And now Zippy is gone. Which I’d been worried about: his body had been slowly falling apart for years now, and it wasn’t at all clear to me that we’d know when to make the decision that the time had come. (Zippy’s decline pattern was very different from Yosha’s.) But on Tuesday, my subconscious was sending me strange signals, and when I got home and looked at Zippy, it was clear that he’d gotten a lot worse over the previous few days. He wasn’t miserable yet, but we didn’t want to wait until he was either in constant pain or completely unable to walk, and neither of those was too far away. And indeed he got worse on both fronts between Tuesday and today; I’m glad we didn’t put this off for another week.
Even at the end, he was the sweetest person I’ve ever known. It’s been wonderful being with him over the last seventeen years, seeing what changed and what stayed the same. When we were living in Somerville, he was always very mere; and throughout their shared life he was always quite happy with Yosha being the dominant dog in that relationship. But when we moved out here and Miranda was born, Zippy got another purpose in life, and developed a little more backbone: it was his job to help raise the new puppy.
Yosha’s death was very hard on Zippy for a couple of months: Yosha was the love of his life, and Zippy had never spent more than a few hours in a row apart from Yosha since he was three months old. (And he would go for months, maybe years, without even that happening.) So he spent a lot of time hiding away in the darkest caves that he could find: underneath sofas had always been one of his favorite places to spend time, but he got more creative for a little while. Fortunately, as he got older, he also got tougher: when he was younger, the slightest twinge would set him yowling, asking to be taken to the vet, but when his body really started to go wrong, he held up amazingly well. He was blind and mostly deaf for the last couple of years, and the Cushing’s meant that he wasn’t very steady on his back limbs and that he was achy, but he stayed in remarkably good spirits the whole time.
Liesl found a mat that helped Zippy stand up in the kitchen; that made a big difference. And glucosamine kept the worst of his achiness under control. Over the last four or so months I’ve only slept through the night a couple of times, because he would wake me up with aches and/or a need to pee, but it was manageable. He wasn’t moving a lot, mostly wanting to cuddle with us or hang out in known spots (or to eat human food, which he could do a lot more after Yosha died), but he was happy.
But those problems also made it clear that the end was approaching; and now it has come. He will be missed very much, but it was clearly the right decision. And I’m sure that we’ll get other dogs in the future, but not just yet: I’d like to remind myself what life is like without having to always make sure that we’ll be home at appropriate times to look after dogs, so we can find out what parts of that life we want to make sure to preserve. And when we do get new dogs, we’ll be very lucky if they’re as wonderful as Yosha and Zippy were.
This post has not been revised since publication.