No, I won’t say (nor think) that it was the dog’s FAULT… because I don’t think that he intended to die. But he did. And that’s how it all started.
His name was Sindbad and he was getting old. He was my parents’ dog.
They had lost dogs before, and each time, Dad seemed to have permanently moved onto the couch, not wanting to do anything anymore, grieving, depressed.
Dad has fought depression his whole life, but when there was a dog around, he would at least get himself off the couch (which is “depression headquarters“…) once a day and walk the dog for almost an hour. It was good for his body and mind.
When my parents were “between dogs,” Dad would sit in his black-cloud-headquarters and feel horrible. He would get fat, too.
When my parents had a dog, Dad would get busy: walking the dog, fixing stuff, even fixing stuff that didn’t need fixing. A dog has also a social function, since the “dog people” meet on their walks, which are often at the same time in the same place. They exchange a few words, first, and more and more over time. They become almost friends, and their dogs, too.
Dad would eat less sweets and get more exercise. If and when he put on some pounds anyways (sneaking candy when Mom didn’t look…, and to the dog, too) he would start diets every so often, and put the dog on a diet, too.
But this time was worse: when Sindbad died, my parents were sure not to get another dog. They were 79 and 82 years old now and felt that they couldn’t handle a dog anymore. Also (ever so optimistic and positive) they figured that they might die soon, and felt that it wouldn’t be fair to a dog. Their dogs had taken a lot of space in their hearts and were almost treated like children.
So Dad took over the couch, and his black cloud took over the house pretty soon. A year later he had a massive heart attack and, after a couple of days in ICU, he passed away, in 2009, without ever regaining consciousness.
It was a terrible shock for my mother. Not only had she lost her husband of over 50 years, but she was now practically blind and there were many things that she could not do on her own. She couldn’t drive a car, couldn’t go places, couldn’t buy groceries, couldn’t read the writing on the knobs of her laundry machine…
None of her 3 kids lived nearby (especially not me who lived thousands of miles away).
She was the prisoner of her house, and of her memories, and she was very sad, every day from dawn to dusk.
After only a few months she had a stroke, doubtlessly brought upon her by her daily stress and grief. Luckily, the “meals on wheels” person found her. She had an emergency button with her, but she couldn’t press it because her one arm was paralyzed by the stroke, and she was laying on top of the other one and couldn’t move.
My Mom could never return and live in her home again. She was in the hospital for months, and needed to go to a nursing home after that. She needed too much medical attention throughout the day for my sister to handle. I would have liked to get her to come over here, and live with us. But it would have been impossible – me living in the USA – because of a different language, because of healthcare insurance, and because of the sheer distance to be covered. She passed away about 18 months after her husband, in 2010.
It all started with the dog….
… and it still makes me sad that I was unable to see either one before they died.