In February my male staff's mum went to the Rainbow Bridge. Now we are expecting my female staff's dad to make the same journey any time at all. Poor man, he's had enough. Enough pain, enough frustration, enough confusion, enough indignity. The care home do their best for him. They get him up to eat some breakfast, but then the morphine makes him too tired to do anything else, so he goes back to bed. Once there he just closes his eyes and winces with pain now and again. He has something evil called multiple myeloma. It's a cancer that destroys the bones and their blood cell making capacity. His bones are crumbling, leaching calcium into his system which in turn destroys his liver and kidney function and gives him headaches.
To make matters worse he has pressure sores and Alzheimer's disease. He drifts in and out of lucidity like a ship navigating through banks of thick fog. When the fog lifts and he's not in too much pain he can have perfectly rational conversations, but when the fog moves in he doesn't have a clue. My female staff's mum asked him the other day if he'd like his legs massaged. He always enjoyed a good massage. His reply was "How the hell can I get a massage with all these lions around?" The next day when we were all there with him, female staff, her mum, frantic sister, my male staff, Badger and I - the doctor came in and caught me with a mouthful of one of female staff's dad's grapes. The doctor gave me a disapproving look, which I returned and hurriedly swallowed the grape whole, half choking in the process so that my male staff had to hold me upside down by my back legs and give me a shake. Out popped the grape and rolled towards the doctor's feet just as she took a step forward. There was a loud squelch, which signified that I would have to get myself another grape, but I thought I'd better wait until the doctor left.
My female staff's dad looked up at the doctor. "Who are you?" He asked.
"I'm Doctor Harvey. I saw you yesterday Ed. Do you remember."
"Not really. When am I going to peg?" My female staff's dad has always been direct. Dr Harvey seemed momentarily off balance, but she quickly recovered. "Truth is we don't know Ed." She was equally direct, but that was fine. My female staff's dad likes that. "You could pop off from a stroke within the next two minutes or you may live for several more weeks. We've stopped all your medication now accept for the morphine. We'll be able to keep you comfortable with that."
"That's good." Said my female staff's dad. I like to be comfortable." He smiled weakly and then grimaced again as a spasm of pain bit him. Doctor Harvey chatted with us all for a while and seemed to be on the verge of asking Badger and I to leave due to the the unsanitary nature of our bush chocolate which was piling up on the bedside table next to the bowl of grapes. But then a look of "Oh what the hell." crossed her face and she left, promising to return to see my female staff's dad as often as she could.
He's a tough man, well accustomed to pain, my female staff's dad. A cattle farmer from the Upper Hunter region of New South Wales, for much of the second half of his life he was dogged by trigeminal neuralgia, which affects the facial nerves and triggers excruciating bolts of sheer agony through the face. It has been said that it is the worst pain imaginable. So when we seem him wincing now, we know something really hurts.
Now listen you humans. If Badger or myself ever get so ill that all we can do is sit in our cages whimpering in pain, with no hope of recovery, my staff are under strict instructions to give us one last really good feed of basil and then take us to the vet to give us a needle that sends us to the Rainbow Bridge. Then my staff can bury us next to our pal Biggles the Budgie under the evodia tree. This is perfectly legal, and yet you can't do something similar for a human, who after all is just another animal. My female staff's dad wants it to end. Those who love him want it to end, but the law says he must suffer. Some say the law is an ass. I disagree. An ass is a loyal, intelligent, stoical creature. I think the law is a jellyfish, mindlessly drifting along, not caring a jot about the innocent victims becoming entangled in it's venomous tentacles.
When I go to the Rainbow Bridge I'm going to donate my feet to scientific research, so that everyone can have feet as perfect as mine.