I knew it was coming. Hell, I told you all it was coming.
And yet, part of me still wasn’t ready for what went down on the Fyfe Farm yesterday morning.
But it wasn’t about me at that point.
I helped our sweet, fuzzy Springer Spaniel, Cleo across the Rainbow Bridge.
It was Time.
And there really was no question about it, even though I would have loved for Alistair to have enjoyed the world with her in it one more time. For that matter, I would have much preferred if he was here with me as I laid in the living room by the wood stove with her.
Sometimes the question of ‘when’ is more challenging and it certainly has been over the years with a couple of the pets but yesterday when Cleo cried out when I helped her to her feet for her morning piddles and then kept crying when I tried to help her walk using a towel under her belly I knew things had changed dramatically.
She had run up to the house when I brought her in the evening before and she pranced around grabbing up the cat food dishes like always. She went outside before bed and everything was as normal as it had been for our aging canine companion.
I mean, normal has changed a lot the last several months if not years.
Cleo was almost 17 years old, as far as we know. That was her first problem.
She was also completely deaf, was beginning to lose her eyesight, had arthritis and back legs that just didn’t do what they were supposed to, and had a heart murmur that almost rivalled Loki’s.
Well, no… you could hear Loki’s murmur from across the bed.
I think Cleo’s murmur is what kept her from wanting to go on our long walks, or even the first-length-of-the-driveway walks the past couple of weeks.
My attitude had remained, though, that if she was eating & drinking, peeing & pooping, and wagging her bushy tail at us then who was I to step in? We had her on anti-inflammatories for her old body and we helped her onto the couch or our bed and things seemed to be going along just fine.
Until Friday morning.
She did eventually go out and managed to piddle in the snow but once she came back in she didn’t bother with her kitchen routine or anything she usually did.
She laid/fell down and remained there for what turned out to be the rest of her life.
I called her Daddy in North Dakota and we talked and I gave her her Rimadyl and she ate it right up. I laid down next to her and spooned her like we’ve done for so many years together with my left arm draped over her side.
And I got up and cleaned the cat litter and put the cat food dish down and emailed Lynnie and lost my shit completely and got dressed and looked out at the blizzard and got a pillow and laid back down with Cleo again.
She slept a little bit but she never, ever tried to get up again.
She never thumped her tail.
She was basically done with her ancient canine body and definitely gave me a “look” the one time she lifted her head and sort of sat in a semi-sternal position when I was sitting in front of her.
Okee dokee, then.
Cleopatra Cassiopeia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe was as stubborn as she was beautiful and charming. Once her mind was made up, that was it.
I called Alistair one more time to let him know I was going ahead and he heard me blubber a little bit as I signed off. I had already brought my little bag of tricks into the living room and after some more cuddling Doctor Mummy gave Cleo her sedative.
I swear it took less than a minute for her to be completely out. She was ready for a much deserved long rest.
Cleo had many great adventures in her however many years on the planet as a Fyfe. For starters, she lived most of those years in Montana, which is a dog’s dreamland.
We hiked and roamed the US Forest Service behind our house for miles and miles with her buddies. Casey would usually stick with Harry. Harry would sometimes take off after UB. Cleo generally did her own thing, digging holes, burying things, occasionally finding her own deer shed or two.
She Furry Scurried and entered Agility trials and the Dog Show at the annual Dog Days of Summer and she was a regular guest at the veterinary clinic because she loved her Lynnie and she was a very good dog when she was there.
She also got to see Fireman Frank and her favorite delivery man, Matt sometimes when she came to the clinic. She even surprised all of us when she leapt up into the big brown UPS truck when Matt left the door open one time.
Cleo generally roamed the clinic freely during the day- a clinic dog as opposed to a clinic cat. When a client brought her squirming, squeaking, teensy box full of Schipperke puppies and put them on the examining table Cleo stood up on her back legs and had a look of wonderment on her face. Maternal instinct? Perhaps. She did lick our guinea pig, Cadbury until she was soaking wet when she got into their room one time. (The alternate theory is that she was trying to taste her.)
