Monday, September 7
After our visit to the vet last Thursday, Gracie seemed to perk up a bit, finding a tennis ball under a table in the sun room and bringing it to me for some play. Months ago, we modified the game to one where she lays down and I roll the ball to her, which she then traps between her front legs and bites soundly to stop. She seems so happy during these moments, recalling perhaps the more rigorous games of fetch we played in her younger days up on the hill at the Masonic Temple here in Alexandria, or, later, the “stairmaster” game when she would stand or lay at the top of the stairs and I would toss the ball up to her, which she would catch, then roll back down the steps to me to start the game all over again. However, this burst of energy and interest is short-lived and she grows weaker.
We are out at the cabin in the Shenandoah for the Labor Day weekend. On Saturday, she had enough strength to walk with Jim around the house, sniffing and enjoying being with him as she explored some of her favorite bushes and trees. During the night from Sunday to Monday, Gracie woke me up and I took her outside to pee. She sniffs in the dark for awhile then returns to me but has a difficult time walking over the black drain pipe leading from the downspout that crosses the back path. I also help her up the step to the side porch and into the house. She wags her tail as I pat her now boney back.
As I clean up the kitchen this morning, Jim has Gracie outside and tries to give her the semi-weekly dose of calcitriol. She is suddenly drastically weaker and can no longer lift her head and can’t seem to swallow, and must be carried back to the house. She can no longer stand-up. We’re not sure if she’s had a stroke or not. She’s conscious and continent but we realize that the time as come to end Gracie’s fight against the disease that has taken her strength and dignity.
We return to Alexandria and take Gracie to the vet, which we have called ahead of time. Jim carries our girl into a pleasant green-painted room with some comfortable chairs and plants and an examination table covered with towels. After a brief consultation, the vet agrees that to continue Gracie’s life in this way would be cruel and we begin the process that we have been dreading for so long. We have a chance to hold and kiss her before they administer the sedative and she is unconscious when the last medication is given. She leaves us quickly and peacefully, a gentle, loving companion to the end. She was three months short of her 15th birthday.