Isabella and Baxter

Isabella moved in a few days ago. I took her back out, but it was so cold that I couldn’t bring myself to leave her, so I brought her in again and gave her some fruit. She was quite hungry. She disappears everyday only to turn up again in some unexpected place at night. I let her crawl around on my hand while I watch TV, and then I put her to bed on her fruit plate. I placed an upside-down bowl partway on top of the plate, so Isabella could sleep in the dark, but she prefers to sleep on top of the bowl.

I have a hornets’ nest hanging in the den, and Peggy worried that Isabella was but a precursor to hordes that were about to hatch out, but I assured her that there is no mistaking a yellow jacket for a bald-face hornet, and this made her feel some better, but she still won't cuddle up with Isabella.

Oregon doesn’t have nearly as many kinds of wasps as Mississippi did, and I miss them. One night in 1977 when I was building our house down there, I was smoking pot while painting the upper portion of a vaulted ceiling. A few dozen large red wasps were flying aimlessly in the vicinity of a light that was on the wall above the second floor balcony. They had come indoors that day, had been unable to find their way out, so were now awake hours past their bedtime with no hope of going home again. I was atop a sixteen-foot ladder, a bucket of paint in one hand and a brush in the other, and I was moving ever closer to these wasps.

In my altered condition, I believed I was able to tune into their mental state, and that we were on the same wavelength, this despite their increasing agitation each time I moved in their direction. I kept advancing anyway, certain that their anxiety was not prompted by me but by the smell of paint in the hot, humid air. When I got within five feet of them, they began feinting dives at my head, and otherwise making it clear that they were about to nail me. I finally descended in the belief that my connection with them might not have been imaginary—after all, they had shown more patience than I had a right to expect.

When my father and I painted houses together, he would destroy red wasp nests by dousing them with gasoline. The moment it touched them, the wasps would fall straight to the ground by the hundreds. Then, he would knock the nest down. The rest of the day, the ones who hadn’t been on the nest would fly around aimlessly, but without a family to defend, they seldom stung.

I built a home for solitary wasps, and every year I have a few small nests of yellow wasps in my toolshed. I used to remove these nests, but most years, I would forget to look up to see that they were there until the summer was half over. After a few years of brushing my head against them without ever once being stung, I left them in peace. I think of wasps in the same way that I think of a lot of other creatures that have the power to hurt or even kill me, but don’t go around looking for an excuse to do so. All that they ask of me is that I respect their boundaries.

Unfortunately, this is hard to do with aggressive wasps that I don’t even see—like yellow jackets that live in the ground. There have been years when Peggy and I and both dogs were stung many times because we walked over their holes while hiking. I’ve even seen Peggy stand on top of a hole brushing yellow jackets out of Baxter’s fur while more were pouring out at them. She’s a funny girl when her maternal instincts go into overdrive.

I’ve thought a lot about what is right for Isabella. Her family is dead, and she has no real home and no work to do, so it might be better if I left her to die in the cold. Whether it’s a plant, a dog, or a wasp, once I take something in, I feel morally obligated to care for it, yet I don’t always know what is best.

Night before last, Baxter started moaning and shivering as he struggled to breathe. I have many drugs that might relieve his distress, but which might also kill him. I tried to talk the matter over with Peggy, but she didn’t have much to say, and I concluded that this was one of those situations that she wanted me to handle. I was about to give him a few grains of a Percocet when I remembered that I had a tranquilizer that we give to Bonnie anytime there are fireworks, so I gave a quarter tablet of it to Baxter. That should have been a low dose, but it knocked Baxter on his ass. In fact, I thought I had killed him, and I cried off and on for the next six hours while I waited for him to die. He looked so little and so pitiful that I didn’t know how I could bear it. Every time I thought I had pulled myself together, I would cry some more.

At one point, I tried to rouse him by standing him up, but his every leg splayed out in a different direction. Six hours later, I woke him up enough to pee, but as he was standing in the yard struggling to stay on his feet, Bonnie—who is blind—knocked him over. I couldn’t help but laugh at my two elderly dogs, but five minutes later, I was crying again. Now that I’m getting old and have seen a lot of death, you might think I would handle these things better, but the truth is that death seems even heavier to me now than it did when I was young.

The next day, Baxter was alert and active only to sink again last night. This time, I gave him an eighth of a tranquilizer, and that amount seemed just about right. Peggy suggested that we call the vet to be sure the pills are safe for him, but I told her that I didn’t see any need for that since he’s dying anyway. My only goal is to keep him comfortable. When I can no longer do that, I would prefer to euthanize him myself, but Peggy is determined that the vet do it.

