Mollie died Monday.
I petted her and stroked her head as the vet’s injection took hold. Her troubled breathing slowed, her eyes went out of focus, and her head dropped onto my hand.
I asked the vet if she was gone, and he said yes.
I kissed her on the head, then went to my wife who was sitting in a nearby examining room.
Mollie was not my dog, but I was there with her.
She deserved that.
I refer to her as my wife’s dog, but she was not that really.
She belonged to my mother-in-law. We’d found her at a shelter, an already grown dog, and got her to replace my mother-in-law’s previous dog, which had died.
When my mother-in-law went into a senior complex that would not allow dogs, Mollie came to live with us.
Mollie was a mixed breed. Labrador and spaniel, and who knows what else.
She had short legs, a short tail, and a large torso. She was clumsy and slow.
I affectionately called her “Oafus.”
She was overweight when she came to us – 70 pounds or so – but that dropped as she started getting regular walks and my dog, Maggie, forced her to play.
Mollie was never one for playing much or for long. After a few minutes of romping with Maggie in the yard, she’d simply flop down and wait for us to let her back in the house. The most athletic thing she did was to jump up on the picnic table to sit or lie there.
As for walks, she did not like long ones. She’d waddle along on her short legs, panting, resigned to her fate.
But she did love to be petted and rubbed. If we were petting the cats or Maggie, Mollie would come over and nose the recipient of affection out of the way until she was getting the attention.
We referred to her as the “love pig.”
And she loved to eat. She’d devour her food as if it were her last meal, then scrounge for more. Any food left in Maggie’s bowl of the cat dishes was unsafe. She’d beg mercilessly if we were eating anything.
She was also easily spooked. If I raised my hand at all, she’d cower. She was afraid when I brought in the rolled up paper in the morning.
We think she must have been mistreated, probably by a man.
When she lay down, she’d always try to stick her head under a chair. I never figured that one out. Safety?
Last year, we noticed she was beginning to gain weight again. She seemed to have less energy than usual. We attributed that to the weight.
Her nose became dry, she began to breathe noisily, and she started to get watery, red eyes. We took her to the vet, who attributed some of the symptoms to allergies. He prescribed medications, and advised us to get her to lose weight.
We cut down on her food, and she simply raided more of the other animal’s food.
Her weight did not drop.
We also noticed she was drinking huge amounts of water.
As she got bigger and more ungainly, I started calling her “Moose.”
We went back to the vet a couple of times, but he kept diagnosing allergies.
This spring, Mollie stumbled while going up the steps into the house. She limped noticeably, so we took her to a veterinary hospital. They said she had torn a ligament in the leg, and would need surgery.
But the vet at the hospital also looked at her eyes, listened to our stories of weight gain and water drinking, and did some tests.
Mollie had Cushing’s Disease. It’s a disorder of the adrenal gland that causes ravenous appetite, excessive drinking, and so on.
All of Mollie’s symptoms.
Further tests revealed a tumor. It would cost a lot to remove, but we needed to take her to a specialist to determine if it could be removed.
We didn’t know if we had the money to do it.
I checked all the money I’d budgeted for the summer (as a teacher, I don’t get paid over the summer, so I have to save enough to get by without a paycheck for two months). I managed to scrounge up enough if I pinched pennies and worked some extra shifts at the radio station where I work part time.
But last Thursday, the day I was going to tell my wife I’d be able to cover most of the bill, she took Mollie to the specialist.
The tumor was a bad one, the cost had doubled, and at Mollie’s age, the chances of success were slim.
We decided that she had to be put to sleep, but hadn’t picked when. We were waiting until this week to make the final decision. My mother-in-law was coming over for Memorial Day, and we wanted to give her some time with Mollie.
Mollie’s breathing became more and more labored over the weekend. By Sunday night, it had become so loud we almost could not sleep. We had to make Mollie sleep by the back door and not near our bedroom.
Monday night, my wife woke me at 11. The minute I woke, I could hear Mollie’s breathing had gotten much worse. It sounded as if she could choke any minute.
We took her to the animal emergency room.
Mollie had decided for us.
We’ll get the ashes back in the next week or so and put them in a spot by the back gate where she liked to lie while waiting to be let back in to the house. We’ll plant some flowers there.
She wasn’t my dog.
But I’ll miss her.