Faithful readers may have noticed an abrupt decline in output since December 2013. The problem started on July 8, of that year – a date that has etched itself onto my memory (believe me that’s hard at my age). On that fateful dark and stormy day, the rain came down for hours apparently creating a new one-day rainfall record. Comparisons to Hurricane Hazel were aired in the media but the difference between the two events is put into perspective here. Our latest big storm while significant for its intensity, was relatively tame when compared to Hazel in 1954.
Anyway, I digress. At the height of the storm, our power went out and after a while, I trotted down to the basement to dig out a radio to find out what was happening. One’s subconscious is an amazing thing – it monitors thoughts and sensations without judgement and leaves it to the conscious brain to make sense of it. While descending the stairs and trying to remember where the radio was; gently nudging my brain were the following sensations: darkness, the sound of rain outside, running water inside(!), a musty smell(!) – none of which registered until I hit the bottom of the stairs and I stepped into several centimetres of flowing water and sewage. Gritting my teeth and squelching through the dark with a flashlight, several floor drains were found to be the source, gushing sewage with considerable force. Luckily, our basement is at ground level at the back so I was able to open a door and allow the smelly effluent an ungraceful exit.
Needless to say, the volume of rain had swamped the combined sanitary and storm sewer system resulting in several flooded basements in our neighbourhood and in neighbourhoods across the city. The sheer number of people affected overwhelmed insurance companies along with mitigation and construction contractors. It took us two days to get someone out to begin the clean-up process. Adjusters were brought in from Texas – they proved to be useless and eventually (after a great deal of arm-twisting) it took a Canadian adjuster to approve a fair settlement which we received in October. All the basement flooring had to be removed along with drywall to a height of about 3 feet. In addition, we decided to go the extra mile and renovate the rest of the house. We packed everything into boxes as if we were moving and stored the boxes in the garage and bathrooms. Work commenced in December and was completed by the end of February 2014. While the work was under way, we rented a cottage on Lake Erie near the charming town of Dunnville.
Our frail and elderly bulldog Mugsey managed to injure himself on the first day at the cottage and required nursing and emergency vet visits (think All Creatures Great and Small where they’re quite comfortable treating horses and cattle). He never really recovered and after an operation to remove some tumours in March, the vet discovered that he had spondylosis and a mass by his neck that seemed to be paralyzing him gradually. by June, he was unable to walk more than a few steps and his stomach had become bloated with gas. My wife and I made the horrible decision to put him down on June 16 as it became harder to blunt his pain and other than food and treats, he was unable to be Mugsey.
We had lived with Mugsey for over 11 years. He was an incredible, intelligent and (usually) happy boy who lived for his daily hour-long walks in the park. He provided moral support and comfort to my wife through her prolonged illness and when word got out that his life was ending, some of his greatest fans came to bid him a fond farewell. Gorging himself on previously forbidden treats he was petted and caressed one last time before his final drive to the vet. Even though he was in terrible shape and in pain despite lots of Gabapentin, he knew by gestures (he had become totally deaf in the previous year) that it was time for one last car ride. He tottered unsteadily to his feet and waited for his lifejacket to be fastened. This device with its carrying handles at the top had helped us many times to get his 80lb bulk up and down steps and into the car.
There are moments of crystal clarity when events are seared into the memory. Walking from the car to the vet’s office that last time is one of those. The late afternoon sun shone brightly and people passed us, getting on with their lives, oblivious to the final minutes of Mugsey’s life. In my head was the unsettling thought, ‘I’m going to kill my pet’, yet the world didn’t know or seem to care. He sniffed the usual spots along the way and once inside, plonked himself on a blanket in the vet’s office (as he had done many times for laser treatments) and lay quietly on his side keeping an eye on me to make sure that I was still there with him. The act of betrayal pressed heavily on me as I lay beside him and second-guessed our decision. Bravely, he didn’t flinch as the vet needed a couple of tries to find a vein in his back leg that would carry the fatal injection. I kissed his head and gave him one last hug goodbye and he let out an enormous sigh as tranquillizer was released into his bloodstream. At that moment it seemed as if he could now stop holding it all together and drop the burden of pain and discomfort he had endured for so long. He became deeply unconscious and on the vet’s persistent advice, I left, as the final injection, while painless can produce a reaction in the form of movements that are distressing to owners. The walk back to the empty car without him was one of profound sadness, guilt and relief.
The house seemed empty for months afterwards. Even now, I catch myself thinking that he’s on the couch in the basement ready to snooze while we watch TV.
So anyway, this cathartic little posting is why it’s been quiet lately and I hope to begin walks in the park anew without our boy. We still miss him horribly. It won”t be the same without him.