I met Ace Flyer last June, when he was just a couple of months shy of 18 years old. Ace had had a stroke and was unable to walk or even to stand. The vet had suggested euthanasia, and his human (I’ll call her Carol), who was in a terrible state of grief at the thought of losing him, wanted me to talk to Ace before he was put down.
When I spoke to Ace (from a distance), on a Friday afternoon, he was still at the vet’s office, where he had been for several days. Surprised at the message I shared, he told me that he was not ready to pass, that he wanted to go home, that he wanted to spend the weekend with Carol, and that he would want assistance in passing on Monday.
He showed me pictures of himself when he was younger, running up and down the stairs with another dog. He told me how much he loved Carol and how good his life had been. He said that he forgave her for being impatient and a bit rough with him (which she’d said that she, sick with grief, had been in response to his loss of independence after the stroke). He also said he wished that Carol would work a little less, play a little more, that she was stressed and that he wanted her to find balance in her life.
Then he said that he wanted her to buy him some soft, chewy treats.
After Ace and I spoke, I shared a Reiki treatment with him. I could feel his strength increasing while I worked, and I wondered if he might not change his mind about leaving by the time Monday came.
When I shared our conversation with Carol, she said that the dog running on the stairs with Ace was Lucy, another of Carol’s dogs, who had passed a year and a half earlier. She said this had been a favorite activity of theirs, and she wondered if Ace was preparing to meet his friend on the other side.
Carol didn’t like the idea of spending the weekend with Ace. She said, in a grief-stricken voice, that if Ace was going to leave her in a few days anyway, it would be easier for her if the vet just helped him to pass now. Bringing him home would be too painful, and she couldn’t bear the thought of spending the whole weekend with him only to have him leave when it was over.
Although I told her that he might very well change his mind come Monday and, if not, this was his final wish, she simply did not think she had the strength to do what Ace was asking.
But after we’d talked for awhile, she agreed to try. She went to the vet’s office and brought her beloved Ace Flyer home. She bought him the chewy treats he’d asked for, and he ate for the first time in several days. They hung out together, snuggled and talked. Although Carol had to briefly leave Ace several times because of obligations she had to respect, when she came back home he was not distressed, just happy to see her.
They had a beautiful weekend together. And Carol discovered the strength she didn’t know she had.
When Monday Came
Carol had made arrangements for Ace to be humanely euthanized on Tuesday morning. So on Monday morning, I spoke with him again.
I explained the arrangements Carol had made. I explained that Carol was no longer frantic and scared, that she wanted him to leave when he was ready, that she would be OK.
Ace said to me, in a sweet, calm voice, “If it’s not too much trouble, I would like to stay a bit longer.”
I told him I didn’t think that would be a problem at all.
We spoke a bit more, and then I shared another Reiki treatment with him and a Neuromuscular Retraining session, in the hope that he would be able to get up without assistance and move around more comfortably.
A few days later, Carol told me that Ace was eating well, that he could get up without assistance, that he could walk by himself and was roaming around the house and yard. He was a bit slower than he’d been before the stroke, but he was mobile and happy, and they were now spending a lot more time in each other’s company.
Two Months Later: The New Plan
For the next two months, Carol periodically emailed to let me know that Ace, the miracle dog, was doing well. But near the end of August, she called to say that he was again having a bit of difficulty getting up, that he was losing his sight, and that he sometimes became confused and disoriented.
I suggested that I work with him once or twice a month (a good idea for all geriatric animals) sharing both Reiki (to help alleviate any pain he might be in, help keep his system in balance, and help alleviate the mental confusion) and Neuromuscular Retraining (to help him to move around more easily and comfortably).
For the next four months, I worked with Ace twice a month, always sharing Reiki sessions, sometimes sharing Neuromuscular Retraining sessions, and always getting a sense of how he was feeling about life, which, despite his physical limitations, he relished. Even on days when his energy was a bit low, his spirits were high. Working with him was a joy.
Equally rewarding was the change in Carol. No longer in a state of panic and grief, she was fully enjoying Ace’s company in ways she had found difficult immediately after his stroke. She was now a able to love him fully for who he was at any given moment, cherishing whatever time they might have left together.
