#PhotoFriday: Happy 14th Birthday, Lexi!

Lexi was born on April 4, 2004. She’s my lucky 04/04/04 dog. On Wednesday, she turned 14. Maybe I’m being superstitious, but that, too, seems lucky.

My family adopted Lexi shortly after my childhood dog Maverick passed away. She was six weeks old, a little young but already weaned and spunky as anything. I’d taken Maverick’s death the hardest, I think, and was angry at my parents for not doing more to help him (as an adult I realize my anger was misplaced and that my parents did every reasonable thing they could and ultimately made the right decision). We had two young German shepherds, but my mom decided we’d adopt a Welsh corgi puppy for me–even though I’d be heading off to college soon.

Me holding Lexi as a puppy.

Me and Lexi in 2004, the summer before my senior year of high school. I demanded she be in my official photos.

Lexi has always been an adventurous dog. We went on lots of walks together, and when I did go off to college my mom took her to agility classes. When I graduated I found a place that would let me have pets, and Lexi moved to Pittsburgh with me.

Lexi, Kelly, D.J., and Ruby

Lexi and Ruby were ring bearers at my handfasting ceremony in 2010.

We’ve hiked and climbed mountains together in National Parks, gone on long road trips, and done a fair bit of just hanging out at various coffee shops in Pittsburgh. She knows me better than anyone—she can sense my moods before I even know what I’m feeling. She’s quick to draw my attention to her with a “grr” or a nudge when she knows I’m sad or distressed. I can (and do) set my clock by her.

Lexi

Lexi a few days before her 14th birthday.

Our time left together is getting short, but we’re celebrating every moment of it. Lexi is my girl, and I love her to the ends of the earth and back.

#PhotoFriday: Corg on the town

I had planned to write a review of Octavia Butler’s Kindred for today, but that didn’t happen! Instead, here are pictures of my cute dog.

Did you know you can take your dog to Home Depot? Well you can! My new favorite thing is to take Lexi. I can hook her up in her harness and booties so she can walk around, and when we both get tired she can ride in the cart. The staff love her and always give her a treat and some good pets.

A corgi in a shopping cart.

Lexi taking a break in Home Depot (pictured with my new Ryobi One+ drill!).

 

The only downside to her harness is that it’s pretty tough on my shoulders to hold her back end up for long periods of time. I’m still feeling it! After we got our new drill, we went to Starbucks so I could get an iced coffee and Lexi could get a “Puppaccino”–a small cup of whipped cream. If I give my dogs people food, it’s usually whole, unprocessed food (never grains because of allergies). Every now and then they get a special treat of ice cream or a hot dog, though. Or in this case, a Puppaccino!

A corgi eating a puppaccino

Lexi enjoying her Starbucks.

Who says disabled dogs can’t have fun? I hope you enjoy your weekend as much as Lexi enjoyed her Puppaccino!

Death planning for your dog

My dog Lexi is 13. She’ll be 14 in about 6 weeks. She has a progressive degenerative disease that will render her completely immobile sooner rather than later.

Lexi walking in the dog park with her harness.

Right now, she can still go for walks with the assistance of a sling. She’s still happy, though I fear she’s growing increasingly uncomfortable as the months wear on and she cannot readjust herself. The time I have left with her is limited. I’m guessing we’ll have to say goodbye sometime in the summer. I hate this. I wish it weren’t that way. But it is.

I’ve been thinking about and planning for this since she was diagnosed about two years ago. It’s not a morbid fascination or fatalism on my part. With this disease, her chances of dying peacefully in her sleep are slim. Her quality of life is going to deteriorate, and it’s almost guaranteed that I will need to make the decision to end her life when that quality dips too low. That sucks. But it’s part of the deal with owning a pet.

In many ways, this foreknowledge is a gift. Seven years ago, when I had to suddenly euthanize my dog Ruby, I wasn’t prepared. Her end of life experience wasn’t great, and we didn’t think about having her cremated so we could keep her ashes. I don’t even have a clay paw print, just her collar hanging on my mirror.

With Lexi, I’ve had time to think, and reflect, and decide what will make her the most comfortable. Because of her increased anxiety about going to the vet office, I plan to have one come to my house. I want her last memories to be at home, surrounded by her people and her little sister Jaina (who is actually three times as large as she is). I don’t want her to be stressed or upset. I want Jaina to be able to see and smell that Lexi is gone. And I want a clay paw print, and I want to keep her ashes in a nice urn. But above all, I want her to be peaceful. I want her to be comfortable.

Lexi with one of her (current) favorite toys (a worm with cat ears because it was a Halloween toy).

(Yes, I’m weeping as I write this. This reality sucks. This disease sucks. I can’t change it. I can only deal with it in the best way I know how.)

Because I know the time approaches, I can find a vet who’ll make a house call. I can figure out what I need to do to get Lexi cremated. I can pre-purchase an urn. I can make a clay paw print with her while she’s still here, still my girl. I can make an ink impression, too, in case I decide to get a tattoo (I’m sure I will).

And I can spend extra time with her each day, just petting her until she gets tired of it and shakes me off. I can take her for a short walk and let her smell the other dogs in our neighborhood, the cats and raccoons and groundhogs. I can take her with me to Home Depot and Wagsburgh or just out for a car trip so she can smell the air. These are things I’d do anyway–things I’ve done. But they take on extra poignancy now.

Still, none of this easy. But it’s easier now than at the very end, when I know the grief will settle in strong and fierce. Even if you don’t have this “gift” of foresight when your pet will die, you may want to take a few moments to think about how you will handle end of life care and what mementos you want of your pet. It’s not comfortable, or easy, but you’ll feel better when the time comes and the decisions have already been made.