Welcome to this blog which is dedicated to providing a forum for a civil discourse on a variety of issues to try and make our society a truly better place for all. While the views expressed are strictly my personal opinions, please feel free to join in on these conversations accepting the premises that every attempt will be made to ensure that nothing but the truth be spoken and the truth be heard.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Emma Dilemma

She came into our lives 14 years ago this coming November as the result of a pledge I had made to my wife that she could get a dog if I got elected to the City Board.  I did, she did and our lives were never the same thereafter.  Even though we had experienced dog ownership before, none had ever come close to Emma in emotional attachment because we had never had a dog grow old on us.  Consequently, she became an integral and very important part of our family during her equivalent 98 years of human life.

To understand Emma you must first know that she was a Boston Terrier, an all-American breed we had owned before, but with her own unique independence, spirit and personality as captured perfectly in the occasional appearance of Cagney in John Deering and John Newcombe's comic strip Zack Hill published daily in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  From the moment she demonstrated those traits by negotiating the steps up our then outside deck as just a small little black and white ball of puppy fuzz, we knew there was something very special about this one.  Of course there was the chewing phase during which she had a great time with socks, toys and chair legs, but why she chose to attack a couple of treasured stereo speakers, which put her in the figurative dog house with me, I will never understand.  But as all dog owners know, such misbehavior is soon forgotten and quickly replaced when those warm eyes look up at you and say "please give me a pat on the head or rub on the tummy (or a treat in Emma's case)".   And it sure did not hurt that her appeal came from a cocked head with a distinctive diamond on top of that classic black and white tuxedo body.  See for yourself.

As the years passed by, and with a totally empty nest, Emma became our child which we closely nurtured through all known phases of her development and care.  Sure there were the regular trips to the vet for checkups, shots, shampoo and nail clipping.  But as luck would have it, Emma fell victim to several afflictions, many of which were unique to her breed, not the least of which was loud snoring while sleeping.  But she had hardly been in our home a month when she developed a hernia that we were told was qualification enough to return her to the breeder.  However, my wife declared "no way", as the family bonds were already beginning to be formed.  Fortunately, we were able to have the hernia fixed at the same time we had her spade.  This duel surgery was followed the next year by a diagnosis of luxating patellae (back knees) that eventually required not one but two surgeries to fix, which meant two separate operations with both legs being wrapped in hot pink casts for several weeks.  How she was able to get around during those many weeks of recuperation and also negotiate her crate which she loved to sleep in, is still a mystery, but no doubt it had to be part of that indomitable spirit built into her DNA first noticed upon her arrival as a young pup.  And, finally, there were the eye problems which were initially diagnosed as glaucoma, resulting in her being scheduled to have one of those big black eyes that had turned cloudy at this point, removed.  Literally on the day before that surgery we decided to get another opinion from an out of town canine ophthalmologist who immediately diagnosed her condition as Endothelial Cell Dystrophy, a condition again unique to Boston Terriers.  He performed corrective surgery on the spot on one of her eyes, even though he had given us the option to have them both fixed at the same time.  That recuperation involved antibiotic pills, eye drops several times a day and that dreaded dog collar to prevent further damage to her eye.  Again, she never skipped a beat.  Then several months later we repeated this same grueling process all over again on the second eye.  It was during this period in her life that one of our beloved vet staff gave her the tag "Emma Dilemma".    

While my wife and I accepted the fact that Emma was totally dependent upon us for every aspect of her life (i.e. love, affection, food, water, safe housing, recreation, etc.), I don't think either of us realized how much our attachment to her was slowly growing ever stronger day by day through those many years, even as she slowed down due to blindness, congestive heart failure and deafness in the last two years of her life, but through it all still showing that same spunk and spirit which had so endeared us to her from the beginning.  I know I didn't, as her deteriorating condition including frequent incontinence in the last few months actually became very stressful to me.  Like most pets, though, during that last month even she recognized her condition was worsening, as she began eating less and less until finally on Wednesday, June 13th, she quit eating anything, including her beloved treats.  However, none of those signs prepared us for the end which began around 7:00pm that night when her little heart began to fail and she started gasping for breath.  Both my wife and I had vowed we would never let her suffer, so thanks to a most compassionate and caring vet who had cared for Emma her entire life, she agreed to immediately meet us at her office and bring an end to Emma's life with grace and dignity, for which my wife and I shall always be grateful.  Although our now empty and silent house has become almost unbearable, we both agree that Emma will most likely be our last dog, as the pain of loss is simply too great to endure again at this late stage in our lives.  We'll just let our fond memories of her fill that void.