Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wolfy: Chasing Field Mice in Heaven

"Couldn't have picked a better moment to arrive, could I?"

It was 9 AM on September 30 and Lori was here to help. Damon and I had already dropped the twins off at kindergarten, repainted a wall in the kids' room, spoken to the Rathaus about our landlord's refusal to take back possession of the apartment and made an appointment to euthanize the dog later in the day.

As it turns out, Lori, there really WASN'T a better moment. The Rathaus closes at noon. Our neighbors/witnesses had to be somewhere at 1:00. Euthanasia at lunchtime. And we had a three to four hour drive ahead of us. After one last run to the dump. And loading the car.

In the meantime, as it turns out, the Stuttgart police were tear-gassing and water-hosing protestors, including children and the elderly, at the Schlossplatz, but I hadn't even had the time to brush my teeth, my hair OR even change out of my pajamas, let alone tune into and feel empathy for tragic current events.

Lori had walked in on our own personal tragic current event. I had just told Ryan and Andrew that we would be euthanizing Wolfy that afternoon. His new family had called that morning and he just wasn't doing well. I knew immediately that it was time to put him down. Ryan burst into tears. I followed. And then Lori walked into the room, saw us both sitting on the floor crying, and joined us.

Turns out THAT'S what friends are for.

The rest of the morning was a blur of cleaning out the apartment and talking to the neighbors across the street about what to do about the landlord. He hadn't shown up for the keys the night before, as required by German law. Dominique showed up with coffee, breakfast and the rest of the laundry we had left at her house on Tuesday. She and Lori dragged the last of the stuff, mattresses and things we'd needed til then, to the dump, while the neighbors drove me over to the Rathaus. I spoke to the mayor in my pajamas. And then tried to stalk the landlord one last time. Martin, Dominique's husband, the twins' godfather, and today our lawyer, who deals mostly with international drug cartels, had never met such a low class of people.

It all needed to be done an hour before. And all my carefully laid plans of the last few weeks were stripped bare as I hauled haphazardly packed suitcases and boxes to sit in the drizzle on the driveway. With the kids. One of who had never taken the time to change out of HER pajamas either.

Jess dropped off Wolfgang. She cried. (She also offered to help me lug boxes out into the driveway. There ARE people like this in the world.) Ryan and Andrew saw Wolfgang and cried too. Damon came home from picking up the twins and cried. The neighbors came over to bear witness to the state of the apartment, before I dropped their testimony and the keys off with the mayor. They cried too.

I didn't cry. I still hadn't had time to change out of my pajamas.

But in the middle of the turmoil, in between dealing with lawyers and testimonies and keys, I sat down with the kids and spoke with them about something Lori had told me once when we were talking about an afterlife. (I'm telling you, we debate some major theological issues while we are picking up the kids' rooms and washing the dishes!)Lori believes in a heaven where we are all resurrected in our original, healthy states. The old are young. The sick are healthy.

It's all a bit too cut and dried for me, (and I realize that using the belief for family pets might be watering it down some!) but I liked the idea of a young Wolfy, running around in heaven looking down on us.

"Just think of how sad Wolfy is right now." I said to the kids. They looked. He did look pretty miserable and pathetic. "Think of how happy he will be to look down at us from heaven with his healthy eyes that can see again." Aidan thought about it. Ryan and Andrew were still bawling. "And he will be able to hear again, hear us when we are talking about him and remembering him." That got ém thinking. "Yeah and maybe he will be able to hear a fieldmouse running by." said Ryan. "Think of him chasing all the fieldmice up there in heaven on his brand new, healthy legs." said Andrew. All of which got me to thinking that doggy heaven must be fieldmouse hell. But the kids - and I - saw that Wolfy was old, sad, and in pain....and we were able to let him go thinking of him younger, happier and pain free.

I went alone to euthanize him. I never imagined I would be strong enough to do it. But it's amazing what you can do when you do it for your family. And I did cry. I cried and held Wolfy while he calmly fell asleep. And then I stopped. Because it was the first time in close to a year that he looked relaxed. Okay, the vet HAD given him muscle relaxants, but looking at him on the table I realized that he had probably been in pain for months now. He was trying to keep up with us, he wanted to be with us, and he did his best. But he couldn't do it anymore. He couldn't stay with us. He couldn't follow us. And he didn't want to live without us either.

At 3PM on September 30, after I dropped the keys to our apartment off with the mayor, and while the kids and Damon were standing in the driveway in the rain with our luggage, I sent Wolfy to heaven to chase fieldmice.

Of all the things I can't take to Australia with me, this was the one thing I couldn't accept. But I finally did it for him. I made him young again.


  1. Very nicely written, Christine! Enjoyed the piece, as heartbreaking as it is.

  2. Thanks again. Perfect timing for some much-needed encouragement.

  3. I cried. Although given the ease of my tears, that's not saying much.
    Still, I agree, it was well written and very touching.
    I haven't put an animal down yet. I always move away and give them to friends or family and let them deal with aging. Not intentionally.

  4. I TRIED to cop out! Wolfy just wouldn't let me. Thanks though - interesting, in that entire piece of what a hassle we had finally moving out - WOlfy is what people relate too. And I guess that shows what's most important in the end!