Thursday, December 17, 2015

Selfishness or love or both

Our beautiful old girl is at least 15 years old. We believe she is part Belgian malinois (shepherd) and part Portuguese podengo. We found her on the streets of Portugal in 2001 during our second tour with the State Department. Since that day, she has followed me around like a little kid follows her mommy. And, when I had my oldest child (who is now in jr. high), she followed him around like a protective mamma. We went through a few years of separation anxiety with her, but she has calmed on this in her older years. I think after years and years of seeing we will not abandon her, she trusts in us, she believes in us and she believes in our family. She knows that she is a part of us, a part our family.

This girl traveled with us and/or moved with us from Portugal, to DC, to Senegal, to Oregon, to DC, to East Timor, to Oregon, to DC, to Bulgaria, to Oregon and to Florida. We were fully expecting to take her with us to the Middle East, for what will likely be our last State Department tour.

I took her to the vet to get her prepared, starting the long process with a rabies titer test, which by the way is astronomically expensive, not because of the actual test, but because of the guaranteed overnight shipping! The vet then tells me that flying a dog her age is likely a death sentence. I was shocked. I know I shouldn't be surprised, yet I was. I sought opinions of other foreign service spouses with old dogs.

A few said they took the dog with them and the flight was difficult, but their dog made it. Some FS spouses mentioned leaving their dog behind with family. None of our family can take her. Even if we found someone who could take her, I could never leave her behind with someone she doesn't already know and love. We cannot bear the thought of giving her away. I just cannot help but think that losing us would be more painful to her, in the long-term, than any plane ride. Though perhaps the truth is that leaving her behind would be more painful to us. Perhaps it is selfishness, perhaps it is love, perhaps it is a little of both. Putting her down is not an option I want to consider, not unless it is because of a health issue that is causing her quality of life to truly suffer.

We keep the preparations going to take her, leaving all options open. She is old and it shows more and more every day. But, it is old dog stuff. I really don't know that she will live until this summer, but then again she could live another year+. The vet told us that it is amazing she is as old as she is, because most shepherds don't live that long.  She stays with us and we stay with her. We made her that promise, I know she doesn't understand our words, but I do think she understands our hearts.

Yes, the plane ride will be difficult. We will have an overnight at one of the best airport pet facilities in the world, and that will give her a nice break. But, there are no guarantees. I know. We are keeping all options open. Admittedly, the one I want most is to take her with us. And, I do believe that would be her preference too. Maybe, though, that is just me projecting?