Bette Davis’ words. I simply echo the sentiment. And, today, my first day off in what feels like weeks, I am reflecting on old age and caring for the aging. Human and animal alike.
This summer has been a tough one. There’s no way around that. You may remember, back in May, I posted about my grandmother – my Bama – who is quite literally staring down death as she suffers the last battles with ALS bound to her bed. Her fractured femur has healed but her strength is gone and each day she grows weaker. ALS continues to rob her body of the ability to breathe comfortably and even sleep peacefully. Our family continues to rally around her and do everything we can to provide what basic care and comfort that we can. But, to what end? She suffers in silence, unable to speak. Once a healthy, vibrant woman, she is diminishing…body, mind, and soul. It’s just heart breaking.
As most everyone’s week was beginning on Monday, my long work week was coming to an end when my husband called me at work and said that Chewy was sick, She had vomited and had diarrhea in her crate and was stumbling around and falling over. I told him to bring her right in (thankfully, I work at a veterinary hospital.) The doctor completed her physical exam and determined that Chewy is dealing with some sort of vestibular issue. Best case scenario, we are facing idiopathic “old dog vestibular disease” which will gradually – over the course of days/weeks – get better. Worst case…well….we won’t go there now.
Yesterday Chewy wasn’t as wobbly as she had been Monday night. She ate her canned bland diet easily which meant that the medication went down easily. We’ve administered subcutaneous fluids twice thus far and will continue to do so in the coming days to ensure that she does not become dehydrated. Today though, Chewy is a stumbling mess – the symptoms mirror vertigo – and she has no interest in eating which means that administering medications is extra complicated because she needs to be steadied, have her jaw pried open while tossing the meds in toward the back of her mouth, then I have to hold her mouth shut while rubbing her throat to encourage her to swallow. I was dripping sweat by the end of the whole debacle this morning. It also doesn’t help that our house is a quad-level meaning that the living areas are split between multiple levels. To prevent accidents on the stairs, I have barricaded Chewy (and in turn, Zoey) to the main level of the house for easy in/out trips to the backyard.
Alone with my fur-family, climbing over my barricades to get anywhere in the house and exhausted with emotion, I simply reflect. I realize that my heart has broken a few times this summer and, like one always does after heart-break, you pick-up the pieces and put them back together the best you can. But each heart-break leaves a new crack…a sad memory that you carry forever.
And, I look at these two old women – my grandmother, 78 years old and Chewy, 14-15 years old – human and canine – both of whom I love dearly – and I just know that old age is simply no place for the weak. These women are tough ladies and, although my heart is heavy, they are teaching me – us – some important lessons about life and death and love and family.