Mitochondrial Vertigo

April 17, 2010

Every Dog Has His Day – Illness, Death and Delay

Filed under: Love — Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu @ 6:46 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

There was some rough news that we got while still in Thailand. Sylvie was at Sasiprapa in Bang Kapi training hard for her last fight which she expected to have the week before we left. Everything we tunneling down, but still very acute, trying to soak in every bit of this rare experience, the exhaustion of it not getting old. It was perfecting, maybe one could say. But Sylvie’s mom told us that our 15 year old Cattle Dog who the parents were caring for had been diagnosed with lymphoma, and maybe had a month or two to live. It was difficult news which I distanced myself from pretty quickly, feeling that I had already said my good bye to him as he had been diminishing for about a year and was no longer his “old self” even before I left. The scope of things that effected him, the small halo of differences that make a difference (and he had always been an aggressive, loyal dog) had been shrinking. It was okay if he goes, we were already bound.

When we got to Colorado and the parents’ house we encountered a dog of deep depression. He tottered, eyes very dim, head down. For complicated reasons he had not been able to integrate in the rest of the house, as our other young Cattle Dog Zoa had, so he had been an outlier in the pack, and as we found out, rather ill. He did not seem to particularly recognize us. There was something utterly remote and sad.

The big decision was whether we were going to drive him all the way back with us the three days to NY. Should we put him through the possibly acute discomfort of endless hours in the car – a car in which he might even die – or should we put him down where at least there was family all around. I was for the idea of putting him down. The last thing I could bear was his suffering, especially suffering in a way I could not relieve. It was for him, but also for me. Others had other thoughts. Sylvie’s mom was fairly adamant that Tiger – that is his name, come out of circumstance – really needed to see home again before he went. He had been driven across the country a few months before, without warning, and he needed to be returned. But she was also worried that she was projecting too much upon the dog, how she would feel if she were him. Sylvie’s father Steve was even more forceful. It would be a full betrayal of the dog’s trust to put him down before it was time. The time was near, perhaps, but not now. My wife was divided, and much like me wavered depending on how bad he looked from day to day, hour to hour. Sometimes there were sparks, sometimes it was dark.

So it was this wierd animal/human ethical world, a mix of all kinds of projections, affections, sympathies, fears, principles. We decided to take him, and it was no joke. The drive was really difficult. We had armed ourself with a powerful sedative that could give a little sleep if he really began laboring. We used it once, thinking he was for it, just to get him through the night, and he slept for 30 hours (!), we had no idea.

The point of this little story isn’t so much what happened, but what is happening. Tiger surprising us all, ran – well ran isn’t the word, but trotted tumbling forward – into the open house door when he saw it, a very clear sign that he knew where he was, and immediately gained a brighter mental demeanor. He WAS home. He has been declining in many ways since, but there can be no doubt that something has been recorded and looped back to the world since he has come back to his house. Because I am the philosophical sort, what I am thinking about is this…WHAT is this, the small bit that has come to pass since his destiny path diverged and he has been given a few more weeks or a month to be? Is it composed of he and I, as he sews himself into me with basenotes of himself, seeding my future? What is the stuff that makes up this in-between time, the time we purchased by risking his greater suffering? Much of the day he seems quite removed, and at night after he takes his medication he pants sometimes madly until dawn, pacing in a very dark house. Last night in the middle of it I turned on the livingroom light and laid on the floor with him – he had grown so uncomfortable he left the bedroom – and we “shared” very elemental affection. He stayed there, uncomfortable, eyes glazed, I stroked his head that now bore the stronger shape of his skull, all the fat and muscle shrunk. What is this bonus track made of? It is not just a respect for life as if life were a substance that you hoard and save. It is not a love narrative.  It’s not really him and me.

It feels like it’s just being real for a moment, outside of all the influences and reasons we decided to keep him going. It’s the way that things are just made up of what they are. There are no profound depths in these moments, just very simple communications and the clear cold water of time. WHAT this is made of, I don’t know. It’s not more fundamental than what everything else is made of, rather its a kind of subspace, a signal that weaves through. Subtle…quiet. Its the non-dark waiting for death that puts everything on pause, every future inclination in stall. It feels like an eternity, a small one. Its the kind of thing that philosophers and poets miss, I think.



  1. This brings up so much, Kevin. When I think of the alternative, of Tiger having been put to sleep in Boulder, every part of me screams NO! as though it could not have been a better way to go. But reading about Tiger’s difficulties now, and seeing his half-way gone look, especially next to Zoa, makes me sad. There is no easy way out when we are heading into death, either the death of ourselves or the death of a loved one. I think your final thought that it just is, the reality of it is in and of itself a something to be noted, felt, experienced, is the best that we can do.

    Comment by Patti — April 20, 2010 @ 4:09 am | Reply

  2. Thanks Patti,

    It really was the best to have him here. I’m learning alot about how I love him (and how I love). And maybe he is learning something too. All of it a blessing of a sort.

    Comment by kvond — April 20, 2010 @ 4:41 am | Reply

  3. this is kind of redundant but i did enjoy starting to read ‘the philosopher and the wolf’ by mark rowlands. Didn’t finish but there were fine passages.

    Comment by Paul Bains — April 21, 2010 @ 8:01 am | Reply

  4. cool paul. I perhaps swing by it and search it out. I’m not into reading much these days, I go in wild swings usually having to do with projects. But it is sounds interesting.

    Comment by kvond — April 21, 2010 @ 3:45 pm | Reply

  5. It is interesting. A uni lecturer lives with a wolf for 10yrs – even sits next to him in his lectures. And destroys the house if left alone

    Comment by Paul Bains — April 21, 2010 @ 10:06 pm | Reply

  6. I think I know a much endeared brother-in-law who might enjoy that book. Perhaps it would do me good as well. Just living with my dying dog (and I do have a young, quite destructive cattle dog as well), has done something to my philosophizing.

    Comment by kvond — April 21, 2010 @ 10:09 pm | Reply

  7. I suppose it’s only fair to warn that the wolf does end up being ‘put down’.

    ‘the phil and the the wolf’ has been one of the most intense reading experiences of my life.’ Jeffrey Masson.

    ‘life affirming…thoughtful and moving’. TLS

    I was enjoying it – just got distracted by 2666.

    Comment by Paul Bains — April 21, 2010 @ 10:50 pm | Reply

  8. I could have done without the warning (though I certainly understand why you would warn me). The ending should never retroactively color the narrative process, at least that is what I am learning some. I do appreciate the recommendation, but I’m not in a reading mode just now. Will see if the universe cycles it back to me at another time.

    Comment by kvond — April 21, 2010 @ 10:54 pm | Reply

  9. Actually, we learn of this within the first few pages…but….

    Comment by Paul Bains — April 22, 2010 @ 1:50 am | Reply

  10. I wondered. Then no harm done at all. Great recommendation.

    Comment by kvond — April 22, 2010 @ 1:52 am | Reply

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