This photo is both hilarious and heartbreaking.
Last week, Jer and I traveled to Baton Rouge for the Louisiana Book Festival, then down to New Orleans for Halloween. Our recent college grad daughter Eliza is back home, and she babysat Pogo, our sixteen-year-old chihuahua mix rescue.
Pogo has been on a bit of a downward slide over the last year. In September of 2021, he jumped off the bed and tore something in his rear hind leg. Since he was 15, surgery was a scary proposition, made worse by a two-and-a-half-month recuperation where he would have to be crated the entire time, only taken out to relieve himself. This is a dog who sleeps under the covers with us! Rather than risk trauma and a dangerous operation, we cradled him for a couple of months, either carrying him or pushing him in a doggy stroller. That plus medication helped him through the injury and he was back to his old, entertaining self.
But then he began losing his sight. And his hearing. Suddenly, our confident little fella became insecure. He paces the house and due to his poor eyesight, often winds up in odd places he can’t extricate himself from – like the narrow space between the fridge and the wall in this photo, a space we’ve now blocked off. Even worse for those caring for him, he’s taken to howling like a banshee for hours on end if I’m not around.
We’ve tried anti-depressants, sedatives, and heavy doses of extra love to counter his severe separation anxiety. Nothing seems to work except extra sedation. He’s also teetering on the edge of total incontinence. I can take him out ten times and the eleventh will be the time he has an accident in the house. He won’t wear doggy diapers, so we play nursemaids to him, cleaning up after each accident.
I love this dog like I birthed him myself – which is how I felt about our previous pooches, Wiley and Lucy, who was immortalized on all my Cajun Country Mystery covers.
Veterinarians offer something called a Quality-of-Life appointment. It’s where they help you determine whether it’s time for your beloved furbaby to cross the rainbow bridge. There was a false alarm with Lucy where I thought it might be her time. Agonizing over the decision, I called the vet, who told me with brutal honesty, “At some point you have to decide, are you keeping her alive for her or you?” Luckily, Lucy rallied and graced us with her basset presence for another year. In Wiley’s case, it was the exact opposite. He had some kind of a stroke and began frantically running around in circles. There was no question of quality of life. We wept buckets as we held our Wiley for his final moments.
With Pogo, I’m not at the point where I can give the vet’s question a definitive answer. He is definitely in decline. The dreaded bridge looms. Still, I can’t help but feel it’s still at least a bit of a ways down the road, even as I extricate him from the curtain where he’s gotten tangled up. All it takes is a nuzzle from him to confirm I’ll be playing nursemaid to the little guy until the very last possible moment.
I don’t want to think about the quality of my life without him.
Readers, any advice on how we can mitigate Pogo’s separation anxiety?