Cloister Commentary, Day 184: The End of Summer, 2020

Louis has not been an easy dog. In fact, I have often joked that raising a human would have been easier–a few times, I wasn’t joking.

We adopted him from the Central Missouri Humane Society after he and 40 other puppies were rescued from a hoarding situation. Nicole and I both recall he was two months old at the time, and only later did we grasp the trauma he must have experienced. From the beginning, he has been both intensely fearful and a fierce resource guarder (which extends not only to bowls of food but the food providers), a loving, playful companion but also a tightly wound, hurt boy who can come uncoiled in a split second with clacking teeth. He’s a bit of a poster pup for “Fight or flight.” As such, we have done everything in our power to love him, keep him healthy, convince him he’s safe, and shield him from situations that could trigger his more aggressive instincts. We have not always been successful in the latter two strivings, which were enough to convince us he required minute by minute vigilance.

Yesterday, as I watched him stubbornly refuse food (and thus medication), struggle to get himself off the floor, out into the yard, and back, and snore wheezily from his suffering lungs, I realized that today, the last day of summer, was likely going to be his last. But the immensity of time, care, vigilance, patience, understanding, forgiveness, inventive problem-solving, and so much more we devoted to Louis, I also realized, added up to very deep love. We’ve watched several pets pass on after spending their lives with us, we have dearly loved ’em all, but I think that’s why this one’s been the hardest.

Streaming for Survivors:

Sometimes you feel like lashing out. (I’ve had little sleep in the last four nights, so forgive me.)

Cloister Commentary, Day 183: Palliative Care

Louis, in healthier days.

Nicole and I spent the day tending to our ailing dog Louis. Pain and anti-nausea meds had him wiped out for part of the day, and he is having difficulty getting up from the floor and not falling flat after walking around the yard, but he had enough vitality to indicate that he still doesn’t like cats and really likes ice cream.

He’s also having a lot of trouble defecating due to his bad hip, which is frustrating because he’s struggling with gastrointestinal issues. I’m sure the pet owners among my readers have thought this, too, but it stabs my soul to realize that these friends of ours understand keenly something isn’t right, that they can’t do what they used to–Louis was basically doing all of his normal stuff less than a week ago–but probably don’t understand what’s causing their loss of power. It really hurts to consider their confusion–and to possibly see it in their gaze. Louis is also not wanting to eat, which makes administering palliative meds a struggle. On top of all that, we slept maybe two hours the night before just watching him and grieving.

But it wasn’t a completely fraught day. Nicole is an amazing cook, and she made both a terrific Tex-Mexy chili with Sweet Earth plant-based ground and a spice mix my brother Brian and sister-in-law Myra gave us, and an adaptation of a “comfort recipe” my mom made several times in the weeks after my dad passed: Parmesan-encrusted portabello mushrooms, rosemary baked new potatoes, and fresh asparagus. Jane makes it with chicken breasts, but–shhhhhh–I like the mushroom version better. Additional palliatives of our own were Tecate, Speyburn single-malt Scotch, ice cream (Louis shared with us), books, music (South African jazz) and frequent hugs. And the weather was gorgeous–thank the stars.

Did we think about the passing of RBG? Of course we did, but if 2020 is anything it’s the year of stress-strata, and that stress was a layer beyond what we could reach. It will be there after the inevitable moment comes and goes.

Streaming for Survivors:

Alicia was there for me again yesterday.