Death in the Afternoon?

Well hello again everybody. I’m afraid My Muse is still on vacation, but someone has to write a post, so I thought I’d try to manage without its (his? her?) help. Oops… nearly got endlessly distracted by the question of whether my Muse has a gender, and if so, which. After a brief sojourn in the enticing alleys of Googleland, I caught myself disappearing down yet another pointless rabbit hole of procrastination. I suspect the Demon of Distraction is brain-sitting, while My Muse is away.

So let’s see. What can I write about without the assistance of any creative inspiration whatsoever? The lovely September weather? Nature’s Bounty and the plethora of plums and potatoes? The gorgeous cuddly bounciness of the happy, healthy and only surviving Barn Kitten? The glorious Joys of The Simple Life? Nah! Let’s talk about Death.

Death seems to be tip-toeing around the hedges and edges of the Blanchetière menagerie at the moment, debating which of our animal buddies to steal away next. Yesterday, Naughty Chicken (the last of the original Famous Four), was definitely Not Right. I could tell something was amiss when she failed to terrorize me at the garden table, as I partook of a mid-morning snack of salty fat. The chickens love crisps and always circle around (and on) my feet, burbling hopefully whenever the see me eating something from a shiny, rustly junk-food packet. And if I momentarily forget my deep-seated aversion to all things feathery, and actually sit down on a chair, Naughty Chicken instantly closes in, looming ominously through the comfortable boundary of my personal space. And as she prepares to launch her beady-eyed feathersomeness up on to the arm of my seat in a flurry of loathsome flappiness, her pre-flight posturing sends me stumbling hastily away to the chicken-free safety of the house.

But yesterday I found myself happily dropping crisp crumbs to the assembled poultry without feeling unduly harrassed. Naughty was absent from the flock. I looked around and noticed her, plonked pudding-like under the shade of the overgrown weedage that constitutes our front garden. She spent the day flomped and sleepy, not eating and barely moving. She looked just like Other Chicken had looked for the few days before she finally gave up the ghost. And when Naughty retired early to the hen house, and didn’t get up on to her usual roosting spot to sleep, I really thought we’d be finding another ex-chicken on the floor of the house this morning.

But, true to Naughty-Chicken-form, she has rallied, and today is well enough to dispatch arthropods, chase tigers (well, kittens) and intimidate feather-phobics. She lives to fright another day, and once again Death has toddled off into the bushes, empty-handed.

Two days ago, my money was on Old Max – our ancient and gradually-wasting-away Dog of Many Years. He was not able to stand up, let alone go outside of his own accord to use the big-outdoor toilet facilities. He was wheezing and coughing, and generally looking extremely sorry for himself, and yet still managing to be so stroppy that he could not easily be helped without fear of losing a finger or four. When he is like this, Max is my dog. He doesn’t appreciate being bothered and ministered-unto, but he will just about tolerate such intervention from me. Simon doesn’t like to get too physical with him, which is understandable given his unfortunate history of animal bites this year.

Next week I have another children-visiting trip to the UK planned, and Simon was sort of wondering how he would manage with a sick and grumpy Max while I am away. And, given that Max has good days and bad days, but that the bad days are coming around with greater frequency and greater badness, I wondered whether the time might have come to Do Something About It. I suggested to Simon that maybe we should call the vet to come and ‘faire piquer’ Max. He said, “Hmmmmm….. Let me reflect on it for a bit”.

Now, being the lucky person who has the pleasure of trying to hoist a floppy, stroppy and yet-still-surprisingly-heavy Max down the steep steps and outside for a wee in a sort of home-made sling, and the honour of cleaning his bum, legs and tail with baby-wipes when he collapses in his own poo, I have already done quite a lot of reflecting. And when Simon recently discovered the stiff, flat and very stinky body of one of the disappeared dead kittens in the barn, and I happily disposed of it in the bin rather than a specially dug grave, I realised that My Sentiment must be on holiday with My Muse. So wearing my practical head I started to plan Old Max’s demise, so that when Simon had Done Reflecting and reached The Only Sensible Conclusion, we could get on and do the deed in the most efficient manner.

But Max is a Stubborn Old Thing, with a greater understanding of human conversation than we give him credit for. And as we discussed the time and venue of his ‘passing’, and the preparatory digging of his grave, he listened quietly and carefully, and obviously decided that maybe he wasn’t ready to shuffle off his mortal coil just yet, thank you very much. The next morning, when I returned from walking the Young and Lively Hounds, and was mentally preparing to drag Max outside in a bundle of old sheet to empty his bladder, he totally surprised me by getting up of his own accord, tottering down the steps, and emptying both bowel and bladder whilst remaining upright, before managing to get back up the steps unaided to return smuggly to his waiting bed, where he promptly scoffed a whole bowlful of doggy breakfast.

Suddenly the word ‘deadline’ has taken on a new and very literal meaning. Simon and I have decided that, in the light of Max’s surprising remission, we will wait a bit longer before making The Call. But at the back of our minds is the knowledge that a relapse during my imminent absence would leave Simon with the hefty responsibility of having to Make The Call all on his own. Which basically means that any hint of an impending relapse between now and next Thursday will almost certainly result in the fairly swift Ending of Max.

So this a strange time. It leads to inevitable contemplations on the so-called sanctity of life, and of the egocentricity of keeping alive animals that have passed their sell-by date, simply because our ‘ownership’ of them makes them somehow special. In the natural world, Max would have died months ago, as soon as he was unable to get up and find food and water for himself. The holding on to Life, even when that life is full of pain and empty of pleasure is a Very Human Thing, and is, to be frank, just a little odd. Why is it better to wait? To wait for Max to get really ill, and uncomfortable, and to be really suffering, before we decide to put him out of his misery? He will inevitably die, and he will almost certainly die soon. So why are we waiting, just a little bit longer?

Answers on a (black-framed) postcard please….

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4 Responses to Death in the Afternoon?

  1. Chris says:

    Welcome back!

  2. Jane says:

    Because you love him and don’t want to let go. It will be the end of another era.And it’s horrid and you haven’t bought enough tissues yet.

  3. Linda says:

    Reminds me of Norma. She always rallied after the ‘time to go to the vets’ talk and I couldn’t take her because I felt like I was being a murderer! I guess Max will decide when he has had enough!

  4. The One who Is All Seeing And All Knowing says:

    Because you have three choices…
    1. Call the vets and live with being a murderer on your conscience
    2. Let him live or die where he is and end up sharing a house with animal excriment
    3. Continue as you are
    Unconsciously, you are just choosing the logical path of a guilt and cack free life.

    However, on a more serious note, I do feel for you having been there myself more than once. As the old saying goes, you’ll know when it is time.

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