This week, just awful, couldn't have ended sooner. I asked my boss for the afternoon off. I wanted to get home to check on Bip. Since Tuesday, I've been feeding him by forcing his jaw open and putting formula in the back of his mouth three times a day (morning, lunchtime, evening). Each time I've done it, it's gotten harder and harder to manage. He fought me, closed his eyes and basically just laid between my fingers like a damp rag-doll. He wouldn't eat on his own although I offered him fresh, organic greens and veggies three times a day. I watched him grow thinner (so much for the 9 grams weight gain). I tried to nourish him, to nurse him to health, to do the impossible I suppose. I soaked him in water, and I even called a very sweet man (a fellow cyclist and Uromastyx owner/expert) last night for advice.
Some incredibly thoughtful female cyclist who read my last blog entry, sent him in my direction. To that cyclist, whomever she may be, I owe a huge thank you and a virtual hug. The man I spoke to (who so graciously gave his time to me and was more matter-of-fact to my emotionally drained hysterics), suggested that I get a feeding tube and also suggested that Bip might be too far gone. He's nursed many Uros back to health but has had to let some go from time to time as well. Talking to him was both comforting and educational. I ran out and bought some Pedia-cure to give Bip and was determined to keep trying.
Then I got home today, took Bip out and tried to feed him. He didn't open his eyes and give me his usual dirty looks (for forcing him to eat). Instead, he just laid limp, his two front paws dangling, and when his eyes did open, they were nothing but cloudy slits. He was markedly thinner and excruciatingly fragile.
I tried to force his tiny jaw open but he refused, and this time, he meant it. I grabbed a tongue-stick (one that the vet had given me) and tried to force the issue. He refused again. I pushed harder, determined. When I looked down at the edge of the stick, it had blood on it. I burst into tears and just sat, pathetic, with a listless lizard, nothing but skin and bones, in my hands, sobbing.
Now, look. I understand that someone might read this and think, "it's just a lizard." To that someone I say, "yeah, and you're just a moron, so what's your point?" Sorry, but I feel strongly about the rights of animals and most importantly, their right to live healthy, happy lives - especially when we yank them from the wild and demand that they serve as our loving companions. No, I'm not a vegetarian which means I'm a full-on hypocrite. I can live with that (somewhat), since I am not cruel to living animals. And this particular animal, a lizard, mattered to me, if not for any other reason than the fact that I didn't help him when I could have and should have. My intervention was too little too late.
I didn't even wrap him in a towel, change clothes (I was wearing boxer shorts and a t-shirt) or take my cell phone, just my wallet and keys. I must have looked a mess, crying and holding nothing but a slip of a lizard to my chest when I entered the vet hospital.
"I was here on Monday and Tuesday," I told the receptionists between sobs. "I can't do this anymore. He's not responding."
They ushered me in and summoned one of their vets, a very sweet, empathic man, to help me.
I stood shaking. "Put him down, please. He's not going to recover."
"Oh...of course. I'll help you," he said, his soft brown eyes so kind.
He put a towel down on an examining table and said he'd be right back. I laid Bip down on the towel. He sat motionless for a moment and then with much effort turned his head to me. I knelt down to look him in the eye. You may not believe this, but that little guy used all the energy he had left to crawl, using just his front paws and dragging his hind legs behind him, to my arm which was resting in front of me on the table, and touched his snout to it gently. I know I shouldn't anthropomorphize or try to read anything into that, but I do anyway. I believe that Bip was trying to comfort me in that moment.
I left the room when the vet put him under. They promised me he would feel nothing and die very quickly (but not before first feeling really calm). I couldn't watch and stood in the hallway defeated. When the vet was done, he wrapped Bip in compostable material and brought his body out to me. I requested that I receive his body as I plan to ride my mountain bike to a spot where I will bury him tomorrow. His body and the wrapping will become compost and replenish the soil. I preferred that over just cremating him - closure for me.
So, there you have it...I gave up on my little dragon. I chose for him a path of least resistance and peace. I was the one who cared for him, and I believe, as painful as it was, that I made the right decision.
As for my week, it's been hell for other reasons as well. I'm really a mess right now, really a mess. I need to work out (haven't now for five days), my training is way off and I don't feel good. Too bad...I'll just have to HTFU to get back at it tomorrow.
This too shall pass...my favorite proverb of all time.