23 comments:

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

It's so hard to watch a pup go down. Let the vet do it... but go hold his paw! (When the time comes.)

Kerry said...

Your humanity, which begins with Isabella and extends through your old friend Baxter, shines through.

My brother-in-law Dave had a dog, an old whippet named John, who had visited the vet many many times in his long life on a horse farm in Kentucky. The dog had tangled with groundhogs, porcupines, and chased down coyotes and cars, always to be stitched up by the doc. In the end the vet gave Dave the hypodermic and the drugs to "do it", saying "Dave, this has got to be your job; I just can't be the one." And Dave did do it, crying like a baby. It was the right thing. If I were you, I might explore this with my vet. At the very least there are vets who will come to your house.

Kay Dennison said...

God bless you!! I have added Baxter to my prayers. I hate to see an animal in pain.

Mim said...

That picture of you and Baxter is priceless - it's wonderful.

kylie said...

you are such a big softie!

take care of that dawg, i know you will
xox

ellen abbott said...

so sorry about your aging dogs. re wasps. I usually leave them alone as well. If you don't act in a threatening manner they will leave you alone. And the fact that they can distinguish between a casual movement or a threatening movement amazes me.

Robert the Skeptic said...

One spring we had a yellow jacket nest decide to expand their quarters from up in our attic into the guest bedroom. They chewed a hole in the ceiling and soon were swarming by the thousands in the bedroom. We discovered them quickly enough to close the bedroom door and keep them from invading the rest of the house.

We had to have the exterminator come out twice to get them all, they were still emerging and moving into the bedroom. After the poison took hold, there were dead yellow jackets everywhere; in the vents, in the window tracks... When we finally got them all vacuumed up we had to throw away the vacuum cleaner as it stank so badly.

We now call that room the "bee room" and decorate it with all manner of bee themed nick-nakcs.

Robin said...

Snow, I'm having an emotional day anyway....but this post just made me weep..... first, I have to say that when Baxter's time comes.....you should let a Vet handle it. You can be there...but it would be such a heavy load for you to carry....

As for Isabella... how wonderful you are to give her more days of life! You "rant and rave"....but really, you are a true sweetie!

I pray for Baxter daily....and pray that whe the time comes, you will let him go.....gently "into that good night" - and beyond....

Praying for you too, Snow!

Hugs to you, Peggy and all the "Critters",

♥ Robin ♥

Snowbrush said...

"You "rant and rave"....but really, you are a true sweetie!"

Here's my hit on that. I rant and I rave, as you put it, partly because I am a sweetie. Being a sweetie means that I have an acute sense of compassion, fairplay, and intellectual courage. Most people are able to ignore what they don't want to see, and I am not.

"you should let a Vet handle it. You can be there...but it would be such a heavy load for you to carry...."

It would be a much heavier load for me if the vet did it. If I do it, I won't have to choose a time in advance and count down the hours; I won't have to let another man perform the last act of compassion that Baxter will ever receive; and I won't feel obliged to shutdown emotionally because a relative stranger is present. I have spoken to the vet about how I would do it, and he agreed that it's a good plan, and he was encouraging of my desire to carry it out. My only obstacle is Peggy. She worries that Baxter might have convulsions, aspirate vomit, linger for hours, or not die at all. The vet did not envision these things happening, and my own research does not bear out her fears, yet 99.9% surety is not enough for me to subject her to the .1% possibility that such outcomes might occur. Above all, I don't want her last memories of her dog to be filled with horror. Believe me, I have no qualms about killing when killing is necessary. In fact, I have killed dogs by the truckload (for a humane society), and those killings constitute my most painful memories, yet I did what I thought was right, and I respect myself for having had the resolve to carry out acts that will haunt me until I die. For now, I am drugging the hell out of Baxter to keep him from being miserable, and I am willing to keep doing this until he dies of natural causes. Is this the best way? I have no idea. For all I know, dogs are opposed to euthanasia under any circumstances. All I can do is what SEEMS best for him and for Peggy. As corny and old fashioned as it may sound, I see myself as the protector of my family in a unique way because of my gender.

"Praying for you too, Snow!"

Arrgh, why DO people pray for atheists--and then TELL them about it!!?? That said, I thank with all my heart for your caring, and if that's what you MUST do, then go ahead and do it. It's not what I want though. I had rather people simply say they're thinking of me with love, or that they're sending good wishes my way, or something else that doesn't include angels or deities.

Loz said...

Not sure whether yellow jackets are what we call European wasps over here - but if they are they have become major pests.

I hope Baxter recovers for you. I've loved and lost many pets over my lifetime and it never gets easier.

