Restless, unhappy, tense, vague: early pain pill, but still nothing right or pleasurable. Food a steroid-driven urgency divorced from pleasure. Water a steroid-driven urgency meaning constant need to pee, apparent worry he’s leaking; he isn’t, or not enough that he’s not cleaning it off his legs before it leaves any trace for me to see, but a constant worry for his fastidious nature. Outside on the grass: little interest in anything, the light too bright, the sun too hot, the wind too cool, not right. Inside on the daybed: wanting touch, not being able to tolerate much touch. On the kitchen floor after another pain pill, the only thing he’s asked for all day: a gesture with his paw to give me access to the chest-spot he likes to have scratched while he waits for the pill to work.
He’ll go off his food (not while he’s on steroids, he won’t: they’ve turned food into a burning and unhappy obsession).
He’ll lose interest in things (unimaginable, until today – and even today, it’s not that he doesn’t want to be interested in what’s happening around him, it’s that he can’t find any comfort or pleasure to be the ground from which he can express interest: even the ground itself he’s having to hold onto pretty firmly, as though he thinks he might slide off the surface of the earth).
He’ll become incontinent (maybe, but I doubt we’d let that happen: between his fastidious cleaning and my constant watching of his needs, there’s no trace of anything but horrible urgency about peeing, steroid-driven like everything else now).
He’ll become unable to walk at all (maybe, but maybe not).
The pain will worsen.
A few days ago, I told him: I’m running out of ways to help you.
Today: I wish there was some way I could help you. In a rational world, such love would be able to help.
We’ve had The Talk. About it being okay to go. I don’t know what he took from it, I don’t know whether he can take that in: my loyal inugami, my guardian. I know it was my job to tell him anyway, and in some way that could be true.
Mostly, what I’m sharing publicly is the good hour or two each day we’re getting. In part this is because Gilly has friends and admirers all over the world, and this stage of his life I can share with them, too. So many have traveled so far with him: so many mountains, so many adventures, in 3D and by way of this blog, or Facebook, where his pals keep up and keep track. So much dogumentation, dogumentary, dogtoral dissertation.
So much joy and beauty in Gilly being the virtual dog for those who don’t have one, the wilderness dog for those who live urban, the well-trained dog for those who didn’t know what dogs will do when given the opportunity to succeed through consistency and clarity and devotion and hard work and deep trust, for those who have just been smitten by his elegance, his autonomy even in such profound bond to me, his occasional irascibility, his valor, his comedy, his refusal to behave as a prop and his determination to form his relationships always and only on the grounds of honesty and action, his willingness to put up with some kinds of nonsense but not others, his near-magical ability to stop nonsense in its tracks with just scent or glance or kindness or calm, his fundamental and contagious gentleness, his simultaneous spring-coil of energetic joy, his glow of well-being in his total certainty of my love for and loyalty to him.
In part it’s because if anyone starts with the armchair vetting, the advice-without-information, the patronizing, the radical and sometimes intentional misunderstanding of the relationship between me and Gilly (which is not ‘pet’/human), the turning of Gilly’s pain into an opportunity to ride whatever their own hobbyhorse of the glucosamine-or-acupuncture-moment is, I will start taking swings at people. And they always do start that shit. So I’m keeping the details between me and his vets and our 3D friends who are there in the practical ways that matter. None of this is up for abstract discussion or small talk. None of this belongs to anyone but him, and my job is to help him as best as I can.
Even as many can offer welcome kindness, and a few can offer veterinary skill along the way, what we’re walking through right now – and having to decide, day by day – is something no one can do with us.
The additional pain pill kicks in, and Gilly wags at me for the first time all day. For a moment, I question all of it: there, see? There’s Gilly. He’s fine.
Those moments of it’s fine, he’s fine, there, see, there’s his joy have less power each time they come and go, because with each going, the mathematics of his quality of life get simpler.
Part of me is still railing against the lesson of the epic king for whom Gilly was named. Mortality itself should fall before this love, some part of me believes, as Gilgamesh did: to the ends of the world grieving for Enkidu, to the point of having immortality in his hands. He became a good and wise king when he let go of it.
Gilly has already done that. Long since. With all my human cognition, and all my ability to see the bigger picture of his life and its beauty and goodness: I am just grieving. Wishing I could fix it for him, and wishing I could keep him with me a little longer without it costing him the kindness and care I have promised. My happy, valiant, joyous friend. There’s no ready. There’s no good time.