Ace’s Final Days
Several weeks ago, Carol called me for an additional session with Ace (I was still working with him twice a month) because she felt he was getting ready to leave. He was lying motionless on the couch, and she could not rouse him. She feared he’d had another stroke. She had syringed water into his mouth but could not feed him.
She said she had made an appointment with the vet for the next morning, which I assumed was for an exam.
I shared a Reiki treatment with Ace and asked him what he would like to do.
He said, “I would like to sleep. Right now, I am not interested in waking up.”
I said, “OK. But if you decide you would like to stay in this life, you will need to drink some water.”
He said OK. When I told him about the vet appointment, he told me he was not in any pain and that he was definitely not ready to leave. It had not occurred to me that the appointment was for euthanasia; Ace was more tuned into that than I was.
That evening when Carol got home from work, Ace was awake, howling on the couch. He was still unable to walk on his own, but when she brought him into the kitchen, he eagerly drank and then ate a large dinner. She said she would cancel the vet appointment, the purpose of which had been, as Ace suspected, euthanasia.
The following day, I shared a Neuromuscular Retraining session with Ace. Afterwards, although he was still tilted a bit to the left, he could sit up on his own and was eager to go into the back yard with a little bit of assistance.
It seemed the miracle dog was back.
I worked with Ace four more times over the next week and a half, his strength slowly returning. One day, he told me that he was very tired, but that he was content. He said he didn’t know how completely he would be able to recover. “I’m an old man,” he said. All he wanted, he said, was to spend time with his beloved Carol.
Six days later, he said that he was very tired, that he might be ready for assistance with passing. He knew that he would not pass on his own because there was nothing wrong with his organs. But the quality of his life was no longer good.
He asked to spend time with Carol that weekend, that a decision be made in three days, on Monday.
We had come full circle. This was the very message he had given me the first time we’d met.
Message from Carol
My sweet Ace passed with assistance this morning. Oct 8 1993 to Jan 20 2012 – 18 1/4 – what a great run!
When I got home last night he had been bleeding slightly from several spots on his paws. Looks like he thrashed so much trying to get up that he created sores. He couldn’t walk at all, couldn’t stand, when I would help him stand then let go, he would fall.
We spent the evening together. He seemed a little agitated and very tired. He woke several times thrashing during the night, nipping at me a few times during the night. This morning he couldn’t stand. I sat him at his food that he picked at. He kept falling over from the sitting position. He yelped and groaned and howled several times. I sat on the floor with him to hand feed him. I told him that if it was time, to let me know.
I tried to put him on my lap while on the kitchen floor. I must have caught him where he was hurting. He bit my left arm, didn’t let go. As I pried his jaws open he then bit my right hand. He didn’t break my skin, but I have a big bruise and lump on my arm. I know he didn’t mean to do this, but he was in pain. I didn’t let him go, I steadied him and held him. I did tell him that while I’d asked him to let me know, his biting me wasn’t what I meant! He gave me “the look” – I knew it was time. So we sat and cried and laughed and remembered until the vet’s office opened at 7:30. Dr Jon was due in at 8:30.
I carried him around the house and sat with him at various places, reminiscing. We looked at the patio and the fence line that he so carefully guarded all these years. I warmed up the car, put his travel blanket in the dryer so he would have a warm place to lie while we went to the vet. I fed him chicken pieces on the way, until he didn’t want any more.
The house is so quiet and empty tonight.
Thank you for all you did to help him these last months. I’m so blessed to have had 6 extra months with him. I’ll miss him terribly. But I think he is running with Lucy (she died 2 years ago), having a great time.
Lessons from Carol and Ace
While I never met either Carol or Ace in person (all of our sessions were from a distance), they both hold a place in my heart. Working with an elder—animal or human—is a sacred gift. I will always remember Ace’s strong spirit, his clear intention, his love of life.
To me, Carol and Ace’s journey beautifully illustrates:
* That while fear can choke our hearts, acceptance can set us free
* That we can move from a state of grief to a state of grace
* That despite our disabilities, life is to be cherished
* That while cure is not always assured, healing is always possible