Survivor’s Guilt

I think I have survivor’s guilt, or some version of it. I don’t feel guilty for being alive exactly, which I know is technically what survivor’s guilt is all about. It’s not like Logan and I experienced some catastrophic event and I somehow escaped death and he didn’t. I’m just five years younger than he was and, therefore, always expected to outlive him.

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When we were both a lot younger.

And I don’t feel guilty for enjoying a walk, or a sunny day, or a sniff around the barn while T is feeding. These are all things Logan would enjoy with me if he was here, things we enjoyed together over our seven years as partners, brothers, and friends (T has this Nitty Gritty Dirt Band thing.) I actually experienced more guilt going for a walk and having to leave him behind in recent months than I do now that he’s not here to leave behind.

Where the guilt comes in is when I enjoy something I might not have had the chance to do with Logan here, I see where my life has changed for the better. It sounds even worse when I put it into words on the page. But, let me explain.

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Me as hotel dog in Red Deer for the horse sale.

Logan wasn’t a good traveller, he was noise sensitive, he didn’t like crowds, he got hot easily with his black coat, didn’t like being tied, and all these things added up to being left at home when it wasn’t a specifically dog-related activity because he was generally happier there. I, on the other hand, am a good traveller, am not bothered by most noises (except gunshots and thunder which are terrifying), love people (the more the merrier), have no issue with being attached to an immovable object by cable or leash, and stay quite comfortable on a hot day as long as I have water. But, to keep Logan company and, I think, to not create a double standard, I was most often left home with him.

I have been to Calgary, Strathmore, and other sundry locations more times in the past four weeks than probably the previous year, or even two. I know time of year has something to do with it, the weather is cool enough to leave a dog in a car, but I also know it’s because Logan is no longer here to stand at the door and watch me go somewhere while he stays behind. Funny thing about Logan was, no matter how many shaking, panting, over-heated, noisy excursions he went on, he’d still show up at the door, just in case it was something good, something dog-friendly, something fun. 10-Chico-guilt-ontheroad

Showing off my awesome travelling skills.

I love to be with my people, no matter the circumstances, and being an only dog, and a dog who is quite portable, has opened doors for me, doors that used to have Logan standing in them. Ouch, there it is again, the stab of guilt. Am I terrible?

I miss him, of course, we all do, every single day. T cries at least once a day, usually when she runs across another of his things—a toy, his desert walking boots, the blue and grey fleece jacket he wore most of last winter, his food bowl on stand that our friends gave him. And then there are the photos, oh so many of them, and he was such a photogenic guy.

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He joins us in spirit on every walk.

I’m bouncing between missing my friend and enjoying the freedom that’s come with his absence. Maybe I should talk to someone. Anyone know a good dog psychologist? Then again, if Logan was here he’d just say, “Don’t be an idiot, Red. Get out there and enjoy yourself without an anxiety-prone old cripple with a heart condition holding you back. It’s what I’d do.” And that was the truth, Logan never missed an opportunity to do what he enjoyed, even at someone else’s expense (usually T’s or Nollind’s), and never suffered guilt.

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Tagging along on a book event day in Okotoks.

So, my old and dear friend, in your honour, in your memory, I will uphold your credo, enjoy each day to the fullest, and live my best, guilt-free life.

~ ~ ~

 

On a whole other topic … Happy Fur-iday Birthday, Auntie Susan!  Celebrate by cuddling at least one dog today!10-Chico-guilt-sus

 

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If You’re Reading This…

If anyone could blog from beyond the grave it would be my pal, Logan. I found this letter tucked in amongst his favourite toys…

Dear Friends & Family,

If you’re reading this then I guess I’ve moved on, to wherever it is we go when our time on this earth is complete. Maybe we come back, maybe we don’t. If I do come back, I think I’ll aim for a body with a longer lifespan, like a tortoise—nah, too slow—or maybe a parrot—but then some cat might get me. Perhaps best to stick with dog or cat or horse, some creature I’m familiar with, or hey, how about human?

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Definitely not a tortoise.

But enough musing about what the big, unknown future might hold for the soul of an old dog. That’s me, an old dog. I know I’ve been saying it for a couple of years, but now I really feel it, in my bones and to my core.  As you’ll know if you’ve been reading the blog of our adventures, I’m a fighter, a fighter with a tendency to rise from the mats on the count of nine. I’d like to say I’ve got one more in me, that I can bounce back from whatever it is I’ve felt creeping up on me this past couple of weeks, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. The medications don’t help like they used to, the trips to the vet for the Legend injection aren’t giving me their promised bounce, and the distance between the house and the barn just keeps growing.

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Who’d have thought I’d ever run out of bounce?

My hope is that they’ll let me go, not drag things out until I’ve become a burden, allowing the me they’ve known all these years to be replaced by someone they don’t recognize … or enjoy. It can happen. I saw it happen with Chelsey as she got older and crankier and so difficult for all of us to live with. To remember Chelsey with a smile on your face you have to go back a ways, to when she wasn’t old and sick. I want to go knowing I made them smile that very day. It’s the least I can do for all they’ve given me: a good home, enough freedom to keep an independent spirit happy, jobs to occupy my Border Collie half, a diet to appease a fussy eater, adventures galore, the best of care in my old age, and love, of course, plenty of that.

