Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My constant companion

“Just pee in this cup,” I say to Bear as I follow her off the deck in the gray light of early dawn. Clad in pajamas and welly boots I hold my housecoat closed tight around my neck with one hand while pinching the lip of an empty yoghurt container between the fingers and thumb of my other hand, ready at any moment to position it when Bear squats.

She glances at me over her shoulder and walks a little farther away across the open patch of ground to the right of the deck where she pees every morning and night.

“Why are you following me?” her eyes ask. And then she can’t wait any longer, and I slide the cup underneath and catch it all. It is easy. I can’t believe I laid awake part of the night on my makeshift bed on the kitchen floor listening to the clock tick on the wall and Bear breathe soundly in her sleep wondering what I would do if I didn’t get a sample for her vet appointment the next morning. But it is done and we return to the house for breakfast.

The cats have already moved in, sprawling on the soft blanket covering my sleeping bag that stretches the length of the couch cushions that are jammed together on the floor. I have slept there for the past five nights, right beside Bear’s bed so I can wake with her in the night and let her out for a pee.

We started finding the puddles right after her medication was increased following her latest seizure. “It must be a side effect,” I insisted, not really wanting it to be anything else. But this didn’t happen last time, this inability to go more than two hours without having to pee, and not just a little bit, great clear pools that were obviously too much for Bear to hold back. Last time, when the medication was first started, Bear was unsteady on her feet and always falling down, her hips hitting the floor with a heart-wrenching thud.

But this time I imagined her pacing around the house in a panic when we weren’t there or were sleeping soundly in our bedroom on the third floor up a flight of stairs too difficult for the dogs, and Bear in her desperation just having to pee where she stood in the living room or the kitchen or right in front of the door in the entryway. My heart hurt thinking about her embarrassment. So I moved into the kitchen beside her bed and resolved to be with her all the time.

At the vet later that morning Bear tells off a young dog who tries to intimidate her in the waiting room and then somehow gets tangled around a wire bookshelf. She pushes her way behind my chair, hides behind my legs and gives everyone the saddest face possible. But we’re told her blood work looks good and her urine sample is clean and we narrow her problem down to a couple of options, the most likely of which is a side effect of the medication, and we’re given a different medication to try in conjunction with the first.

It will take time for the medications to balance out and for the side effects to hopefully diminish, but for now I will sleep beside her in the kitchen at night and wake up every few hours to let her out, and I will take her to work with me every morning – which at the moment is a horse barn, perfect for a dog with a curious nose – and in between times she will snooze on her bed beside me while I work at the computer, or lay in the grass when I drink tea on the deck. The only time she and I will not be together is when I take Murdoch out for long romps in the woods and each time we will return to find her lying behind the door, waiting.

I am so lucky to have all this time with her, to spend my days with her like the way it was in the beginning when Morgan and Bear and I were on the road travelling with our tent and our canoes before we came to Thunder Bay, before the cats and before Murdoch and Max and Quincy, when it was all Bear all the time. And I think about how time isn’t flying now because I don’t have a million places to be. And I think about how great Bear looks and how she still loves her food and how she skips down the path to the car every day. And I think about the Buddhist philosophy that says things are neither good nor bad, they just are.


  1. Having a dog who is aging/ailing sure is not easy, as I know all too well. The important thing is to enjoy and appreciate the time we have with them, even if that time is getting up in the middle of the night to catch pee in a yogurt container! You are clearly doing just that, and Bear is lucky to have someone who cares for her so devotedly. Paws crossed that the adjustments to her meds will have the desired effect.

    1. Thanks for the kind words and the crossed paws! Bear makes it easy to be completely devoted to her, she's pretty awesome.

    2. Awe bear, we here at emptynesters hope you feel tip top soon!