(Not photos of our Silken, but these pups look so much like her!)
We immediately took our beloved golden retriever to the vet. We managed to get her in the waiting room but when the receptionist called us in to see the doctor, Silken (her name) could not walk. Attendants came with a stretcher and she was carried into the examination room. My heart lurched at the sight.
We were eventually told she had a tumour which had to be removed or she would have to be euthanized. That was the choice. In our desperation to keep her loving presence as a part of our family we chose the operation ... (I have often second-guessed that choice since). DH and I sat on the floor holding her as we struggled with the decision. It was already late in the evening but the surgeon was willing to come in and perform the operation. We were told to leave and come back in the morning. Leave?
No way! I intended to stay and wait right there. "No Ma'am, we do not know how long the x-rays, blood tests, pre-op and operation will take and she will need quiet time for recovery afterward. We do not want her to get excited when she sees you and perhaps open the incision." Reluctantly I went home to sleep.
Sleep? Sorry I misled you. Sleep was impossible. I lay in bed full of dread. My thoughts drifted to a book I had recently read entitled, "The Sense of Being Stared At" by Rupert Sheldrake. It is a book about our 'non-local' mind and some of the extrasensory perceptions at work on the planet.
I thought of the section in the book where Sheldrake cited study after study that showed dogs know when their master is coming home - not just from habit and knowing the time of day. Many of studies had the human subject vary their departures in order to determine if it was habit or truly some extra-sensory knowing. Each time the human part of the study began to simply prepare to come home, the human's canine companion stopped what they were doing and went to their favourite spot (usually the door or window) to wait for their master. According to Sheldrake, the dog sensed the master's intent to come home!
Feeling as if I had abandonned Silken at the Veterinary Clinic, I decided to use the information from Sheldrake's book and I silently talked to Silken during the night. Over and over in my mind, I said, "Silken, I'm coming." "Silken, I'm coming", I promised. "Everything will be alright Silken, I'm coming."
They had told us we could come at 9:00 a.m. Before six I was up and getting ready - planning to storm the back door of the clinic at 7:30 a.m. Then the phone rang. My heart stopped.
Mrs. Zieman?, said the female veterinarian (not the surgeon).
The operation went as planned and the tumour was cancerous as we suspected.
But I'm sorry to have to tell you that Silken died a few minutes ago.
Silken survived the operation which ended after midnight, but died a few minutes ago. I'm so sorry.
Yes. I came in early to check on her - and it was strange - I walked over and stroked her head and talked to her and ... it was almost as if she was waiting for someone to come before she could let go and die.
What?! ... what did you say?
I had the feeling that it was as if she was waiting for someone to come before she would allow herself to die.
Ohhhh ... Ohhhh noooo. (Long pause where the vet is also silent - allowing me to absorb the information).
Choking back sobs I thank her for going to Silken and being there with her as she died. I told her we would be right there to say our goodbyes.
OMG!! The vet sensed she was waiting for someone to come, and all night long I had been sending Silken the message "I'm coming" ... Silken must have sensed it and was trying to wait for me before allowing herself to let go into death. I guess the gentle touch of another female human had to do ... as she could wait no longer for me to come. This memory always reduces me to a limp puddle of emotion. How loyal she was (trying so hard to wait for me) right to the end.
It has taken me a long time to come to terms with a sense that I failed her, broke my promise and abandonned her. I still struggle with it right now as the tears flow. However I do know with a certainty that she led a charmed, happy, love-filled life ... and that at least she knew it was my intention to come even if I ultimately did not make it in time.
Up until the end, we did have the best of times with the very best of dogs.