An Ode to Roxy

5 October 2018

Roxy is slowly dying. We had known for a year that she has heart failure, but that's been effectively managed with medication. Three weeks ago we were alarmed by the rapid fall-off of weight, although she was still pretty sprightly in her mannerisms and behavior. But then two weeks ago she began to withdraw a little. Mobility was noticeably compromised and intermittent vomiting emerged as a new and debilitating issue.

Roxy is our Jack Russell terrier. She has been my constant companion for fifteen years. As terriers are, she was eternally curious, engaging and full of beans. Almost always on the prowl. No rat or lizard escaped her acute sensory apparatus and lethal follow-up motor action. And when it came to her needs, she was persistently persuasive to the point of annoyance. But invariable we succumbed. For me personally, her busyness and hyperactivity was an inspiration in a strange sort of way.

Almost without exception I was welcomed home after a demanding day at the office by Roxy whose short tail wagged at supersonic speeds and with a smile on her face (I kid you not – that jaw truly contorted into a smile!) And every morning on leaving for work Roxy would sit immobile and gaze at me with those dark eyes knowing that I’d be away for most of the day.

Roxy was my household chore assistant (apprentice or ‘appie’, as they are referred to in this part of the world). Whether I was painting, stripping some machine or doing some woodwork, she would take up her vantage position and stay with me until the job was done. The only time she couldn’t position herself close to the coal-face was when I did the roof repairs (dangling from a rope midway down a tall A-frame!). Then there was the time that I needed to fill in the crack in the swimming pool with a putty that could be applied under water. So I donned my old diving suite (just managing to pull the neoprene over my now extended midriff!), secured the mask and snorkel, filled a plastic bag with bricks (to weigh me down) and proceeded with the job. I only had enough endurance for twenty to thirty seconds under water at a time. As I ran out of breath I would release the bricks and shoot up to the surface for desperately needed air. As I breached the surface and sucked in the air, there was Roxy peering over the edge of the pool at this strange individual who had seemingly lost his mind. This ritual continued for the better part of an hour with about ten to twenty ‘descents’.

The later part of Sunday afternoons was always dedicated to walking the dogs in the park without their leashes. As soon as Roxy sensed that we were about to prepare for the walk, she would become hyperactive and bark. The pending walk was confirmed by us putting on our walking shoes and hats or caps, which was met with cacophonous excitement.

Last Sunday Roxy never barked before the walk. Her tail wagged a little and she seemed to regain a little more enthusiasm in the environment. But her walking pace had fallen off drastically. She was unable to keep up with us. I was forced to pick her up and carry her for most of the way. Every now and then I’d put her down near some other dogs, but her interest was only vaguely engaging. It was then that I had the sudden realization that that was to be her last walk in the park.

Throughout the week Roxy has become more and more sleepy and disengaged from us and from the environment. She now has great difficulty in climbing one or two stairs. She has become severely emaciated and can no longer eat any meaningful amounts of food. Myself and my wife are taking turns to carry Roxy out on to the garden so that she can attend to her needs. We’re also hydrating her as best as we can. We have decided not to subject her to invasive veterinary investigations nor radical interventions.

But clearly the life is sapping rapidly out of her. It leaves me gutted as I behold the demise of this small being that has been such an integral part of my life for so long. Peripherally I’m aware of the physiology that is becoming unstuck and of the great philosophies of life and death that I have read, studied and written about. But right now my overwhelming emotion is one of pending loss and grief. No great scientific facts nor philosophies nor spirituality can adequately compensate for this state. I am savoring all that I can of the life that remains - to perhaps project it a little into the near future when it will be no more. But then I resign myself to the inevitability of its finality after which it will be but a memory with many others.

Right here right now we can only be with her, accept all that was, which now has ended and provide comfort and presence to ease her passing. Life will continue in its inexorable way, sans one unique little creature who was so loved and who enjoyed an all too brief a sojourn in our midst.

(Died 3rd October 2018 - R.I.P)


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