It’s with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Wilma, the truly amazing, senior Great Pyrenees in our rescue sanctuary.  Sadly, today I had to let her go.

Wilma came to me, surprisingly, January 23 of 2008…3 days shy of exactly one year ago.  I received an email a few days prior, mentioning a geriatric Pyr at a local pound whose only hope was rescue, for they’d not put her on the adoption floor due to her age…she was at least 10yrs old.  Having a soft spot for seniors, and obviously Pyrs, I said I’d take her.

When I arrived at the vet clinic to pick her up, they mentioned vaccines were avoided b/c of her limp.  I knew nothing about a limp, but figured I’d just “go with the flow” and do what was necessary for her care.  When they walked her into the lobby, my heart broke for her.  She indeed had a limp, a drag of her front paw, was very underweight, her coat was in poor shape and matted, she had goopy eyes, and too boot was still a little drunk from her spay.  She was precious.

It turns out that Wilma had every orthopedic issue in the book…radial nerve damage in her left shoulder, a sore on her paw from dragging her left leg (as a result of the nerve damage), a bad right shoulder and bad right wrist, and horrible hips.  Her nails were terribly long, as were the quicks, she had ear infections, and she wobbled to and fro when she walked.  In addition to this, she had arthritis, naturally, and doc’s guess was that she’d been hit by a car at some point.  He was amazed that she did so well on her own and had compensated for the lack of a sound structured body…as was I.

The one word that summed up Wilma was strength.  She was determined to live her life to the fullest, despite her ailments.  She smiled every day.  She snuggled her head in my lap every day.  She “back danced” while wearing a grin.  She gave kisses to those she loved, and was kind to those she didn’t know.  She told the young whipper snapper dogs that they needed to mind their manners, and she told them she was boss.  She taught them respect, for they loved her and obliged to her demands.  She played with them, running around the house and the yard, dragging her front leg, but never losing her gumption.  She told them off when they acted out of line, and she never backed down.  She traveled like a pro when we moved, making sure all the trucks knew she wasn’t intimidated by their size, expressing continuous “Don’t mess with me or my family!” barks.

Wilma always took the day on with grace.  She may have been old and considered decrepit, but her heart and spirit were young and tenacious.

Wilma brought tremendous joy to my life throughout the past year.  She made me smile, she made me laugh, and I loved hugging her because I felt how much she loved it, too.  She cheered me with her stubborn and independent ways, and I’d laugh as she huffed and puffed at me, and even stomped off, when she didn’t want to do something.  If she had a particularly stiff and sore day, she’d rest and enjoy the relaxation…and she still smiled.  When it stormed she’d come and lie beside me, a little unsure of the loud thunder. When she was feeling vibrant, she’d energetically run away from me…I actually had a hard time catching her…but when I did, she’d wear a grin on her face, amused that she almost outran me.

A few people wondered why I didn’t just euthanize her when they’d watch her drag and limp along after getting up from a lengthy nap, still a little sleepy and stiff.  I told them if they saw her run and play as I did, they’d know why.  Having Fibromyalgia myself, and waking up stiff and sore daily, I understood her pain, her slow “get up and go,” and the grouchy moods. I also knew that although there was pain, it by no means meant that you didn’t want to enjoy the day.  Wilma didn’t want sympathy, and she didn’t want to die either…she wanted life…and I let her live it as she chose.  She deserved it.

Today Wilma had no function on the bottom half of her body, and the inability to use her legs.  She breathed rapidly, and she was finally exhausted.  I sat by her side, stroked her head and told her how much I loved her.  I made sure to let her know how much she gave to me this past year, and how I admired her strength and determination, wishing I had only an ounce of it.  I made sure that she knew she was beautiful, and I finally let her go.  I stared, and stared, and stared at her…it made it easier somehow just to absorb her face…and then I finally said goodbye.

Wilma was vibrant, fun, and enlightening.  I adored her to the fullest. Wilma…she was simply captivating.

As I said to the staff, it seems that I’d get used to this sort of thing.  In rescue it’s a job hazard…one of the negatives…one that we see more than a typical pet owner.  I wonder if there comes a time when you can handle it with grace? Certainly you gain some sort of armour? I walked in the clinic today, telling myself I’d done this before, I knew it had to be done, and that she’d feel better.  I thought that surely I could get through it without the drama and the tears.  I failed miserably.  I’m thankful that the doctor and tech waited patiently, letting me cry and ramble words in my effort to get through it.

When the time comes for me to sit on the front porch in my rocking chair, old and gray, I figure i’ll be just like Wilma….crotchety, fiesty, silly, bullheaded, sarcastic as hell, and stiff as a board, telling everyone around me that I still rule the roost.  They’ll laugh at my antics and just agree because they know it will make me happy, and I’ll smile and give them a hug so they’ll know that I still love them. Then I’ll let them chase me around the nursing home, grin on my face when they catch me, lie down and do the back dance in my cozy bed.  Who knows…maybe I’ll even tell them my name is Wilma.

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