The word suffer according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary means “to experience pain, illness, or injury; to experience something unpleasant  (such as defeat loss or damage); to become worse because of being badly affected by something.” Through the suffering of my beloved pet Nikki I have learnt what it is to suffer. But let us not forget that the suffering of people in this world is far worse than the suffering of any animal but the endurance of suffering through our pets can also be quite damaging.

Since rheumatoid arthritis has shown it’s face it’s been an utterly intolerably cruel disease to Nikki. At first she could still walk but it was a very slow and paced walk. Then her muscle began to give way and her walking became rarer, became a loping, an utterly hard process to watch as she tried to stay off of her previously injured front right paw and make her way around the upstairs floor. She could no longer go to the basement or go outside in the back yard because there were to many stairs for her and she could hurt herself badly. Now Nikki, having lost almost all her strength has one good point around supper time in the day where she can maybe get up to just snag a little treat but mostly she just lies there. And I ache for her suffering because without pain killers her legs hurt. And it still hurts her to raise her body off the floor and if she stands she stands for but a moment before falling and she has learnt the correct way to fall as to not hurt herself more. Her body, her legs are giving out.

I sit with her at lunch. Where she used to come and beg, I go to her and give her a few scraps from lunch. I give her some vegetables and pieces of toast with peanut butter. It makes me feel better that she is eating something because I had to hand feed hera portion of herkibble this morning. Today I am trying to get her to drink but even putting a short little dish or water by her head

and holding her head to drink, she isn’t interested. The only time I can see she feels pleasure is when we feed her little scraps or pet her because she pants and smiles. Other than that, her tail is between her legs and she just lies around on the floor. She was a snuggly dog before and she can’t snuggle. So I pet her many times as I pass her by so she still feels the love. My Dad had to pick her up so she could go to the washroom the other day and she could go on her own once she was on the grass but I wonder how long that will last.

There is one more medication for us to try, while Nikki suffers and waits. I wait for the vet to call us with the price and medication. I wonder if she’ll last that long. I didn’t think arthritis would simply take her out. She is old (12 years) but not that old. Through Nikki I learn suffering. Years ago I learnt it through my Grandpa as he faded away but it is a different kind of suffering I learn to see an animal suffer, more like seeing a child suffer. Nikki is helpless to the suffering. And maybe some people can disassociate themselves away from their pets and think they’re just animals that’s what happens, the have short lives. But you see with any sickness, even with my own, you never see it coming. You never know how damaging it can be. So I learn suffering through my little dog as she lays expressionless on the floor and I wonder how long she’ll last? Will she get better or will she end her days on the floor, remembering legs that use to run and run and run.


That Day Came: My Dog is Old

NikkiThe first moment I saw my puppy in the pet store (because you were still allowed to sell dogs in the pet store when I was 17-years-old) is forever etched in my mind. My families old dog Spunky a Chihuahua Terrier had passed away a few years earlier but I had never known her as puppy, that I can remember. Spunky was cute but she was my Mom’s dog. Nikki, the puppy I saw in the pet store for the first time became my dog and my Dad’s. She snuggled with me and came to me for attention and went to my Dad for rough housing and runs.

The first time I saw Nikki in the pet store with my brother’s I knew she was ours. At the cash register I picked her up and held her fluffy soft miniature body with floppy ears against my neck and as I petted her and hushed her wimpers with ” Shhhh… it will be alright” your going home now” she began to relax in my arms. She was tiny and fury with a bare pink tummy and floppy ears. She was also the runt of the litter and was a scrappy puppy fending off her 2 furrier brothers. When we took her home I placed her in her small crate in the side of our van and later realized how scared she must have been in there. Then when we arrived home I took her out of her crate and place her against my neck and carried her inside. The whole family gathered around her on the living room floor to coo and remark how cute she was.

When it seemed she was having trouble wondering who she should go to she climbed into my crossed legs and ever since has been my girl. She chewed through Nyla bones like you wouldn’t believe and my favorite hoody had strings on it that she also used to teethe. She would claw her way up the front of the coach and sit on me when I lay on the couch in our old house and she would snuggle in and chew the hoody strings.

The first time she saw herself in the mirror was a big surprise and she wondered who that other dog was in the room but she was smart and that wonder didn’t last long. And the first time I took her to sleep on my bed she would nip at my toes that were under the covers until she discovered what those 2 points beneath my covers were. I would wake up many mornings with little Nikki on my chest or on my legs stretched out and as she got bigger it became impossible for her to share my twin bed and she slept on my parents bed or would try to fit her entirely too big body into her crate, her rump end hanging out. When we moved to a new house, she somehow burrowed her way under my parents bed and when she got to fat for that she slept beside my Dad on the floor.

I have a great deal of memories with Nikki — walking her in the park when I first became ill for 30 minutes a few times a week, Nikki running her heart out with my Dad, Nikki climbing into my lap or sitting up and straight like a little human in my arms, Nikki knowing when I was crying and coming over to comfort me, playing “greedy dog” with her squeeky toys, and Nikki keeping 2 balls to herself at once as we would at our on peril, try to steal one or both balls back.

Nikki also loved to beg and I remember sneaking her treats every night at supper without even knowing it, I think the family did that. She wanted a treat every time she came in from the outside and had a  thing for sneaking out the back yard down the alley until someone would have to go and get her back. I remember her getting lost and always coming right back home. She always knew where she lived. I remember her making dogs 3 times her size ( she is a medium breed) tremble in fear and her utter hate of poodles and “frufee” dogs.

We had to lock her up when company came. She is a pack dog and loves her family, but not anyone else, especially not with curly hair. I remember when she accepted Grandma and Baba into the pack. I remember how she used to try to usurp Nathan from his place in the pack because he was the youngest child. And I remember the day she became old and sickly.

It was just this year. She started to stay downstairs and wouldn’t come up off the coach. Her paws all began to swell up and she wouldn’t eat. Rheumatoid arthritis the vet told us and gave us steroids for her but we are finding they only sort of help her. She painfully and carefully awakes from sleep and hobbles to her water dish. We give her a steroid but still she is in pain. Her tail which always wagged, isn’t wagging anymore, it is slumped and hunched much like she is. She seems happy a lot of the time and just likes to be petted. She sleeps and hobbles, trying to follow you around but it is difficult to watch when she can barely make it up 3 shallow stairs.

How can something so alive and frisky have her day come. Her rheumatoid arthritis hit like that and she went from being a middle-aged dog to an old dog of 12-years. The years passed by slowly it seemed as if we were on a giant Ferris wheel that one day reached the old and crickety chair at the bottom of the wheel. How did she get so old I wonder? She has good breeds in her that can live to 20-years, but I don’t know if that will happen.

She is old, that day came for her and with that day the reminder that in life many things, even our own human lives, are temporary. It is difficult to see my old friend in pain, she is a puppy to me still. She gave me so much now I give to her all I can, hoping to ease her suffering. It doesn’t seem right or fair that any of us should age from such glorious days of youth to become nothing more than memories. And animals, I am told, have no soul so what becomes of them? Do they fade into nothingness? For there will never be any animal like my Nikki again. She won’t be resurrected. She will simply go back to God.