Thanks for visiting my blog .

Snowbrush said...

Loz, yellow jackets are wasps that (usually) live in the ground where they build paper nests.

"Thanks for visiting my blog."

Well, dude, I didn't just join; I signed on. I'm now a card carrying member, as it were. But the reason I visited you is that you visited me. Prior to that, I didn't know about you, but when I returned the compliment, I found that I liked what you have to say about getting older, although you are a decade or so younger than I.

dana said...

When Lucky started suffering every evening, he also started getting afraid and he would come to me and let me hold him for hours. He was NOT ever, a lap loving dog, so I was appalled at this turn of events.

I made a mental note to give him enough xanax to, at least, give him some peace - not kill him. But how much was enough, and not too much.

When we took him to the S.O.B. that, in my opinion, didn't euthanize him, but kill him with unnecessary pain involved, he THEN informed me that I could have given Lucky some xanax to relieve his stress over his last visit to the vet.

How much? I asked, even though it was too late. He said to take ONE of MINE, and DOUBLE it for the 17 pound Lucky.

Some drugs are the kind you can double, and some...well...if I could do it over, I'd have known what questions to ask PRIOR to allowing a stranger to take part in the most intimate of times for my baby.

I would have started with two xanax, and gradually given him more as time passed. I say this NOW, but then again, we never know what is "right" til we find out it was "wrong".

Just_because_today said...

it's too cold for Isabella but you let the two dogs freeze to death...
hmmmm...
Pets manage to become a really important part of our lives. Must be because they dont talk back and if they complain too much with their barking (if they're dogs) we can put them in a crate and walk away. In my case, just close the door and leave the house, they wont go in a crate.
Your dogs are beautiful. And hopefully, you will have many more years with them.

Natalie said...

I have a waspish child named Isabella......It's hormones you know?

Anyway, I trust in your judgement and I know that whatever you choose to do will be undertaken with the utmost care, consideration and love.

In regard to Nolly and I : we are atypical, so don't sweat it, Australia is safe from harm.

Love to Baxter, courage to all.xx

Gaston Studio said...

Arrrrgh Snow, would hate to be in your shoes right now as I've always taken my elderly and aching pets to the vet where I felt they would leave this world under the best of circumstances. At least, that's what I imagine and have had no reason to think otherwise over the years.

Marion said...

I loved your wasp story. For years we kept an old abandoned wasp nest almost just like yours in our house. I'm sorry to hear about your doggie. But don't worry, I'm not praying for you. (I am for the dog, though....) I think it's better to let them die with some of their dignity intact. I had a coworker whose dog was blind and incontinent and she refused to put the poor thing out of it's misery. I hope someone does the same for me someday if I ever get in that shape. Great post, Snow. Blessings!

Snowbrush said...

Bonnie is blind and losing her hearing, but she is otherwise healthy. She enjoys cuddling, long walks, and playing fetch (of course, it often takes her a long time to bring the ball back). If she became incontinent too, that would be rough because she would have to sleep either outside or in the laundry room. I tell myself that piss on the carpet wouldn't matte so much if I REALLY loved her, but I do have my limits. Peggy is made of hardier stuff than I in some ways, yet I can be strong in others, at least. We're taking Baxter to the vet to have him put down exactly one hour from now.

KC said...

Oh, I am so sorry to read this last comment. My sincere sympathies for your loss. I wish you, Peggy and Bonnie peace now and always. Baxter was so fortunate to have such loving and caring people in his life.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I'm so, so sorry about Baxter.
There's nothing harder.
I'll say a prayer.
Whether you like it or not!

Robin said...

Sending you and Peggy love.....

Always,

♥ Robin ♥

KC said...

Snow, Thanks for dropping by, especially today. You and another friend had to say good bye to their darling dogs today. I have been thinking of you both and only can imagine how painful it was for you. I hope in time the happy memories will mend your broken hearts.

Snowbrush said...

KC, I am sorry for your friend and his or her pet, but I am honored that you would count me among your friends also.

Pamela said: "I'll say a prayer. Whether you like it or not!"

Sweetheart, not only can I not stop you; I wouldn't want to stop you because you have every right to pray, and I respect your right will all heart. But when you insist on telling me that you are doing something, presumably in my interest, that I have repeatedly said that I don't want and don't appreciate, I cannot begin to understand your motivation. The Apostle Paul said that he made an effort to "be all things to all people," yet so many Christians insist on being only one thing to those who don's share their beliefs and don't welcome their intercessions.

Thank you for your hugs, dear Robin. Thank you so very much.

nollyposh said...

Great photo... i love that you love your dogs so much... x