Sometimes doing the right thing is gut-wrenching. That is the case when you have to euthanize a dog.
We brought her home as an eight week old puppy and watched her grow right alongside our daughters, who adored the little bundle of fur. She became a playmate, a partner, a companion, and a member of the family.
Her jobs were simple, but important:
- Greet family members each time they returned home, toy in mouth and tail wagging
- Greet friends and relatives when they came to visit, toy in mouth and tail wagging
- Take the family for a couple of walks each day to make sure they get their exercise
- Greet neighbors on the daily walk, tail wagging
- Bring back the ball that people had obviously, errantly tossed away
- Keep lookout over the back yard from the patio doors
- Growl menacingly at any chipmunks, cats, or other dogs that entered her back yard kingdom
- Bark at the yappy little dogs that walked by on the street each day
- Run laps around the house in the snow to demonstrate how it feels to be truly free
- Stare at her bowls at meal time to be sure that we could all dine together, maintaining all social graces
- Roll over for a belly rub to provide a complete dog experience
- Nap just enough during the day so that when we dragged ourselves home from an exhausting day of work or school she would be ready to play and ease our stresses
At age five she developed chronic pancreatitis. But with a little tender loving care and constant vigilance over her expensive dog food diet, she kept going for another six years. Then, about six weeks ago she developed new and different symptoms and a routine blood test showed the beginning stages of kidney failure. She held her own for several weeks; and then she grew increasingly lethargic, developed a cough and labored breathing, couldn’t keep food down, and finally was moaning or whimpering in pain. Even though we have spent a bundle on her since her diagnosis, this decision was not at all about the expense. If there was even half a prayer’s worth of hope that she could improve and live a little longer without pain, we would spend more. But there was no more hope, only anguish for her and for us.
So today we made that hardest of all decisions. When your devoted companion is in failing health and constant pain and there is no good outcome on the horizon, you choose to end their suffering because no one should live in misery when there is no longer quality left in their life. We owed it to her to ease her pain. We stayed with her while they administered a sedative and watch her drift into a very peaceful doggy sleep. We said goodbye, and we said thank you, and we told her we would always love and remember her.
I left one of her most important jobs off the earlier list: comforting her humans. She could sense when one of us was sick or especially sad. If we were feeling bad she would come and sit near us – close enough so that we could pet her, because petting your puppy always makes you feel better. Sometimes she would stand close enough to be petted, and then sit down without realizing that the act of sitting put her just barely out of our reach, and that made us smile. Sometimes she would nestle her forehead between our knees so that we could scratch her ears, and that soothed our worries.
Now she is permanently out of reach and not here to handle that most important job of providing comfort. So I write this through tears that won’t stop, without the warmth of my dog by my side.
To say that we will miss her is an enormous understatement. She has left a dog sized hole in our hearts and our home. Now we know that our beloved perpetual baby is no longer hurting. Her torment has transferred to our broken hearts and turned to grief, which we will gratefully accept in thanks for her faithful love for eleven years.