Cleo travelled well and eagerly jumped into our vehicles when it was time for a road trip. She seemed quite content for the 10 or 11 hours it took us to drive to Bismarck with UB and Loki on board, too.
If I was alone with all 3 of them it was probably hilarious watching me handle them on leashes when we stopped for piddle breaks. Fyfe dogs generally don’t know how to walk on leashes (although Cleo turned it on during the Furry Scurry walkathons. Casey… not so much.) (Don’t ask my dad about that.)
Before long Cleo would be wrapped around UB while UB was wrapped around my legs. It was an effort to keep them from banging into blind Loki during those rest stops but we always survived and off we would go back onto the road again.
All of these memories and so many more were in my mind as I spooned her again as she sedated.
I told her all of the things that needed to be said.
I told her that she was loved.
That we were the lucky ones when she showed off all her tricks at my first veterinary clinic right out of vet school in 2005 when she was brought in to be put down by Animal Control after they found her because she was aggressive. (Brilliant, yes. Aggressive? No.)
I told her Uncle Gary and Aunty Dona were hoping to see her again and that she would happy to know I got those unsightly matts off of Bebe’s back leg. I told her how happy she made all of our house guests from Uncle Danny’s kids to Aunty Merielle and that she was a most excellent hiking companion.
And a flood of memories of us berry picking or riding with UB in Steve or digging for Easter Bunnies filled my hearts and a flood of tears that came from my very soul gushed out of my eyes and onto the carpet and pillow behind her head.
And I pictured her gang greeting her again across the Rainbow Bridge with youthful bodies that matched their fabulous spirits.
UB would be first, most likely. He would race up to her and they would leap and jump in their spaniel way and he wouldn’t cough at all because his lungs are clear now and her legs are strong again.
Then Loki would come crashing in but not because she was blind anymore. Cleo would most likely comment on Loki’s nice eyes and the 3 members of my little “black and white gang” who followed me around for 2 full years together would have a moment of their own.
Until Casey would literally crash in because he did everything at 150 mph and his laryngeal folds would be totally fine so there would be no raspy breathing or hacking. Harry, of course, would be spinning Louies in his extreme excitement at seeing the beautiful Princess once again. I wondered if he would pee on her head again but you know, he still is Harry.
These thoughts make me happy despite feeling empty inside. Even though it was the absolute necessary and correct thing to do for miss Cleo. Even though her body was done.
The routine is different.
I didn’t go and get her after the ferrets had been put back to bed last night. I didn’t make a point to get up and let her out this morning.
And right now, as the daylight is darkening, I’m not thinking, “Gee, I need to get Cleo out for a walk and get her and the barn kitties fed.”
Well, no, actually. I did think that as I was typing a few minutes ago. I keep thinking there is something I have to do.
I already did what had to be done.
And Cleopatra is at peace. And you know what? So are we.
I’m glad it was on my shift at home and not Alistair’s by himself or one of our Jessica or Lynn house-sitters.
I’m glad we didn’t have company.
And as glad as I am to have the skill set that I have that allowed me to neuter D’embe last week, I’m glad Cleo could continue to lay where her body told her to.
Her lilting southern accent and slight lisp will still talk to us just as much as Spirit of Loki and Spirit of UB do and I’m already able to laugh at some of the goofy stuff she would do.
Like the bloody “mouse” she had in her mouth that turned out to NOT be a mouse or when she, Harry and Casey were getting to know each other (“There will be NO GANG BANGS on the FYFE FARM!”) or the time she kept trying to shove my head under water in the hot tub. Walks with Angie and Kali make me smile and seeing her snuggle up with Alistair when she first came onto our farm or watching her love up on all of the barn kitties are precious memories.
Indeed, we were the lucky ones when she chose to stick around and join our motley crew of misfits.
You are in our hearts forever, miss Cleo. Clee Clee. Cleopatra-siz.
RIP, old friend. Thanks for sharing the journey with us.