Coming Home

I’m just back from 10 days away from home, which is a bit longer than I like to stay away. One of the best parts of going away is to experience the welcome home I get from Clancy, our dog. His ritual begins with energetic barking as his salutation, and then develops into a speeding race past me, his white fur hurled back by the wind. He circles the coffee table, runs through the living room, and loops into the dining room. His excitement seems uncontainable and this is his way to express it, and run it off. As he swishes by me, he might pause for a second for me to pet him, but then he’s off again, because apparently the dance isn’t done.                                                                                                          

But this time, he didn’t give me his full version. There was the barking and the stopping for a petting, but circling the West highland Terrierfurniture wasn’t part of his choreography. This told me that he wasn’t quite himself, which I knew from the reports I got while I was away. It was actually when we came home a month or so ago that we first noticed his belly was distended, like he was pregnant, which isn’t possible for a neutered male dog. Tests revealed that he has a problem with his liver that is causing him to hold fluids. He’s been on a diuretic but I noticed, having not seen him for a while, that his condition had worsened.

We now know that what he has cannot be cured, only managed for an unspecified time, like many diseased that people get. It’s hard to get that news, and to look forward to his having some of the same difficulties our son Ken had before he died 15 years ago today. One difference is that, within the limitations of his disease, we will have the say about when and how Clancy’s life will end. So far, he’s eating and pooping, he’s still interested in going for walks and in the other dogs he meets along the way. But when that is no longer the case, our pack, which is what we have become these past 8 years, will have to let go of one of our own. And though I dread the time when it will be necessary, I am grateful that we can insure that he goes peacefully into that goodnight.

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