A friend wrote about staying up the night to take care of his recuperating furry child, post surgery.
It has been well over a year now; that both my husband and I, and our Man Friday, have not slept for full nights. On a good night, we might catch about four and a half hours. On a bad night, we manage to get about two. In between, there are nights when we get up every hour to see whether he wants to relieve himself or has that urge to walk in circles. He, in this equation, is our precious fur son who has lit up our lives for the last decade and a half.
You see; our 15 and a half-year-old Labrador Son suffers from an acute case of Cognitive Dysfunction Disorder. The complications of this Syndrome force him to circle and pace and pant and stay restless most of his waking hours; which are now increasing more than the sleep time. The Syndrome also becomes severe during the night; but we also have been noticing that with each passing day, it is taking over even the day time.
And then, like in the case of elderly loved ones, our baby's motions are erratic. There are a million Piku moments in the course of the day - yes, the film that had constipation and its tentacled impact on normal living as the central character. We clap and rejoice at each smooth passing of both bodily secretions that tell us that the aging body is still performing to its optimal best.
Our Man Friday hand feeds our Son. The Husband still brushes him each morning, even if it is with the baby lying down on the bed. The periodic baths happen too. I make sure that his eyes, ears, mouth and rear are clean. I brush his teeth every Sunday. I am, forever, on the lookout for lumps, sores, slow-healing wounds. My babies, mercifully, have never had an issue with ticks and worms.
What has stopped are walks in the park or around the house. But we make sure that every time a guest visits us; our child is greeted with as much enthusiasm as he was given to greet everybody. A Labrador’s wild, tail-wagging, smiley face greeting is a joy to behold, as any pet parent will tell you.
Slowly the treats are either not being enjoyed as they were (difficulty in chewing, handling bones and other chewies fast becoming major concerns) or are changing form. We now bring miniature chicken biscuits for our Son who could grate and sharpen his teeth on biggest bones in his younger days.
It is said that the older you get, the more you go back to your childhood ways. So it is with Pasha Baba. Since he has always slept with us on the master bed, we and he will have it no other way even now. Our bonny Master sleeps on Macintosh sheets made warm with a fluffy towel. He gets to use his baby blue, extra soft blankets that we had got especially for him from the Hills. We have become pros at inventing the use of Pampers for pet children, thanks to our Son's immediate and erratic needs.
We wipe his mouth, every time he eats or drinks water. These days water trickles down the sides of his mouth, wetting his lower jaw and leading to skin infections in the area. So we pat it dry after every drink with his own velvety face towels and apply a skin ointment each time I see the silky golden-white hair give way to black patches. We clean his paws with soft cloths and his "Tutu" or “tush” if you please, with cotton. You know, he could do all this with utmost ease when he was young. But now, when he finds it a task to lick clean the difficult to reach areas, he has us - his parents - to take care of him.
There was a time, not so long back when the thought of getting back home from the office or anywhere else was filled with the joy and anticipation of being welcomed by our over-enthusiastic fur babies. Today, he may not jump and prance and express his joy in a physical expression, but his eyes speak volumes, as does the curling up of his mouth in half a smile and the way he rests his badly fibrillating head against my chest.
In his younger days, our fur son looked after us, watching over his house with utmost attention. He didn’t like strangers crossing the front gate. He, with his own devices, would not let harm come our way. He guarded us, played away stress that we experienced, was the perfect walking companion and boy, did he bring in such extended moments of merriment into the house with his antics and adorable actions. Today, there has been a role reversal of sorts. I shoo away any fear he may feel of the inexplicable symptoms by clinching him in a tight, warm embrace. I brush off the fly even before he begins to flap his ear. We joke with him and talk to him and sing him a familiar song (there were several compositions we had created for our babies, remakes of known ditties that we would sing to them) to assure him that all is well with his fast disappearing world.
Fifteen and a half is a very unkind age for a pet child; just as a 95 or a 100 is to a human. Regardless of how good a life you may have had and however healthy you might have been, the ravages of time and the toll it would have taken on your body and mind begin to come to the fore in the most ungainly fashion. The walk becomes a limp before arthritis takes over any form of stable movement. You drop more food than you manage to gulp in. Even chewing seems like an onerous task. The daily ablutions and the need to pass out excretions is a whole together different mountain that you are wary of but must laboriously climb day after day after day.
We have always been very particular of the food we fed to our babies. Nothing but the best passed our litmus test. Now, we need to be all the more mindful; so it is a special Renal Diet that is imported into the country by Royal Canin from France mixed with a home-cooked meal of Chicken breast mince, porridge and rotis. Upset tummy and flatulence is something that we have to frequently contend with. And yes, the mini meal of medicines that needs to be fed to him on a daily basis, four times a day to ensure as pain and discomfort free life as we possibly can.
Still, his presence in our lives, the big bag of past memories and current experiences, his positivity and unconditional love for us more than makes up for anything we may endeavour to do, to make his twilight years just that bit better.
Till the time we have together, here’s to many more of sleepless nights, missing of heartbeats each time something goes awry with him and a million prayers shot up to seek a trouble free end of time for our beautiful Son.
May we continue to share each life with you as a familyfamily; if there are six more births to come back in! And may we meet you over the Rainbow Bridge to play and bound around the heavenly grounds beyond the pearly gates.