On January 6, 2023 I had to put my dog down. As far as tragedy goes, this wasn’t one. She was a big dog and almost 17 years old. A miracle age for this breed so the time wasn’t unexpected.
The bulk of the grief came in the “before” – before the final vet check, before the sedation. The grief fell deeply in the waiting.
I knew she was suffering – but it came on fast. One day she was walking like a champ and the next she was unable to stand.
And for all the years I worried about the time to put her down the decision came quite easily:
- My friend was fostering a dog who we took to the dog park. Seeing this puppy hop in the snow and run after the other dogs I knew my dog friend would never be able to do that again.
- My brother came over before Christmas and after Christmas. He remarked on how skinny she was before and that she was skinnier after two more weeks. She was never going to gain the weight back.
- It was icy outside and she fell and couldn’t get up. I knew her legs were never going to get better.
Still, the time between the decision and the actual event was excruciating. Truly horrible. The last time taking her out for a stroll. The last meal – as she ate well until the end. The last cuddle.
The appointment was all I could ever wish for as a pet owner. A compassionate vet. A wonderful staff. A comfy pillow for her and a nice sofa for me. And even one last giggle as the first sedative made her snore like crazy. Somehow this time of deep sadness turned into joy.
And the joy went on after the end. The relief that I did well by my dog stayed with me. It was a massive weight lifted off of my back.
I still cry about it from time to time. More for my loss than anything else. I miss having her little nose nudge me awake in the morning especially. The best alarm clock ever. No, I’m not happy about losing her, but I have so much joy in the memories. From puppy to old girl, I was able to offer her a beautiful life.
This isn’t the first time I have experienced grief and it won’t be the last – my parents are aged – my older brothers will get there too. Death is a part of life. Yet, I wonder if in the midst of grief to come I will be able to find the joy as well. Maybe not so quickly, but certainly with time. Maybe it’s a choice? If so I’m going to embrace that joy – choose it.
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