Tuesday, May 15, 2012
And from that day to this, Tish rarely left my side. She was a shy girl who didn't mix well with crowds of people. In that way, I guess, we were a perfect fit.
On the day I met Tish, Sue mentioned that from the time she'd ventured outdoors, Tish loved to meander through the garden, biting off the blooms of all the flowers she could find. I laughed off this quirky behavior, until Tish did it in my garden, too. It didn't matter, though, because there was little mischief Tish could do that wouldn't earn my instant forgiveness. And when I made mistakes, Tish was quick to forgive me, too.
For the last several months, I tried to ignore the signs that Tish was not only slowing down, but her body was giving up. Her eyes became foggy and her ears seemed full of cotton, but I told her each day, as I hugged and caressed and kissed her, "I will keep you safe and take care of you, no matter what comes." But a series of chronic infections seemed to knock her out with each succeeding recurrence, and by early spring, it was clear that even with treatment, they were taking their toll.
But Tish soldiered on. And perhaps it was I who was blind, not fully recognizing what I did not want to see: that Tish was slowly, inexorably, dying in front of my eyes. And that's why it was such a shock when, at 2:30 this morning, I was awakened by her cries. She'd somehow fallen down the stairs and landed in the sun room, and as I rushed to her side, I saw that she was disoriented and uncoordinated, unable to stand. I scooped her up in my arms, and brought her back upstairs, imagining for a moment that I would bring her to the vet's office the minute they opened, so they could patch up whatever had gone wrong.
Within minutes, though, it became clear that Tish was already in the process of leaving her beautiful black and white body, and all I could do was to hold her and stroke her and tell her how much I loved her, knowing that her ears could not hear me but hoping that her heart did. And then, even as I was trying to grasp the enormity of what was happening, she was gone.
But not for Tish, who controlled her own destiny, right to the end, choosing to make her exit the same way she lived her life: privately, bravely, and with me by her side. Yet through my tears, I keep asking myself what more I could have done, should have done, to forestall this day. I never wanted it to come.