Our Last Basenji
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
This will be the last day for our sweet basenji girl Acacia, whom we usually call Miss A. For I have an appointment for us with the vet at 5:30 this evening.
This day has been coming for quite a while. About a year and a half ago, our vet showed me an x-ray and diagnosed Miss A with a mass, probably cancerous. “Okay,” I said soon after that. “We won’t do anything expensive for her like dentistry. But as long as she’s not suffering, we’ll keep going.” And so Miss A and I have kept walking around our tree-lined neighborhood, especially lovely this spring.
Progressively she’s lost weight, down to between seventeen and eighteen pounds from nearly thirty pounds when we began her diet and exercise program the day after we had to put our Cory boy, our second basenji, down almost exactly three years ago today. (Varlet was our first.)
(In case you might not know, the basenji is an African breed, and the smallest of the hounds, used in packs to hunt lions and other big cats. Basenjis have distinctive, curled tails and sharp-pointed, foxy ears. And they don’t bark. That’s the very best thing about them. They do, however, make some weird sounds or yodels. Cory was vocal for a basenji. As for Miss A, she sometimes whimpers, sometimes growls, and occasionally she can be teased into giving a hoarse “woo.”)
Now, Miss A is mostly skin and bones except for the mass, not as big around as a soccer ball, but not much smaller either. And she’s very weak. When she jumps off my bed, for instance, she totters around or even sits down at first.
Still, until this week she ate fairly well and walked with me two or three times a day except when it was rainy or very cold. But then on Monday she ate only one out of her three meals. Yesterday she ate nothing but three treats after the last of our walks. Amazingly, in spite on this, we walked three times yesterday, a lovely spring day, for a total of fifty-five minutes altogether. Then this morning, she wouldn’t walk and she didn’t eat her breakfast. She did eat some of her lunch, a tempting mix of warm water, canned dog food and dry cat food. We walked for fourteen minutes this afternoon.
But I know very well that she will continue going down hill and so today’s her last day.
I already miss her, just thinking about that appointment. And I’m also thinking about what to do when she’s gone.
Some of that involves a pedestrian, rather heartless to-do list.
1) Now we can keep the doors open to the study and my daughter’s bedroom so Miss A won’t get in and eat the covers off the books in the bookcases.
2) I can put a quilt my mother made back on my bed and leave that door open, too, now that Miss A won’t be here to try to turn the bed covers back on her own. She was never very good at that and so I have no bed covers, blankets or top sheets that aren’t torn.
3) I can give away the last bag and can of dog food, and the rest of the marrowbone treats.
At this point, you might ask, “Aren’t you going to get another dog?”
If you’d asked me that question up until very recently, I would have said, “Of course I am. And she will be a basenji, possibly about two years old like Miss A was when we got her as a rescue dog to keep Cory company.”
But now I’ve decided that probably I won’t get another dog for assorted reasons.
1) My mother’s practical voice that speaks to me inside my head from time to time says, “A dog ties you down.” This didn’t keep her from adoring our Dottie, a beagle-dachshund mix (we think) we had back in the 50’s and 60’s.
2) Caring for and feeding pets can cost a lot.
3) Walking a dog might be too dangerous for me, now seventy-four.
Here’s why I say that.
A few weeks ago on a beautiful afternoon, as Miss A and I were walking down the next street, I was gawking at a neighbors’ yard looking for signs of spring instead of where I was going. So I didn’t see that the pavement ahead was uneven. I tripped. I fell–so hard that I thought I’d broken my nose. Suddenly I couldn’t see from all the blood in my eyes. After a minute, I sat up and found a paper towel in my pocket to staunch the flow. I managed to stand up and head toward home. Luckily I met up with some neighbors who got me more paper towels and walked me and Miss A home. Soon after that, my daughter drove me to the Emergency Room where the doctor on duty put eleven stitches in my forehead. That, the worst of my injuries, came from my sunglasses grinding up my nose and into the soft flesh of my forehead as I skidded along the pavement on my face. The cranberry-juice colored bruises faded away in about two and half weeks, but I’ll be hiding that scar with bangs and make-up the rest of my life.
Luckily, I had no broken bones. I didn’t have a concussion. But here’s the thing. Next time I might not be so lucky. So chances are slim to none that I’ll get another dog, basenji or otherwise. I have walked a basenji in my neighborhood for thirty years, but Miss A will be the last.
Goodbye, sweet girl. We will miss you.