As mentioned in an earlier post, the topic for the 9th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is “Moments”. From the first moment I read the topic, I knew what I had to write about. Even though it isn’t a happy moment, it’s a moment that I feel needs to be written about.
The moment I am going to write about, is the moment I knew it was time to say goodbye to Phoenix, my second dog guide.
Since the first day we became a team, Phoenix has always lived his life the way he wanted. If Phoenix didn’t want to do something, then he made sure I knew exactly how he felt about me asking him to do it. if Phoenix wanted to do something, then he made it completely clear to me that it was going to happen or he’d try his darnedest to make sure it did.
Phoenix and I worked well together because we both had a stubborn streak and we both knew how to keep the other one guessing.
Seven years after we were matched, Phoenix began to make it clear to me that he wanted to retire. I tried to convince myself that he was just being a big baby about the winter and that he’d be back to normal in the spring/summer months, but when things didn’t improve by May, I knew he had made his decision.
Phoenix retired on May 13th, 2005, seven years after he had begun working.
Phoenix settled well into retirement from the start. If he saw me take Cessna’s harness from the leash rack, he immediately ran over to the couch for a nap. When we arrived home, he was always waiting with a toy or his metal bowl at the door, wagging his tail. He took well to having Cessna take over his role as my guide and he seemed to enjoy his new job of being the protector of the house and Aspen’s babysitter. When we fostered Aiden and Reece, Phoenix taught them about respecting their elders and as they grew, he began to play with them and to keep them in line when needed. When we moved to Northeastern Ontario and brought Canyon into our home, Phoenix seemed disinterested in interacting with him, but he also didn’t seem upset about his arrival.
I sometimes wonder if maybe Phoenix felt as though Canyon would be able to take over as my protector since he was a boy, or if maybe he was just too old to care.
About two months after Phoenix’s 14th birthday, I came home to find him in horrible shape. My step dad had been watching him for me, and said that he thought he had had a stroke. We rushed Phoenix down to the vet thinking the worst, but hoping for the best. During the entire seven hour drive, I held Phoenix’s paw and told him how much I loved him and that it was okay to go if he needed to. When Dr B finished examining him, she said he had an acute onset of Idiopathic Vestibular Disease, and that if I had the time and patience, that I could get him back to normal within a couple of weeks. This was the best news I’d ever heard and devoted the next month to helping Phoenix with his rehabilitation. He ended up keeping a bit of the head tilt associated with IVD, but he regained all other function.
From that experience, I began learning about the raw diet and how it could possibly give me more time with my old boy. Phoenix had dealt with ear infections our entire twelve years together, so Dr B felt that a more natural diet might be the answer we’d been looking for. I started Phoenix on his raw diet around the middle of January and within weeks noticed a drastic difference in his level of shedding and saw that he even had a bit more spunk and energy at times. We spent the next few months together without any health issues. He seemed to be aging well and I was starting to tell myself that I may have a year or more with my faithful companion.
In June we picked up a spunky little caramel lab, we named Rogue, and Phoenix did his usual shunning of the youngster. I knew it would take time for him to get used to her, and that she would need to learn to respect his space, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly she began to understand his boundaries.
About a month after picking up Rogue, Phoenix began to refuse his meals. He had never refused to eat, so this change really began to worry me after the second day of him doing this. We were unable to get him to Dr B for a couple of weeks, so I stayed in constant contact with her by phone and e-mail. She suggested different ways of getting him to eat, and sometimes it worked, but most times it didn’t. Finally, after three weeks of Phoenix barely eating, she told me to give him anything he’d take and not to worry about his allergies or about if it was any good for him. Again, sometimes it worked, but most times it didn’t.
On August 10th, 2011, we headed down to Guelph. We stayed with friends for the night and then took Phenix and Rogue to see Dr B.
As soon as Dr B saw Phoenix she knew it wasn’t good. She said that she’d run tests and give him pain medication if we wanted, but that she felt he had already made his decision. Dr B felt that Phoenix was tired and just wanted to go, but needed me to help him. Huib and I had both decided on our way to her clinic that we would do whatever she suggested, but from Dr B’s words, we knew it wasn’t what she suggested, but what Phoenix wanted.
On August 11th, 2011, at 1:20pm, Dr B gave Phoenix the medication that would help him leave us peacefully. Rogue, our 4 month old caramel puppy, laid against him while Dr B administered the injection and I held his paw and Huib stroked his head. Rogue stayed curled up against Phoenix for close to 5 minutes after Dr B had checked to make sure he no longer had a heart beat, and then got up, walked around him sniffing every part of him and then walked to the door and turned to look at us, as if to say “it’s okay, he’s gone now”.
It is this moment in time, that will remain with me forever.
The moment I said goodbye to my old friend.
The moment I realized that his spirit would live on, within my new friend.
The moment I knew he’d be with me forever in my heart and in my memories.