Extra Time

Ray woke me up in Ojai this morning with the words, “I took Sammie outside and she pooped twice. She’s up and walking around.”

“That’s great,” I said, “but we’re going to follow through with our plan. I can’t take another day of mourning like yesterday.”

“Let’s just talk to the vet and see how much time she thinks it’ll be before Sammie’s in pain.”

I could see the strain in his face, but couldn’t conceive of prolonging the inevitable. I weighed whether this was a moment when I needed to just say, “No, this is what we’re doing.”

“Come look at her walking around. She looks pretty good.”

I got up and stood at the door. Sammie was sauntering around – stumbling a bit, but definitely walking – and nearby was the clear evidence that her bowels had once again become functional. “Her pain is coming soon,” I said.

“But she’s fine at least for now.”

“It’s just a matter of time.”

“But it’s not today.”

I didn’t know what to do. I’d spent all day yesterday preparing to say good-bye to Sammie at 9:15 this morning. I offered up a silent prayer. “Guide me, Father,” then forced myself to reach over and rub Ray’s back.

He relaxed a bit. “It’s just that if she’s not in pain, I’d rather slow the process down just a little.”

I thought of how kind he had been about my beloved schnauzer, Winnie, who was 17-years-old, smelly and staring off into corners long before I was ready to make the decision to put her down. “We won’t do anything until you’re ready,” he had said, and stood by his word.

I took a breath, then repeated those words back to him.

Relief flooded into his face. “Are you really okay with that?”

“I’m okay.”

“If she starts showing pain – even this afternoon – then we can take her right then.”

“Let’s just take it as is comes,” I said. “That’s what we’ll do.”

We are back in LA now. Sammie has been walking slowly around the house. She’s peed a couple of times outside. Now she’s upstairs with Ray and Cordelia getting settled for the night.

So there you go. Life is definitely not black and white; right and wrong. There are moments when what seems like the right thing to do suddenly feels as if it’s the absolute wrong thing to do. Today was one of those days for Ray.

As for me, I have to admit that I’m glad Sammie’s still around. Having sat beside several deathbeds over the years, I am aware that death is a waiting game. I also know that often that extra time can be the most precious of all.

As for today, Sammie remains with us. We’ll face tomorrow when it comes.


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