One aspect of my call to ministry is to rescue senior dogs with special needs and provide them with end-of-life care. I rescued Border in late June of 2017. She was ten or eleven years old--sweet, smart, loyal and always ready for an adventure. I obliged: I adopted her in San Diego and three days later tossed her in the car and drove to Tacoma, WA to start a new life.
Those were good days. Border and I did everything together. She came with me on errands, to friends' homes--even to the office every single day. She cared about one thing, and one thing only: being by my side. We were close. Like two peas in a pod. And it's been that way since...up until a few months ago.
Border developed cognitive disorder earlier this year, a condition similar to dementia. What does it look like in dogs, you ask? Dogs with cognitive disorder stare at the wall, get trapped behind open doors (staring out between the hinges with uncertainty as to how to escape), get stuck under furniture like kitchen tables and futons, forget commands, start going to the bathroom in the house, stop playing with their toys, give up sleep for relentless pacing, and--eventually--even forget how to eat or drink. It is heartbreaking to witness, and it becomes a challenge to determine when the end has arrived.
These months have been difficult but the thing I did not anticipate is the almost total transformation of her personality. Where there was once a sweet, snuggly girl, there is now a snarl-faced grump who no longer likes affection. She doesn't allow me to pet her. She doesn't sleep with me. She snaps at me if I get too close. The girl I once knew is gone.
I miss my friend.
All this being said, I feel honored to walk with her as she approaches the end of this life. I give her the best care I can under the circumstances. She gets lots of time outside to sniff all the interestings left behind by passersby. We play a bit of fetch at the park, which she loves though she struggles to track the stick. I hand feed her at mealtime since she usually cannot figure out how to get the food out of the bowl. It's all precious time for she will be gone soon, and I will be left with my broken heart.
Border has been the face of God for me. I pray that now I, too, can be the same for her.