I was going to try to write some holiday-appropriate words to accompany this animated image of our Christmas tree. But it’s 3:20 on Christmas Eve’s eve morning as I write this and I’ve been up since 2:41 and I’m just not feeling very jolly.

I was brought from my sleep because our dog Shadow uncharacteristically unsilented the night with a couple of adamant barks at the aforementioned ungodly hour and minute. I did not hesitate to get up and go to her.

Every day I wrestle with a decision regarding Shadow whose inevitability will one day pin me to the mat — and sooner rather than later. She was eight weeks young when we found each other on the grass beside Balboa Lake in the Sepulveda basin. She is now eight months into our seventeenth year together and honestly, I don’t know if we have eight more days together.

Her hearing is severely diminished. She no longer walks, and can barely even sit up on her front two legs, much less stand on all four. As such I have become her dutiful attendant, shuttling her out into the backyard several times during the day and night where I’ll hold her upright with one arm cradling her belly and the other lifting her tail until she’s finished. If I get lucky she’ll poop, too. But I don’t get lucky often in that regard. Mostly when it comes to No. 2 she does that where she lays, and I pick up after her and then carry her out to for her to empty her bladder. This has been going on for a few months now.

She isn’t in any pain, at least not the obvious variety. But so long gone from those days a few years ago when she’d accompany meĀ  on two- or three-mile exploratory walks high and low around the neighborhood, Shadow clearly despises her condition. Who wouldn’t? Some might say that in prolonging her frustration and deterioration, I should despise it more.

For whatever it’s worth, my rationale is that she’s still pretty much in control of her bladder and she eats most meals. If –or I should say: when — either of those tentative positives go negative… well, then it will be time to say goodbye.

When I awoke to her barks I knew almost immediately that it wasn’t in alarm to anything going on outside because our other dog Ranger wasn’t accompanying it with any whimpers or frantic activity. When I got downstairs to her corner of the foyer next to the Christmas tree, whose lights were off, she lifted her head and looked at me. In nothing but my boxer briefs and flip flops I carried her outside into the 39-degree chill, cradled her belly and lifted her tail and minor miracle of minor miracles she both pooped and peed.

I have this little routine after she’s finished where I lift her back up in my arms and hold her close as I look up to the sky bracketed between our two backyard palm trees and I tell her what a good girl she is and that I love her. I prolonged that moment this time.

Back inside I returned her to the foyer, but still she fussed. Thinking she might be thirsty I moved her closer to her water bowl, but that wasn’t it. I sat and petted her, and she calmed a little, but I still sensed her stress. I’d accidentally left the tree’s lights on all night last night so I turned them back on to see if that might be what she wanted, and went and sat on the couch. Whether that was the solution or not, she relaxed. With the tree twinkling I set up the cam and recorded a few seconds of video. Before I finished she was asleep.

The tree is far brighter and more festive than the above too-dark animation of it, which I almost didn’t post. But actually, the clip works for me on a symbolic level. This holiday season has been dimmed by a decision I’m still not yet ready to make, but it still shines.