Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Old Dog

Looking kinda rough just before grooming

So my dog, Lilli Putian, is in her twilight years.  I know that the inevitable is coming soon.  I know her well enough to feel things with her. If you've ever had pets, you know that you can communicate without words.   She's almost 18 years old (119 years old in human years).  She's got cataracts and is almost blind.  I can't tell if she's deaf or it is selective hearing (probably the former).  Her hair is thinning as well as her frame.   She pads around the apartment, aimlessly, like she is feeling every step with creaky arthritic bones.  Sometimes she looks at me like she doesn't know who I am, or snaps at me for no reason and then seems sad because she has done it without meaning to.

Does it sound familiar?  It could be anyone's elderly grandmother/great grandmother. Seeing the people you love (and in this case, I consider my little dog as a "people") age and move on to the other side is never an easy thing.  You want to turn back time and hold on to them.  Give them your strength and breathe life back into their bodies.  

But you can't.  So you have to be a bystander to the whole process.

I've taken Lilli to see many vets to make sure that she doesn't need anything more.  Medicine?  Vitamins?  Additional care that I may not know about?  How do you care properly for a geriatric dog?  

The consensus is:  Make her as comfortable as possible and let her live out her life.  

There are feeding options and vitamins; low protein and senior food.  Unfortunately, she's now a picky eater (as many elders are) and gets sick if I change foods, so she continues on Alpo and a lot of dog-friendly home-made recipes (like dog ice cream made from non-fat yogurt, bananas, and peanut butter).  My friend, Cathy, also recommended feeding both my dogs coconut oil.  It helps their fur and both dogs look amazing after several months of receiving it in their food. (I also slip some to the mangy mother cat that frequents my patio.)
After PetSpa grooming.  NOT happy about the bow!
What's wrong with her eyes?  Until recently, there were no vets in Kuwait that specialized in eye care.  Now, Dr. Jose at IVH is here and has diagnosed what is really going on with Lilli's eyes.  Before, all vets told me not to worry about her "tears" as Maltese are known to have red or brown tear stains.  However, Dr. Jose told me that had she been properly diagnosed when she was young/puppy, they could have surgically installed a shunt that would have allowed her eye ducts to drain properly.  What is happening is that her eyes are filling up with fluid, causing bacterial infections throughout her life (that I wasn't aware of).  I feel like I'm a bad parent.  Now that she is older, Dr. Jose does not advise surgery.

Lilli can't get up on the bed anymore.  She doesn't even try anymore.  I pick her up and place her on her favorite wool blanket, but often now she wants only to sleep on the floor (maybe she's seen Mike fall off the bed in his sleep too many times).  

She's happy inside the apartment, but unless I hold her close to me and take her for a walk (as in literally picking her up and holding her like a baby in my arms), she becomes stressed and nervous.  Inside the apartment, where she knows the furniture placement and can navigate easily by memory and smell, she gets bursts of energy and runs around like a young dog again.  The rest of the time, she sleeps comfortably.  She can no longer watch The Animal Planet as her eyes are so bad.  All she sees is shapes.

Sunbathing close to mom where its safe

Lilli has been with me through a LOT.  She was given to me by a friend, Abdullah, whose sister I had helped when she had to go to the US for cancer treatment; ironically, the same form of cancer my sister had, so it was easy for me to explain in friendly terms what would happen.  I even visited them both when I went to the States during their time there.  Abdullah went to Egypt with a friend when he returned to Kuwait and came back with a tiny white puppy, which they had intended to sell.  He called me many times telling me that he had brought me a dog from Egypt and wanted to gift it to me, but the only image I had in my mind was something that looked like the Sphinx, or maybe one of those weird hairless cats.  I couldn't imagine what kind of a dog they would have in Egypt (terribly judgmental of me I realize).  When he placed the tiny white fluffball in my hand (and it fit in the palm of my hand), it was instant love.  Lilli is a cross between a Maltese and a Poodle (a "Malte-Poo").    She came in a pretty little kennel box (which I wish I had kept); wood with a leopard print.

Her name came to me about a week after she arrived at my door. For those of you who don't know the children's book,  Lilliput is the name of a town in the book, Gulliver's Travels (published in 1726). Lilliputians are the inhabitants and they average at about 6 inches tall.  As Lilli was also very white, her name was also in reference to the flower, lily.  

