Because, when they're fighting so hard to just keep breathing, you want to give them every possible chance, you don't want to give up before they do...but at the same time, by the time I finally decided it was Poppy's time, her little eyes were just so miserable. I could feel her small bones shuddering with every breath, and our inquisitive mousy--for the first time ever--was completely beyond caring what was going on in the world.
I felt like a ninny throughout the entire process--trying not to cry, apologizing profusely for tearing up, but absolutely unable to help myself. Even most dog loving people I know--although they're too nice to say it to my face--would secretly think, "It was just a rat." I mean, goodness, her original purpose in life was to be the "bait" for Moe's earthdog training....
But it's funny how amused she kept us. Running in her wheel to her own special rhythm, contorting herself into impossible looking shapes to preen her tail, attacking bits of food handed to her through her cage bars, scampering over Sweet Husband's shoulders on excursions, watching our comings and goings with her all-knowing eyes....
She had something. I don't know if I could think of the right word even under better circumstances, but it was something even the dogs don't have. She always made me think of a particular poem I had to read in college...and since it's about as good of a little eulogy as I can think of....
Balancing on her haunches, the mouse can accomplish
Certain things with her hands. She can pull the hull
From a barley seed in paperlike pieces the size of threads.
She can turn and turn a crumb to create smaller motes
The size of her mouth. She can burrow in sand and grasp
One single crystal grain in both of her hands.
A quarter of a dried pea can fill her palm.
She can hold the earless, eyeless head
Of her furless baby and push it to her teat.
The hollow of its mouth must feel like the invisible
Confluence sucking continually deep inside a pink flower.
And the mouse is almost compelled
To see everything. Her hand, held up against the night sky,
Can scarcely hide Venus or Polaris
Or even a corner of the crescent moon.
It can cover only a fraction of the blue moth's wing.
Its shadow could never mar or blot enough of the evening
Imagine the mouse with her spider-sized hands
Holding to a branch of dead hawthorn in the middle
Of the winter field tonight. Picture the night pressing in
Around those hands, forced, simply by their presence,
To fit its great black bulk exactly around every hair
And every pin like nail, forced to outline perfectly
Every needle-thin bone without crushing one, to carry
Its immensity right up to the precise boundary of flesh
But no farther. Think how the heavy weight of infinity,
Expanding outward in all directions forever, is forced,
Nevertheless, to mold itself right here and now
To every peculiarity of those appendages.
And even the mind, capable of engulfing
The night sky, capable of enclosing infinity,
Capable of surrounding itself inside any contemplation,
Has been obliged, for this moment, to accommodate the least
Grasp of that mouse, the dot of her knuckle, the accomplishment
Of her slightest intent.