Go ask Alice

Welcome to this week's Reno News & Review.

Life is so lifey, as a friend used to say. Today, life is lifey for Alice, my dog. I think I mentioned a couple of months ago that she developed idiopathic geriatric vestibular syndrome, which is basically a constant feeling of having bedspins and loss of balance. At the time, I laughed because every time she'd shake her head, she'd fall over.

She never really recovered from the disease, frequently falling up and down the few stairs on the way to the door and back. Turns out that it wasn't because of the syndrome, but because she has severe arthritis in both her hips. I guess she wore them out over the last 17 years or so.

She was an abused dog when we got her, sweet as the dickens but dumb as a stump, one of those dogs who could learn to stay off the deck but not to fetch. Since she'd go nuts whenever anyone came to the door, I was able to teach her to freak out whenever I said, “It's George W!” —her one good trick. She never really got over her fear of humans, and even today, I could tell she thought she'd done something wrong because she wouldn't look me in the eye.

Two days ago, I discovered a tumor on her side. It's now about the size of a tennis ball. After checking her legs and discovering the muscular atrophy, the vet didn't even bother to biopsy. The pain can be managed, but there's a progressive weakness that comes with atrophy and arthritis. Pretty soon she won't be able to get up, and then it'll be time for a long nap.

That's all kinds of Facebook TMI, but I'm trying to get at the big picture, bottom-line stuff that makes a personal column universal. I'm trying to keep perspective on the end of one of the longest day-to-day relationships in my life. I don't really think there's much of Alice left in that poor demented head. So what prevented me from agreeing to the shot this morning? Yes, we're managing the pain, but what kind of life is it she's got left? Crazy, fearful and drugged.

It's fall, and I have a grave dislike of things ending. Every change in leaf color, every dying dog, every time I close the back cover on a book, I'm reminded that nothing lasts forever, and I hate the illusion that it might.