Slowly losing Chipper — what can you say when your best friend nears the end of his life
I first met him when I picked him up at Reagan National one cold March Sunday in 2002. The breeder’s husband zipped open his carry-on bag to hand him to me, and in that instant I fell in love with him. No matter how many pups you may own in your life, there’s always one who sings to your heart. For me, that always has been and always will be, my Chipper.
Now, he’s nearing the end of his life. After 10 years, 10 months, he is rapidly declining. He was diagnosed with a chemodectoma (heart tumor) in September and has gone blind in his left eye due to glaucoma. Then I began noticing his behavior was off, staring into space, wandering around the house, not hearing. I took him to the hospital for a neuro exam, and they delivered the bad news. I was not imagining his odd behavior; they saw it too. And the only causes could be brain tumor, meningoencephalitis, or cerebral vascular accident, a.k.a. stroke.
Since Wednesday, when he was diagnosed, he has declined even further, unsteady on his legs, unsure of where he is, and mostly sleeps during the day. I had initially thought of having an MRI done to find out what exactly was the issue and possible radiation therapy, but my gut instinct tells me I’m too late for that. After reading about canine brain tumors in a study from the North Carolina State University, I fear the worst. He’s not had seizures, thank God, and I don’t want to wait for one to take hold. I went through meningoencephalitis with my other Boston Terrier, Poco, four years ago and it’s a horrible disease. The neurologist and I tried to save her for four months. I spent over $10,000 trying everything, but she died in my arms at the hospital.
So as I write this, the memories of Chipper, ball-crazy Chipper, come flooding back. He took his ball-playing very seriously. He’d bark until you came up to the ball, then he’d back away, crouch down watching you, watching the ball, and at your slightest movement, he’d pounce on the ball, and proudly prance away with the ball in his mouth. He could run like the wind, even until a few months ago, tearing up the back yard running after my two Shepherds. Playing tug o’war and refusing to let go of the ball even as they girls would practically swing him in the air. And now, he can’t see his ball anymore. When you roll it to him, he can’t seem to tell where it is. His depth perception is lost. He can’t discern where the sounds come from.
Chipper was not for the show ring, nor was he a canine hero that saved someone’s life. His temperament would never let him be a therapy dog, except for me, when he kept me sane when I cared for my mother in her final stages of dementia at 93. He’s lived up to his name, Chipper. He’s always been a happy boy. When he woke up in the morning, that was the signal everyone had to get up. He’s always been here when I opened the door. He’s slept atop the quilt covers at night. He’s been my rock. He’s been my Chipper.
Every time this past week when I’ve tried preparing myself and imagining the house without him, I dissolve into tears, and pray to God for just a few more days. I am so grateful to Him that He blessed me and gave Chip into my care. The best possible for Chip would be for him pass away peacefully in his sleep. But, I pray that God will give me the strength to make the right decision for Chip and know when that time has come. I couldn’t bear for my best friend to suffer, and I don’t want to see him in seizures.
Poco went across Rainbow Bridge February 13, 2008, and I know she’s waiting for her best bud. She’ll look after him there as she looked after him while she was alive. That gives me comfort, and it gives me peace in knowing what I will have to do in the coming days.