Toni hangs on for the warm days ahead she'll be happy to see


March 19, 1994|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

I can't remember a winter I'll be so glad to see go. Even the pollen seems a relief, because it doesn't come without the warmer weather. And warmer weather means Toni will be with me through the fall.

I wasn't so sure, two months ago, that would be the case.

As she passed her 12th birthday in November, it was increasingly apparent my sweet old girl was falling apart.

That, at least, was the vet's scientific summation. He's fabulous at explaining things in plain English, and at getting to the reality of the matter in a flash, even if the reality isn't really what you think you want to hear. You really want to hear it anyway, and you're grateful for the facts.

The reality for Toni was pills for her heart, pills for her gut, pills for her pain, pills for her other conditions, all treatable, but not curable.

She lost her spark as the cold weather moved in, lost the ability to run, lost interest in most everything. She slept all the time and became a fussy eater. She couldn't hop in and out of the dog door, and seemed embarrassed to have to bark for the door to be opened.

The vet patted the dog lovingly on the worst of our frequent visits -- the "there's nothing more I can do" one -- then gave me a long look and reminded me the decision was mine.

My vet has been with me through this decision before, of course. With Toni, as with Lance before her, I think the decision is as much up to the animal. There is a day when you see something different -- a look, a motion -- and you know it is time. Your pet tells you, as surely as if he had spoken the words.

Toni, my scrappy old girl, wasn't ready to go. I knew it, although I cannot really tell you how.

"Keep her warm and let's see what happens," said the vet. "Put a blanket over her, get a heating pad."

I did, and Toni kept fighting. Every morning she'd pull herself up and eat her breakfast, toddle down the steps and back up inside. She'd walk over for petting and sigh when I tucked her back in. It wasn't great, but she wouldn't give up. And I couldn't give up on her.

And then at last, warm weather. She spent the first few days in a puddle of sunlight, alternately sleeping or daydreaming, not moving except to drink the water I brought her. And then she started to change.

Her movements became easier, as her joints troubled her less. She brought a toy to me to throw, and although Bob retrieved it, she seemed pleased. Her appetite returned to its previous levels, and she even bullied the younger dogs out of some of their kibble.

Finally, the look of "maybe" disappeared from her white face and cloudy eyes.

I know it's just a respite, and that when the cold weather comes again, Toni may ask to go. But when you've loved a pet for as long as I've love Toni, you're grateful for just a few months more.

I think Toni would agree.

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