Category Archives: anticipatory bereavement

Babysitting and Bereavement

I am babysitting tonight. His name is Rocky Bedford McDaniel the Third. He is nearly 16 years old.

And he is my parents’ dog.

He is a Jack Russell Terrier. My parents never go anywhere without him.

But tonight they are.

So, Big Sis is here to watch him while the parents party it up at their friends’ BBQ and pool party. Dog-free. I hope they can handle themselves and their freedom, even if only temporary.

A very rare moment, indeed.  Too much tailgating
during football season at the University of
Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Rocky, like most terriers, is a high maintenance dog.

This dog…does…not…sit…still.

I’ve been watching him circle through the house. Counter-clockwise only. From the kitchen, he walks through the eat-in area, past the counter, through the living room, past the front door and dining room, past the pantry, then back through the kitchen. Again. And again. And again.

He’s done more laps than a NASCAR driver. I’m exhausted watching him. No wonder my parents needed a break.

He gets under my feet, follows me around, and gets stuck in corners, without a clue as to how to back himself out. So, I put him back in the kitchen and sit down so he can continue his circular routine.

Poor Rock. He’s losing his mind.

He’s also deaf. Nearly blind. And arthritic. He has his good days and his bad days.

But his life is slowly coming to a close, and my parents are trying to make it as comfortable as possible for him (and for them). Their hope is that he dies naturally so they don’t have to face the choice of putting him down.

I don’t blame them. I’ve had to put down my two dogs after they got seriously ill with no chance of recovery.

Rock has provided companionship, emotional support, unconditional love and acceptance throughout the years, especially for my father after he retired. Rock has been his boating buddy, his walking buddy, his napping buddy, even his bath buddy when the two of them would come dragging in after a long day of fishing, and my stepmother would clothespin her nose, pointing to the tub before either of them would be allowed to climb into bed. Rock has been my father’s partner in crime for a long time.

Boating on Torch Lake.

The Rock-Man is teaching us how to let go. His endless, tireless circling shows that letting go is not an easy journey, but it is one that we will each make, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

He is also teaching us endurance. Because we can’t stop the inevitable, we may as well keep going. We need to keep going, moving forward, living life until the end.

Rock’s repetitive pacing is driving home the lesson of patience. It would be easy to grow impatient with his constant circling, but that will not stop or change what is happening to him. Instead, as we learn to accept his condition as the new normal, we learn to accept the changes and the patience required as transitioning occurs.

Through all of this, Rocky is teaching us compassion. Watching his condition begin to deteriorate tugs at the heart. There is only so much that can be done. All we can do is provide the best end-of-life care possible.

Rocky Bedford McDaniel the Third, aka “The Rock Man,”
“Rock,” “Rock-A-Doodle,” and “Rock Star.”

One day his little body will shut down for good. It will be heartbreaking for my parents, since they have never dealt with the loss of a beloved pet. Because Rock has provided unconditional love without all the complications that come with human relationships, it’s going to make the grieving process more intense than they can imagine. I feel their pain.

My parents have some tough decisions to make as they anticipate the loss of their furry little companion. They saw Rock come into the world, holding his tiny body in the palms of their hands. Letting go is not going to be easy, but they will come through it, and they will emerge as better people for having had Rocky in their lives.