This past week has been a roller coaster ride for my family and me. There were highs but when we hit the low, it was unbearably low. I’ve not been able to write much this week. I was often short on time or low on energy, but for the past few days, I couldn’t even put into words the fluctuations in emotions that I’d experienced.
The thing is, there’s so much positive news to share, but I just can’t indulge in them now. Not when my 10-year-old dog, Kirby, who’s been with me since she was a puppy is going into surgery tomorrow. To remove her eyes. As in “orbit irrigation” – the medical term that made me sick to my stomach when I read it on the estimates sheet that the eye care specialist handed me last week. It was the point at which I was supposed to decide what they needed to do with her.
You see, when I came home from work one day last week, I discovered a very different dog. One who wouldn’t budge from her spot, one who goose-stepped her way along the periphery of the rooms, and one who ran into doors and walls. Then I realized she couldn’t see, which was a shock because just the night before, she seemed perfectly fine.
I took her to the specialist and after some tests, they explained that she has glaucoma in both eyes and severe retinal degeneration in one eye. The other could be saved but it’s a fifty-fifty chance that it would be back to normal. In fact, they couldn’t guarantee anything apart from a lifetime of treatments and perhaps more expensive surgeries. In essence, I could save one eye but possibly bear the brunt of future complications, or I could just remove both eyes now to save her from an unknown future but in the short term, will have to help her adapt to her new disability. I also have to come clean – the latter surgery is the more financially viable option for us too.
In the end, I had to make a very difficult decision and opted for what made sense for our family. Financially, we were already tied to so many places, especially in the near future, that having a surgery that provided no guarantees didn’t seem to be the right course for us. Yet, the thought of being responsible for the decision to remove sight from Kirby’s future stabs me at my very core.
She’s been my constant companion longer than any living person or animal I’ve known, save my mom. Now, every time I look at her I want to memorize her face, because when I pick her up Tuesday evening, she will no longer look the same. Her eyes will be sutured shut and behind the lids will be silicone orbits in place of those beautiful brown ones that always look up at me, doe-like, as she begs for scraps under the table. That face always wins. Hence the extraneous 3 pounds on her body. And her enormous booty. Well, those she will probably still have. But not those eyes…It breaks my heart.
What makes all this even more difficult is that I can’t even explain to her what is happening, and I certainly can’t ask her opinion on the matter, even though they are her eyes. I am better equipped to execute someone else’s wish than to make the decision for them because then it is I who has to live with it. And I don’t know if I can.
I know it’s for the best. I know with the right tools and care, she will cope. But when I closed my eyes for a few seconds to imagine what it’s like to walk down the familiar hallway of my house in utter darkness, I felt disoriented and anxious. And I crumpled to the floor. I couldn’t believe I was subjecting Kirby to that. I don’t think I could ever come to terms with my decision. I don’t think I could ever feel “right” about it. I don’t even know if I’m doing what I can do or what I should do. All I know is, it will be done.
I could only hope she will forgive me.
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Have you had to make a difficult decision like this? What was it like for you? How did you cope?