Old age sucks. And while it certainly could be, this post isn’t about me, but rather two long-term residents of Last Move Farm. And today was the day that effing old age and infirmity were finally defeated, and they were—as we have come to refer to it—‘adopted by God.’
Suzuki was a fixture, and I know it will hit me full force, much like this Polar Vortex -20 degree wind in my face, when I look around and my barn shadow is not there. She has joyously and sincerely greeted my clients (the 2-leggeds and their 4-legged children) upon their arrival for over 14 years now. She truly loved everyone—people, dogs, cats—it made no matter to her. It’s hard to picture, but Suzuki was a hugger. For a dog, that’s kind of a hard thing to be, but she would wrap her front legs around the legs of anyone who stood still long enough, sweetly requesting a pat on the head, scratch behind the ear or—if she was really in luck—a full-fledge belly rub. She was long ago dubbed the Official Greeter of Last Move Farm, and she took her job very seriously. Two little girls, Miss Aeden and Miss Embry, whose dogs came here to board and be groomed were favorites of hers. And while her “given” name—given by my son—was Suzuki, she was called by a few more: Suzy, Zukes and (my personal favorite, bestowed by my granddaughter when she was too tiny to get her words out straight—Lazewski. That one stuck.
We were never sure of Suzuki’s age, as my son found her on the side of the road. Forlorn and alone, he drove past her for three days as she sat in the same spot rain or shine, no doubt waiting and watching for the person who dumped her there to come back. My then high-school aged son, whose heart for animals is as soft as his head, scooped her up and brought her home knowing that it wouldn’t be a problem as that’s just how our family rolls with animals in need.
We took her in to have her spayed, and much to our delight found that she had already been altered. When the vet asked where we got the Plott Hound, I had no idea what she was talking about. But Google to the rescue, that is apparently what she was. A hunting dog, bred to hunt bears in Appalachia. I’m just guessing here, but if hunting was what she was bred for, that may be what got her dumped. The sight of a gun, or worse, the noise from one (or thunder, fireworks, etc.) sent her flying to bury herself beneath anything—ANYTHING—where she felt she was invisible.
Suzuki didn’t like the indoors much at all, preferring to stay on the porch inside her insulated igloo where she could keep abreast of comings and goings. Her best buddy Buddy, and little buddy Prissy have both passed on—Prissy from effing old age and Buddy as the direct result of his obsession with defending me from a neighbor who he was certain was out to get his person.
But as effing old age crept up, Suzuki began to spend more and more nights in the house, curled up by the fire. Over the past several weeks, she struggled to get up and down, and on many days could barely lift her head off the floor. Other days, (the good ones) it was as if she hadn’t a care in the world and she would come to the barn, apologizing it seemed for the ‘sick days’ when she had to call in.
Sparkle the cat, the Grande Dame of Last Move Farm, came to us from out of a drain pipe in the front yard, another victim of dumpage. She was found by my daughter which explains how she came to have that name. It is hard for me to believe, but counting birthdays as we do for Thoroughbreds, Sparkle turned 20 on January 1st. By and large, Sparkle gave the middle finger to effing old age and death on more than one occasion and most recently last February, when Jerry accidently backed over her in the dark one morning. We were certain that this was curtains for Sparkle, but indeed it was not. She rallied once more, and though she looked as if she had been dead and buried and dug up again, she made it another year. Over the past month, along the same timeline as her good friend Suzuki, she started to struggle in earnest. Most of her time was spent sleeping, but on fairer weather days I made her go outside to get some sunshine. She would oblige, curling up underneath the family room window where she would peer in and scratch at the screen when she’d had enough of the great outdoors.
My vet always says “You will know.” I will know when it is just finally too cold, too hard and too tiring. I will know when the pain and effing old age are just too much. Yesterday morning, Suzuki came to me while I was working and sat down beside my chair to stare a whole in me. I continued typing and tried to ignore her and finish the paragraph. Normally when this happens, it simply means it’s time for breakfast. This time, I knew. I knew the pain was too much, and I slid down on the floor to sit with Suzuki for a little while. And she hugged me tight and I knew, because she told me in no uncertain terms.
“Ok,” I said, and sent a text to the vet.
So today was the day. The good doctor kindly made a house call, so that I Suzuki and Sparkle never had to leave their home. They just went to sleep one last time, right there together and gave effing old age a collective middle finger.