I was awakened at 4:00 AM to the sound of Charley crashing around the house. Once again, she was uncoordinated and blindly bashing into walls and furniture. She has had several such episodes this past week - none as serious as the other week, and most very mild, but giving further evidence of a brain tumor or similar neurological event. Between the episodes, she is pretty much her usual 14 year old, arthritic, fuzzy self.
As she now sometimes loses bladder control during these episodes, I guided her outside and hung around the back yard with her. She lay down on the grass after a few minutes, panting lightly, a vacant look in her eyes. She seemed to be in some pain - her eyes were dull, her head and tail low, and she occasionally pulled her right hip/leg up as if trying to get comfortable - so I returned to the house for a pain killer and some broth to wash it down. Sadie and Pepper were sawing logs, oblivious, I thought, to Charley's difficulties. Both are very sound sleepers, especially deaf Sadie who was comfortably stretched out on the livingroom couch.
Charley and Sadie have never been 'best friends' like some dogs who curl up together, play together, sleep together. Charley has always been a loner, despite nearly always having at least one other dog in the house. She often removes herself from household activity, prefering either a quiet spot in a vacant room or a shady spot in the garden. And while Sadie will pay attention to visiting dogs, she seldom gets chummy with our canine family members.
And therein lies the story. Since Charley began having these episodes, Sadie has started watching over her.
My Charley has always been an outdoorsy sort of girl, having lived on acreage most of her life, and loves to just lie in the yard watching the world go by. (She is never left outside when I am not home, and always brought inside at bedtime; but during the day she often spends hours just lying on the grass if she so chooses). My Sadie is just the opposite - she will tolerate the yard for five minutes or so, but then she is at the door barking to be let in.
So the other morning at 4:00 AM when Charley declined to come back into the house and quietly lay on the grass as the painkiller took effect, imagine my surprise when Sadie trotted out and lay down just behind her. And imagine my surprise when an hour later she was still there, watching over Charley, as the sun began to rise.
And so I joined them, in my pjs and bare feet, to watch another morning dawn in colourful splendor.
It was not just coincidence, this new role Sadie has taken on. In each of the three episodes since then, she has done the exact same thing - selected a spot a couple of feet behind Charley, and watched over her until Charley showed some signs of being 'normal' again. When Charley lifts her head and acknowledges my presence, or gets up and starts mosying around the yard, Sadie feels free to go back in the house. She did it again this evening - just before sunset:
I must admit, it brings tears to my eyes - to know that my Sadie cares for her fur sister, and to know Charley's end may well be near. I can think of no other explanation for Sadie's change of behaviour. Sadie knows.
One day the sun will set on my Charley's life, and my Sadie will no doubt be there to say goodbye. May the passing be as beautiful as the sunset was tonight:
But I truly hope Charley has many more sunrises and sunsets before her journey's end. And I think Sadie hopes so too.