This is Bullie.
Did I ever tell you how he came to be in our lives? An accident, really. A misunderstanding. He was rescued from isolation and loneliness after his owner was suddenly tragically unable to care for him, but his age at the time made the rescue hesitant to put him in a kennel. They put out a call for a soft foster bed for him.
I was close and I'm a sucker. Knowing nothing else about him and secure in my belief that I was going to give an old dog a bed for a couple weeks, I went and picked him up.
My understanding was faulty. My ability to somehow not love a dog is compromised. It didn't take long before we signed the papers and made him ours. After all, we reasoned, he's old. He's too old to get bounced around. He's not showy. He's shy. He'd be overlooked, we worried. He was almost 9 at the time. He's 12 and half now.
We tried giving him regular dog beds, but he prefers this grody pile of blankets, which he digs and kicks and arranges just so before throwing himself down. He's too unsteady now to fluff his own bed, so he'll come get one of us to help now.
He walks down the hallway and peeks into the rooms, looking for a person. When he finds me, he just tilts his head and stares. "I need help with something," he says patiently with his wide, placid brown eyes. "I'll wait here until you figure it out."
He doesn't stand up much any more. I rub him all over, every day, looking for sores or pressure points that might turn into sores. He's a giant dog, almost 30 inches at his shoulder, and now he's thin and frail. It's terrifying to watch him move sometimes. He's like an old man on stilts.
The past couple days have been rough ones for him. He doesn't get up to greet people anymore, though he lifts his head and soaks up whatever attention he gets. He can't move his bowels without falling over, so we've had to devise a sling to help him. His pain medications have been slightly increased and I'm confident he's not in pain.
What do we do? I've held beloved companions in my arms before, as they were released from life. The difference in those scenarios was that there was simply no question. The animals let me know in no uncertain terms: This is the time for me to leave. Bullie isn't being so considerate. The end will come down to a judgment call and I don't feel I am worthy to judge. I'm too selfish.
I want to spare my beautiful old man any more pain. I don't want him to fall and break a leg and end that way. I don't want him scared, I don't want him sad.
But I don't want him to go.