Earlier this month a good friend of mine had to endure the pain of watching her beloved family dog get sick and eventually pass. Their 12 yr. old chocolate Labrador was a member of the family, their oldest “baby”. In December, during an “emergency” trip to the animal hospital, they received the painful news that C was terminally ill. Before Christmas their Veterinarian recommended that the family put the dog down. They were not ready to do that; it was too sudden. They made the decision to give C whatever medication and care necessary to make her comfortable until they could decide what was best. Two months passed and C was still with them. It was a roller coaster ride where they experienced many good and many bad days. But, at least they got to experience them. Although it was difficult and the family knew that an end was in the near future, they got to spend that extra quality time with this furry member of the family. In the end, C passed away at the Vet’s office when, after a very difficult day, they realized that nothing more could be done for her. I believe C died knowing that her family loved her and will miss her dearly.
I experienced something very similar to this just over 4 years ago, when I lost my 12 year old lab/border collie mix to cancer. Taylor was my first “baby” and the first pet I adopted as an adult. She was with me from the time she was 8 weeks old and followed me everywhere. She came with me on every car ride I could take her on. I adopted her when I was in college in Virginia and she traveled with me from Maine to Florida. She was a wonderful people-loving dog. When she died I was devastated. She went from what seemed to be happy and healthy, to having such a large cancerous tumor that she couldn’t digest her food. She spent several nights at the animal hospital and we were all so sad. The Vets recommended that, since it was too late to do anything about the cancer and she was too weak to even walk, she be put to sleep. But the look in her eyes and her wagging tail when she would see me, told me that it was not yet time. I took home a very sick dog along with lots of medicine. I had to carry her in from the car. She weighed now only 55 lbs., but it was still very difficult for me to lift and carry her by myself, and it was very painful for her. I put her on her bed where she slept most of the day. She could barely get up at first, but this amazing dog, refusing to urinate in our house, dragged herself out our front door to go to the bathroom and then back in to her bed. She was still very weak, but didn’t seem to be in pain. After a few days of medication she started gaining some of her strength back. I had to cook her fresh meat, chop it into tiny little pieces and hand feed her all her meals for the next few weeks. She was worth every bit of trouble. It was heart-warming to see her make it all the way to the top of the hill in our yard to once again survey her property. It gave us both great pleasure taking those last few car rides. My decision to take her home from the Vet’s when they left me with little hope, gave me 3 extra weeks with my “baby girl” Taylor; days I will always remember and cherish, even as hard as they were. Taylor died in my arms on a Wednesday evening after a day of sneaking out and trying to sleep under the evergreens in our yard. I knew what she was trying to do, but I just couldn’t let die alone outside. I kept forcing her into the house and into her bed. I will never forget the look in her eyes in those last few moments; she was saying goodbye and I had to let her go.
Anyone who has not experienced the love and loss of a pet & family member, will never understand the void that is left in your heart upon this loved-one’s passing. In some ways it is more difficult than the death of another member of your family that you don’t see on a regular basis. With a pet’s loss, you are given a daily dose of your pain every time you turn around and that beautiful dog is not at your heals where she has been for so many days and years. Dogs just don’t live long enough. I wish my friend and her family, the ability to find joy in the memories they had with C, and take comfort in the fact that she knew how much she was loved. C’s passing will also allow them to provide a loving home for another homeless pet when they are ready to open their hearts once again. And knowing that, I know, will help heal the pain.
C’s last formal portrait