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Horse dog from the day I arrived.

 

To Chico … I admit I wasn’t sure about you at first, hackles up and peeing on a wall in my house, but you grew on me in the years that followed. I’m glad they found you and happy to have shared our many great adventures. Look after them all for me, the humans, the horses, the barn cats, and keep telling your stories on Fur-idays.

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Is he staying? (January 2011)

To Nollind … I know I was your first love when it comes to dogs, but I’m pretty sure I’m not your last (I’ve seen you hoist Chico up onto your lap when he’s cold). I’m glad I got to be the one to turn you into a dog guy, to convince you that dogs do belong on the furniture, show you that dog poop is not toxic (despite how it smells), and teach you there’s nothing quite like the love of a dog.

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A boy and his dog.

To Teresa … For finding me all those years ago in the Bargain Finder (and wasn’t I a bargain?), for taking me into your home and your heart, for catering to my whimsical appetite and need for freedom, and for all those hours and dollars you spent searching for the solutions to my physical challenges in my later years … thank you. I’m sorry for the decision you had to make for me at the end of my life but know that you were right, it was time to say goodbye. I told you you’d know.

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Even acupuncture couldn’t keep me from getting old.

To my snowbirding pack … I’m sorry I was such a rotten travelling companion. Thank you for always taking me along anyway. Despite my near deafness, I heard the recent chatter about staying home for the winter to look after me. So, what are you waiting for? Start packing! I’ll be right there with you for every stop along the road.

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Lunch and walk break early on in our first journey south.

And to all of you who have been following our adventures these past seven years, thank you for reading, for commenting, for caring, and for noticing when a Fur-iday goes by that you don’t hear from us. This is Logan signing off, unless of course there’s a way to communicate from the other side of what they call the “Rainbow Bridge”. In that case, I’ll be in touch.10-Logan-ifyour-logan

His Last Run

We had to say goodbye to Logan yesterday. I knew it was coming, could smell it on him, the curious scent of soul preparing to leave body. It doesn’t seem to matter that you know it’s coming or for how long you know it’s coming, when the day arrives, you’re not prepared. It still rips your heart out and stomps on it (to quote T).

He didn’t go on his own, although I’m sure that’s what T and Nollind would have liked, for him to just slip away in the night. But that’s not the way with us dogs, we fight, we hang on, we survive, and the struggle can get ugly, and painful.

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Friday morning.

I wrote once about Logan’s stoic nature. It never changed. But in the past four or five days even he couldn’t hide how difficult it was getting to move from point A to B, or just get up off his bed. On Monday he managed a trek to the back of the pasture (with a Kubota ride home) where T was putting up temporary fencing, but by Thursday, when she took us for just a short tour around the front yard outside Logie-land, he had a hard time making it back to the house. His back legs just didn’t want to hold him up. His will was still strong but his body was giving up on him.

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Exploring the pasture.

When we came home from our BC trip at the end of August, T made some more adjustments to his medications and it really seemed to give him a boost for a few weeks. He was walking a little better, able to make some short journeys around the farm, and went along on nearly every trip to the barn with T when she was out there two or three times a day looking after Nevada. He loved that, being part of the horse activities, even though he was mostly just lying there watching.

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Helping to tuck the horses in on a wet, cold night.

I noticed the change about a week ago, the slow-down, the shift in his mental state. His heart condition and arthritis were progressing beyond the reach of his medication. They made one last change to his meds, hoping it would give him a lift, but it didn’t seem to work. The tiredness, the panting, the struggle, continued. Thursday afternoon he lay down on his bed and slept there until 10 o’clock when T and Nollind came home from an event in the city. And then he slept all night beside their bed, hardly moving. That may seem like normal and appropriate old-dog behaviour, but not for Logan. Only the turmoil in his digestive system finally got him out of bed the next morning.09-Chico-LastRun-bedtime

Despite his failing health, Logan made the trip to let the horses onto the pasture yesterday morning, slow and unsteady and probably painful but he made it … and back again. T or Nollind or sometimes both sat with him all day while he rested on one of his beds or on the deck for a while until he got chilly. The vet came mid-afternoon. It was quick, and quiet, and gentle, like he just went to sleep. Seems it didn’t take a lot to stop an old heart that was already running on fumes. The word euthanasia comes from Greek and means “good death”. I’d have to agree.

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A difficult and emotional day.

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A little deck time.

I’m doing my best to comfort them, fill the space I know they feel. But I can’t of course. Only time will do that. I’ll miss him too, my sniffing, running, snack-sharing buddy, and I’ll always be grateful to him for accepting me as part of his pack, since I know the decision was ultimately his.

Farewell, old friend. I’ll never forget you.

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A fitting resting place in Logie-land.