My hands on the steering wheel, at ten and two, as I make my way down the highway, going a few clicks faster than I probably should be.
Watching the road ahead of me, I feel a slight pressure on the sleeve of my shirt. Looking down to my right, I see a paw gently resting on my forearm. I glance up at its owner to see him staring at me in what can only be described as hopeful adoration.
"You're such a dweeb," I tell him, taking my right hand from the wheel and rubbing his head affectionately.
I spend the rest of the four hour trip holding his paw in my hand.
It became a ritual, of sorts, on any car ride - his paw in my hand. 


The waiting game

It's a last ditch effort; bombarding his body with pills to see if something will work.
"This would be so much easier if you could just talk, Dog," I tell him while stroking his head.
"It is weird," the vet said. "His symptoms are so vague, and his test results aren't really telling us anything other than that there is fluid around his lungs." I nodded as his voice echoed through the phone.
"I can't afford to take him to the specialist," I told him and tried to keep my voice from shaking. The test the vet had recommended to confirm a diagnosis required a referral to another vet and $1,500 to start.
"If the specialist is not an option," I continued, "is there anything else we can do?"
"Well, if the fluid is caused by an infection, antibiotics would be able to treat it, or if it is congestive heart failure, water pills would help," he replied. He'd told me earlier that, if the fluid was not a result of infection or heart failure, there could be a few other possible causes that only the specialist would be able to diagnose. Two were very rare and would involve surgery resulting in a bill of upwards of $5,000, and the other was a tumour on the heart.
"If I chose to give him antibiotics and water pills, would we be doing it for him or would it really be just for me?" I asked.
"What is frustrating with this case," the vet said, "is that we just don't know what the cause is. There is a chance that the pills could work, but we just don't know."
"Okay," I said, and took a deep breath. "And if I give him these pills, how long would we wait to see results before it is no longer fair to the dog?" I asked.
"I wouldn't let it go more than a week. But if he starts eating again, more than just tiny little pieces, we'd extend that to two weeks and take things from there."
"Okay," I said, "let's do that then."
I've spent a lot of time crying. While the idea of my dog dying was looming on the horizon, it wasn't something that I'd seriously given much thought. I'd assumed I'd have more time. More time to be a better owner. More time to spoil him. More time to take him on long, slow walks. More time pet his fur and tell him that he would have to start pulling his weight around the apartment and get a job. But I've come to realize that, no matter what happens, I have already been lucky to have had this much time with him. I've had nearly eleven years of his love and loyalty, and, since he started showing signs of illness, I've already gotten an extra week I didn't think I would have. If our journey together has reached its end it will hurt, but I have no right to complain. But I don't think I can be blamed either... for being greedy for more.



Gandhi's longest hunger strikes lasted 21 days. So far dog is on day 23, although he seems willing to cheat every so often.

Both blood and urine collected and analyzed, the only thing we can say for certain is that dog is probably not fasting to end violence or anything quite so noble. 

It is hard to say if he is in his final days. Other than having no interest in food, he largely still seems to be enjoying life, but there are times when he is so still that I have to place my ear to his chest to make sure he is breathing. 

I spend hours just staring at him and stroking his head. I feel anxious when I have to be anywhere that requires me to stray from his side. Hard as it may be, I can accept that this may be the end of our journey together, but it breaks my heart to think he might take his final breath when I can't be right next to him. 

Without any sort of definitive answers from the vet, I am not sure if the idea of euthanasia is jumping the gun. "If only you could talk," I say to him, as we stare at one another. "I don't know what you want me to do, and I don't want to make the wrong choice." 

So, for the time being, I keep him next to me in my bed at night, listening to him snore as he breathes in and out, hoping that maybe tomorrow he will decide he has proven his point and eat the bacon I have cooked for him. 


My best friend

As I jogged at a leisurely pace on the treadmill, I looked over to my dog on the couch and squinted my eyes in an attempt to see if I could tell he was still breathing.

The dog is old now, eleven to be precise, and he hasn't been feeling the greatest over the last few days. Feeling overly sympathetic, I have been spoiling him by letting him sleep on my bed and on top of other comfortable surfaces. I can't tell if his apparent lethargy is due to illness or simply because he's always been this lazy but never had something comfortable enough to lay on.

As I stared at him, determining that he was in fact still very much alive, I tried to think back to some of the more memorable moments we've shared over the last decade. He is my best friend, and he is the only friend I have that has shit on my floor and faced absolutely zero consequences afterwards.

I am not sure what I will do when he dies. Sure, dog number two will still be kicking it, and the cat (always the cat), but it won't be the same.

When I finished my run, I decided to take him for a walk in the snow. He sniffed around and hopped in the air as I threw snowballs at his head (trust me, he likes it). "I think you're faking," I told him. "You're feeling much better than you've been letting on." He ignored my accusations and rolled onto his back, kicking his legs up in the air.

We stayed outside until he got back onto his feet and led me back in towards the door.

I hope my dog knows how much I love him. Even when he passes so much gas within the confines of my bedroom that the smell causes me to wake from a dead sleep. He has been much better to me than I deserve, and I can't imagine being anything but completely lost without him.