Every parent who is also a pet lover will relate to this…
Eight years ago when we brought our newborn home from the hospital, he was there, waiting at the gate with a big smile on his face. His little stubby tail wagged furiously as we lowered our son down so he could sniff him, become used to the smell that was to signal the new world order. Then we whisked our baby inside and shut the door, into our closed-off world of first-time parenting. In the blur of those first weeks and months of ensuring our baby son was well looked after, we were largely oblivious to the loyal creature that lay at the back door, ever vigilant: watching, protecting, loving.
Memphis – our two-year old Rottweiler who in so many ways had been like our first son – endured minimum attention and affection. No longer our number 1, there was no jealousy or aggression, just an acceptance of “what is”. He didn’t make us feel guilty for how little time we had for him: he took what he could get.
As our son grew older, routines were established, and Memphis was acknowledged with pats and walks more frequently. Then it happened all over again as he slipped further down the rung with the birth of our second son. Again he existed for a time on scraps of kindness, fleeting pats and “good boy”s. Time we did spend together helped to restore our inner calm: he always gave back so much more than he was given.
Our boys have loved growing up with Memphis. They have played ball games together (“Mum, Memphis has taken the ball again”), spent endless hours squealing and laughing on the trampoline as he barked at them from below; even swum in the ocean together.
Now, Memphis is in the Winter of his life. Large polyps have grown in his ears and dulled his hearing. A form of congestive heart failure has taken away the playful leaping and inexplicable joy of chasing a ball. He can be grumpy, and stubborn. He is a grumpy, stubborn old man. But he is also so loving, so loyal, so devoted.
Last Wednesday evening we arrived home to find him heaving, belching up great mouthfuls of foamy, frothy gunk. His stomach was bloated, tight as a drum. A panicked rush to the emergency vet and we were confronted with two options: operate, or euthanise. Euthanise? My brain couldn’t even make sense of the gravity of the word let alone contemplate it. Was she really offering that as an option? To willingly end the life of our best friend? This amazing, dedicated member of our family? Operate it was.