She loves mint
Lilli has been with me through EVERYTHING in Kuwait:  From jobs and friends/boyfriends, war, sandstorms, good times, bad times, sickness.  She has been my only family in Kuwait and has sat on my bed watching over me when I had the flu, putting her little paws on my face and her head on my chest (as she has done for my friends as well as The Romanian stayed with me several times when she was really sick and needed a little help).  I taught her to beg for her favorite morning treat (Polo mint candies) by saying (in dog-speak), "Mama" (I have it on video if you don't believe me!)  Every morning for the past 18 years, she sits next to me waiting for her treat (although she seems to have forgotten how to "speak" these days).  I've taken her to beaches and let her run wild in the desert.  I've taken her with me to visit endless friends.  She's been to Kubbar and chased rabbits on Um al Moradim Island.  She was in the air-tight room with me when the scuds were falling in 2003 and we both woke up when one scud hit Souq Sharq; shaking our apartment building 5 miles away).  

Lilli has made friends with people who have never liked dogs before.  She seems to have an innate ability to understand that they require persuasion; charming them into liking her.  Like the time when I had to take a taxi and she was with me.  The driver reluctant to take me with a dog.  I promised that she would sit on my lap and she wouldn't touch his taxi.  From where we were sitting in the back, the driver could see us in the rear-view mirror.  He scowled at Lilli.  She stared at him.  And then he sneezed.  And then she sneezed.  And he sneezed again and looked at her in the mirror.  And then she sneezed again, mocking him with a big dog-smile.  She made a friend.  

"If my dog doesn't like you, I won't like you."  It has always been that way.  And vice-versa:   If they don't like my dog; they don't like me.  The Man found this out immediately; a big, bad, Bedouin man he was who did not like "unclean" dogs.  She won him over the first time she met him.  He stood tensely with his arms at his side while she sized him up; eventually breaking into the doggy-dance of spinning around, wagging her tail.  He was "in" and I was often jealous of "their" relationship!   He has always been compassionate and kind towards dogs ever since.  He's helped stray dogs and even rescued a family of dogs close to his home when neighborhood boys threw rocks at a female, "Dusty", and her puppies.

Now when new guests come to my home, Lilli is reluctant to go near them.  I guess it is "stranger danger".  She fears that they might pet her too hard or harm her in some way.  I'm sure that this is because she can't see well.  She is no longer my friend barometer.  All of her senses have become dulled over time and she prefers to stay alone in her corner.  (Most people automatically go to pat her on the head and this hurts her, so she knows better now and just runs away.)

Several well-intentioned friends have asked me if I wouldn't consider humane euthanization at her age.  Although I know that they mean well, I want to hit them with my chankleta (shoe).  I know that most people see animals as animals.  And maybe they think that she is in pain and it would be merciful somehow.  Lilli doesn’t have health issues other than those that affect the elderly.  (Yet, animals deal with pain differently than humans.  They deal.  We complain.)  Would you have your grandmother killed because she’s slow and arthritic (ok, some of you might answer, “yes” for different reasons, I’m sure)?  No, Lilli will live out her life in as much comfort as I can bestow on her until it is her time as God has destined. That’s the way it's going to be.

And when that time comes, I’ve made arrangements with my friend to bury her on his property in Kabd in dignity.  She has given me so much. These are the least things I can do for her now.


AG said...

I cried while reading this entire post. The love we have for our animals is infinite and the thought their time with us will end is truly painful. I hope little DD lives the remainder of her time happy and comfortable. You're a fabulous mommy!

Desert Girl said...

Thanks, AG. I know what a compassionate person you are and you often feel similar to me on a lot of issues, including the treatment of animals. :*

Naomi said...

What a heartbreaking post. I've loved (&lost) many pets over the years but dogs are really special. I left my 'puppy' (now an oap too) back home when i came here. Got all emotional reading this. Hoping your baby spends the rest of her time here comfortably x

Anonymous said...

A touching post full of love and appreciation for your aging dog . Kindness to animals comes from a kind and compassionate heart .

Expat and the City said...

I went through a similar situation with my Maltese and my heart goes out to you and DD.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday my beloved loved one who was with me for 11 years died a sudden death. I loved him very much and will miss him truly. As he died my router and my coffee pot broke. Could our furry loved ones go to a happy place on the other side? Are they with us in heaven? I felt maybe he was telling me good-bye, because those are the two things I reach for in the morning everyday - my computer and my cup of coffee. I hope they do go to an animal heaven or that they are with us in heaven or in the other side. Your DD understands how much you love her and I am sure she loves you very much. I have tears running down my face, I miss him so much, the pain in my heart is unbearable. I'm sure with time I will heal, but I will always remember my dog who was like my child, I think you understand.