Quality of life a decreasingly complex mathematic.
(2 happy hours in a day = 22 others. If one hour has joy, twenty-three do not.)
In those good hours, I question everything: look at his joy. Look, there’s Gilly, all there, even trotting, even sure-footed – his valiant heart, his loyal guardianship, his humor, his sharp perception, his desire for life as strong as any being’s has ever been, all right with his world when we are together, when there is even small adventure afoot. Maybe it’s working, this new med regime. Maybe something—
Then after that hour, the fade. The dim. The exhausted struggle against pain, the narcotic haze, the tension around his eyes, worn, the staggering and stumbling inability to locate his hind legs with much accuracy, the growing despair of his own body, less and less expecting it to do what it has always done, more sleeping, more taking of deep breaths before stepping over a sill or getting up onto the bed while hoping for the best, more bracing himself even when he’s standing still.
His longtime vet, who knows him well (“he’s got so much heart”), tells me to brace myself. To not get my hopes up. He thinks we’re near the end. He’ll help us when we get there, if Gilly needs our help.
Even the new vets and neurologist – all adazzle with their ten thousand dollar technological interventions that might well achieve nothing and kill Gilly anyway, things that make sense for a five year old dog but not a twelve year old, things that make sense for apartment dogs who have lived their whole lives already stuck on a couch and who don’t know better or want other, human-centered therapies geared to empty wallets and make the person feel better while doing not a goddamned thing for the dog – are changing their tone.
In each day, the gentle focus on the good hour, the kindness and care with the others. The giving of meds in peanut butter or illicit-and-therefore-special tinned cat food.
The narrowing of choices from ten to four to three to two.
The mathematic of movement ever closer to one.