. Racked with cancer, that is invading all her organs at an alarming pace, I've had to make that decision to summon the Blue Fairy.

We didn't know much about her when she was deceptively foisted upon us and in one of my rare moments of weakness I gave in to my kids' pleas that we take her. A friend of a friend had been caring for her. Hannah was said to have been a "rescue" dog. A former inmate at a local puppymill, but when cysts began to form on her ovaries and she had to be spayed, she was now no longer profitable to the operators, so she was given away down the line 'til we came along.
The dog ain't right, was my first thought. In humans, we'd call it "institutionalized". She was shy, timid, content with close, tight places. Didn't interact with others whether they be canine or human. She seemed frightened by children.
Nevertheless, we ended up taking her home. Honest to God, I don't know why.
As soon as we let her out into our yard at home she immediately fled to the small doghouse...and there she stayed for 4 months! She would only venture out after dark. I would leave a bucket of water and a bowl of feed nearby. I never saw her come out during the day, but I did catch her one evening slowly creeping out and discreetly sniffing about for a suitable spot to pee and defecate. Then she ran back to the safety and security of the doghouse. No amount of coaxing, kind words or cajoling would make her leave the dark cozy and slightly cramped quarters of the doghouse.

Yeah...this one ain't right in the head!

Her teeth were a mess. Broken canines from chewing on chain link, I suspect, and from old age- we really had no idea how old she was. At least over 5 years, but who knows?
Judging by her behavior and appearance she had had a rough life. Slowly we began to try and make it better for her and maybe rehabilitate her as much as we could. I had worked with abused dogs during my stint at the Humane Society back in California, so I knew what I was up against. Time and earning trust would be the only things that would work and it would take a long time!

Once she felt safe enough to emerge from her self imposed exile in the doghouse, we worked on being a house-dog. Much to my shock I found she was house broken, so there's a major obstacle tackled. But once again, she sought the safety of an out of the way spot-in this case, my bedroom. She was content just to lay there by my bed all day long, only venturing out to go outside briefly, do her business and flee (yes,flee- as in run.) back to the bedroom.
She rarely interacted with my other dogs. Never jumped or frolicked with them. She would always stay close to my side, cautiously, whenever I was out with them as a group. She had by now totally bonded to me and me alone. My kids frightened her.

We heard her bark...once. And that led to the Blue Fairy joke. It was a couple of years ago. She was out in the yard with the other dogs when a noisy truck came down the road. As usual, the other dogs began to go ballistic, barking and jumping at the fence, frantically racing to and fro. Hannah stood off to the side, but then, suddenly, her tail went up, she made a half hearted jump and BARKED! Once. Even she seemed surprized that she had allowed herself to let her guard down and let go.

We all witnessed it and all were amazed.
"Hannah!" my youngest yelled, "You're almost a real dog!"
And then I said "Yeah, one day if she's really good, the Blue Fairy will come and make her a real, live dog."
We all had a good laugh at that at her expense. And a story for this freaky, strange animal in our charge was born. The Blue Fairy became her religion. Her hope. And we tried our best to encourage this hope. I have no idea what kind of doggy hell this beast had endured in the past, but I made it my mission to make her stay with us better than what she had had. Long walks untethered by a lease in the woods and fields, indulgences in table scraps, occasional pats on the head which she seemed to not like, no matter how gentle. I tried to treat her as one of my own as much as she would allow it. But there was always a wall there. Some secret hell we could never break through to. But over time she did at least appear happier.

Then a few months ago, during a vet visit, we found out she had breast cancer. I felt responsible. I mean, how was I to know you had to do breast exams on a dog!? I had always had males. Hannah was my first female dog. I had dropped the ball out of ignorance.
The cancer was especially fast and invasive. Even a total mastectomy wouldn't help-which is quite an ordeal for a dog...her entire underside had been removed and stitched back together. The stress was too much. The cancer now began to spread like a wildfire. The vet prescribed prednisone just to keep her comfortable, but there really wasn't any hope now. It would be my call.

Today was the last pred pill and with a bad winter storm on tap for this weekend that threatens to keep us housebound for days, her condition only getting worse...all this has made my mind up.
It's time to make the call. So I did. Tearfully, I might add. I never thought I'd get so torn up over a dog who never really returned any affection and was just a doorstop around here, but I am.

So, if you'll excuse me for now-Hannah and I have one last walk to take on this chilly December morning, the Blue Fairy is waiting.


Blogger Cookie..... said...

Thats a nice read Liz. Having had dogs all my life, and one now, a Samoyed-Wolf mix, I can easily relate to their fears, pains, and you. I've also seen what you refer to as "institutionalized" animals... and its sad. Too bad folks like you and I didn't come along sooner in their lives...

From what you described, I believe you are most certainly doing the correct thing, and coming from a person who has put down probably 10dogs over my life, I know how hard it is...and it NEVER gets easier...


12/14/2007 10:49 AM  
Blogger white trash republican said...

Thanks, Cookie
I've just came back from the vet.

I know it had to be done, but I've never done that for a dog of mine. I've been present many times for other people's dogs and kitties and for the occasional lost soul at the Humane Society, so I know the drill, but it didn't make it easier.
The few dogs that have passed away here just wandered off and never came back. Like they knew it was time. Hannah didn't have that luxury, she was too sick.
Now I have to tell the kids this afternoon. It's gonna be a long weekend.
I'm hoping for snow now, at least that will take their mind off it. Even tho she didn't care for the girls, they liked her, in that weird accepting way that kids do and had tried the whole time to win her over with mixed results.
The only time she would approach them was when they were asleep at nite and then would gently lick their face or hand and then quickly leave the room. It was odd and sad.

I'll always wonder about what made her the way she was.

12/14/2007 1:23 PM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

I am sorry, Liz. I've had to put down three of my old dogs in the past three years and it was never easy. I did the last one, Saffie, myself because I couldn't bear the thought of taking to die in a sterile vets office where she would be frightened and confused. She was also a rescued dog and had been abused and was a timid critter. I carried her to her favorite spot in the shade of an alder tree and talked to her until we were both calm enough to say goodbye and let go. Shooting Saffie was easier emotionally than holding my dear old Rosie while the vet gave her a lethal injection. I felt like a traitor to her. BTW Rosie also had breast cancer.

12/15/2007 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an aspect of pet ownership I never considered. We put down our second dog last year. I'm fearful that every animal we have (now, 2 dogs, 2 cats) will have to be put down eventually. We are not fans of the amazing advances in pet health care. Amazing that we would ever have to ponder that...

I'm so sorry for the loss. But you did give Hannah a life that no one else would have.

12/16/2007 1:28 PM  
Blogger white trash republican said...

Thanks for all the kind words, guys.

Y'know it's funny- I could probably cap some evil goblin that meant my family harm without a second thought and sleep well at nite, but yet mercifully shooting a dog who was suffering is beyond my ken. I really wish I had that kinda fortitude.

12/17/2007 9:07 AM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

It wasn't fortitude, Liz. I had to pray for a long time before I was calm enough.

12/17/2007 6:51 PM  

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