He never did have all his marbles.
But c’mon, most labs don’t.
I mean, who – when dealing with a full set – eats a remote control (batteries included)?
Or two pans of chocolate brownies.
Supposedly poison ones.
To dogs anyway.
Pound of skittles?
A three-pound bag of mini-boxes of Milk Duds.
Every Milk Dud consumed, every box opened and flattened and left for us to find – for weeks – all over the house.
A dog with all his marbles would know to get sick from that.
He could get his overweight, rather rotund body right up on the countertop.
All four legs.
A normal dog would know that couldn’t be done.
But Fred was never normal.
He ate whatever he could get his mouth on, and charmed Old Yankee Men and little kids, and was a daily combination of love and curiosity and pain-in-the-ass.
Perpetually under our feet and nestled in our hearts.
When he had his ‘episode’ a couple of weeks ago, one we think was a stroke, most likely brought on by a lesion or tumor in his brain, he came home a different dog.
He was calm, and confused.
We snuggled him, and cuddled him and fed him lots of his coveted cheese.
We had a special needs dog.
And ‘extra-special’ needs dog, we said.
He had lost his marbles, we said. And we smiled.
I said I thought he only had one marble left.
And I would sit with him and ask him about his marble.
And my blind dog without a sense of smell would sigh and sleep (or eat cheese).
And I was grateful for the chance to have that time with him, knowing I would know when it was time for me to help him to leave this world.
Yesterday was that time.
Fred had a seizure, a horrible and terrible one, in the morning.
When he came to, he was confused. Not himself. He was aggressive, and lashed out at me. Biting me deeply in one hand.
It was something he’d never done, and in that moment I knew.
I knew enough to know that many dogs with seizures are confused, and even aggressive when they come to. And that many dogs are fine after that.
But something inside me told me that Fred wouldn’t come around.
That he wouldn’t be fine.
And it hit me like a ton of bricks.
As I held my hand beneath the running water at the sink, my tears mixed with blood. I just sobbed. I cried and stamped my feet as my brain crashed against reality’s brick wall.
My hand hurt, sure.
But my heart wailed.
Fred’s last marble had rolled away.
Because he was now unpredictable, and had bitten me, my vet was obligated to call animal control.
When she told me, I was once again racked with sobs.
Not Fred. Not this way.
We’d managed to get him and his bed into the garage, and kept him there. If animal control couldn’t safely transport him to the vets, they would have to shoot him.
It got worse.
Because his symptoms were neurological, brain stuff, they had to check him for rabies. It is the law. And my vet calmly explained to me that though it was not likely, some rabies cases presented over the course of months, not weeks.
And I was on notice too, because he had bitten me. I had to see a doctor, and soon.
And she explained that, if they had to shoot him, they could not do it in his head.
And I knew it was because they needed his head, to test him.
It was an eternity, waiting for the police and animal control to come.
I was so fearful, as the police cars pulled into my driveway, that the animal control guy, whom I’d never met, would be cold. All business.
He arrived and hugged me.
Said he was so sorry.
And he let me come with him to see what Fred would do.
When I opened the garage door, Fred didn’t growl this time, as he had each time we’d checked on him since his seizure.
He was tired.
He had found his way to his bed and was lying on it.
He looked almost ‘normal’, though it was clear that he wasn’t.
The animal control officer, John, was so gentle.
He had tears in his eyes as he carefully slipped the noose of his catch pole over Fred’s head, and then fit him with a soft muzzle.
Everyone was quiet. Respectful.
Without me knowing, my vet had called and talked to both the police and the animal control officer. She had explained how important it was to stay safe, but just try to get him to her office. She knew the dog well. She would be waiting.
She wasn’t even working yesterday.
I felt like angels were with me.
To surround me with these people, on this day.
And later, as Fred lay beside me on a comfortable blanket placed in advance for us on a beige linoleum floor, my wonderful vet asked me if I was ready to say goodbye.
I told him that I loved him.
That he was the perfect boy for us.
One for the ages.
This silly, energetic and kinetic, crazy-making, tippy tapping ball of yellow.
And I traced a small heart on his beautiful face, and rubbed it in, so it would stay.
And I let him go.
Thankful, and grateful, for just that little bit of time.
With his last marble.
Thanks for readin’.
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