The original title…
For years in my mind this obituary was titled “Angry lesbian bitch.” Shortly after we adopted Nuala, a group of teenage boys stayed with us and learned that if you lightly poked her, she would make a cute ‘Rrrr’ noise. This was great, but it taught her to loudly growl when objecting to any circumstance not going her way, and that to actually warn anyone to back off, she had to bark as if she was about to maul someone.
People always identified Nuala as a male dog (and Timmy as the girl), since she lacked all conventional feminine qualities. She was very vocal about what she wanted and didn’t want, and she was tough as nails. Sometimes when she got excited she would bite her pillow and hump it just like a male dog. And she loved, loved several women. When one of them departed, for days she would sniff every SUV parked on the street in case it was her car. Another female couple would send us presents and Nuala would be giddily excited, sniffing the box, scratching it open, then weeks later still sniffing the empty box for that reverie of her paramour. I asked these beloved to rub napkins on their armpits or other naughty bits and send them to us; is this ridiculously creepy or an easy way with no downside to make an animal blissfully happy?
A dog with 5? 6? 7? lives
Twelve or thirteen is “a good age” for a dog. As she soldiered on past 15 and 16, Nuala declined both steadily and in jolts. She developed pancreatitis and was very sick, but rallied. Then several times over three months she woke up screaming in pain, and could not be comforted for minutes that seemed like hours: whether it was from muscle cramps, a pinched nerve, a waking nightmare, … we never knew. Then over a harrowing 7-day period she threw up all night, threw up anti-nausea medication, and finally settled down after an anti-nausea injection at the emergency vet; then she refused to eat for days. We thought for sure this was it, but vitamin B injections administered by nurse Mom and cortisone pills brought her back. Every time she was diminished: less vision, worse hearing, stiffer; she would fall going downstairs and fall going upstairs, then would fall if you accidentally tugged on her leash (and she never complained). Increasingly I had to carry her on walks, but then she’d trot back home knowing treats were waiting, and show off:
And age and infirmity sanded away most of her angry lesbian personality, leaving a smooth worn nub; a soft feeble creature experiencing mere existence but without language to rue her diminishment. (As ever, Henry Beston’s insanely great words on “lesser” animals apply: “They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”) With every setback we wondered “Is this the end? Is it fair to keep her around?” But then Nuala would briefly play with Timmy, or bark and wag her tail trying to find a treat on the floor, and the questions would recede. Finally, after two sleepless nights of intestinal trouble in one week we decided to end her life.
Goodbye Nuala, former angry lesbian bitch.
The awe-full responsibility over another’s life
Some of you reading this will be dismayed: “For months you kept alive a dog that couldn’t see, hear, or walk well, fell over, was repeatedly sick past her stomach, and was barely conscious of what’s going on.” Others will be equally dismayed: “You killed a dog who clearly enjoyed treats and seemed content despite her increasing woes.” That’s fine; I have no problem with people imagining what they would do in our hard situation. Try not to judge our decision. You weren’t living with her, you have no idea what it was like. But I won’t sugarcoat it, it was hard to make that irrevocable decision. The video above of Nuala merrily bouncing around performing tricks to get treats was taken hours after we’d scheduled the final appointment with our vet. Jameson’s law, the insight of the great sage, was unyielding:
If you want to be sure you’re doing the right thing,Jameson, Esq., circa 1982
just keep on doing what you’re doing
until you can’t stand it any longer.
We could withstand Nuala’s decline, therefore we couldn’t be sure we were making the right decision; we made it anyway.
As I remarked when we killed the uber-cute Fergus:
It’s an awesome terrible power to wield over another, but I fervently hope someone does it to me when I’m near my end. It is utterly inhumane that we don’t extend the same dignity in death to ourselves that we do to our companion animals.
When I don’t know who I am, and I don’t know who you are, I want you to pull the plug!