Tales from a Quarantine
By Michael Lynderey
May 6, 2020
In this time of uncertainty and sickness, I can take inspiration from our dog, Estee, who showed remarkable resilience and strength, over so much time. She was a miniature schnauzer, with grey, white, and black colours, she was very special to myself and my parents, and she died last week at the age of 12.
In recent months, I grew to compare her to Jason Voorhees, the hero of the Friday the 13th films. The two didn't have too much in common, but for one key thing: like Jason, no matter what life threw at her, she got back up and kept on walking.
Let me explain. In December 2017, Estee and I were "watching the house" together when she woke me up: I had no idea what was going on, she was shaking on the floor and then breathing unresponsively. I tried to give her some water, then grabbed her and raced to the nearest animal clinic. It had just closed, but by the time we were pulling in Estee was standing on the seat, looking out the car window.
She had had a seizure, a pretty startling one, and the first of several that day, in a roughly 24-hour cycle. They look scary when they happen, but like most humans who undergo seizures, she probably didn't remember anything, every time. I got pills for her a few hours after they started, and they worked, because after three more cycles over the next month and a half, the seizures stopped (though more on that later). But we never found out why she was having them, and we likely never will; since she was nine years old, she was really too old to start showing symptoms of epilepsy. We all just assumed the worst at the time.
She had heart murmur her whole life, and, in October 2018, she had heart failure, and spent the night at the emergency clinic in an oxygen cage. I touched my nose to hers, something I would do often, as we left. The doctor said if she had heart failure again, she couldn't save her. We were given another group of pills, and the doctor advised that with their help she may live "anywhere from a few months to a few years."
In January 2019, she was diagnosed with diabetes, which is pretty common for miniature schnauzers. We started giving her shots with a needle twice a day. They call the medicine Caninsulin.
In June 2019, she went blind or mostly blind, from diabetes. At first, she was bumping into everything and appeared clumsy. Then as a week or so passed, she was running around everywhere as before, knowing exactly what was where and trawling for bad food outdoors like a trooper.
In December 2019, we were advised that, since no trace of the seizure pills could be found in her blood anymore, we could stop giving them to her, and we did. Just five days later she started having seizures again, for the first time in near two years, and while we of course started giving her the pills again, she went through two cycles of seizures before they stopped.
So as of January 2019, Estee had been getting seven pills a day (four types, three of them twice), as well as two shots for her diabetes. But her conditions and medicine didn't seem to affect her much. She was behaving the way any healthy dog was, a pretty happy and active little being, even climbing up long stairs she'd just met. People were calling her puppy and "little guy." You'd have never known how technically sick she was because of all the medicine that was brilliantly keeping all these diseases down and letting her have a good life.
I legit thought that when I was 95 years old, she would still be running down the street, dragging me behind her.
Now, last Sunday, she suddenly stopped eating, and we discovered that she had a mass (tumour) in her stomach that was keeping her from digesting food. Right after the doctor was finished, a black cat came in the room. He had always been there when we visited the clinic. I think he just wanted to say goodbye, too.
My mom brought Estee home on a Wednesday in April. Forgetting Sarah Marshall had just opened. George W. Bush was still president. A week and a day later, a friend and I would attend the midnight opening show of Iron Man, the film that defined the next decade in cinema (poorly).
Whenever me and Estee were in the house alone together, we would sleep in the living room, me on the little couch and her on the big couch next to it (she liked to move around when she slept, so, unlike me, she needed a lot of space). We took Estee on road trips to the U.S. (New England) and to her birth province of Québec, where she joined us on the peak of a very tall mountain where fog and clouds blocked view of much of the earth and sky. Whenever we drove through these trips, she would stand on her hind legs in the back seat with her paws on the car door, looking out the window.
Estee lived through twelve summers and twelve Hallowe'ens (and I imagine a few trick or treaters, some now in their twenties, still remember the sound effects she made when I opened the door for them). She even outlived Tony Stark, which I think she may not have been as proud of as I was. But she didn't quite make it to her thirteenth summer; she died just a few days before the start of what we consider summer movie season. It would be someone else's summer.
I remember when I was a young child there was a book, kind of a grown up, book about a noble, mighty bear I always read. And it ended with the bear walking back into his valley in old age and settling into his death. It always made me so sad. But I'm glad that, some years later, I met the bear. And last week, her light rose to the heavens, where it burst into a thousand stars.