Her muzzle was almost completely white where it had once been solid liver brown. She had been losing weight for a while. The vet said her liver was failing and her body was no longer able to process and retain the protein from her food. She could not hear or see very well anymore. Sometimes she would think my fingers were her treats. Sometimes I would have to touch her to wake her since calling her name had no effect. Every night I would scoop her up and put her in my bed where she loved to sleep. Once in a great while, she would totally surprise me by jumping in my bed herself like she did in her younger days. I would look at her and laugh. Even at 16, she was still my funny, silly girl.
A quality of life.
The vet told me to ask myself what her quality of life was and that may help me decide when the time is right to let her go. I asked myself that many times during those last few months. She had gotten so thin. Her back legs would give out and I would run to help her and my heart would sink for a moment. Then to my surprise, she would bounce back and be “ok” for a while and I would breathe a sigh of relief because I just was not ready, my heart was not ready.
She loved to be near us.
I read that some dogs will separate themselves from their owners when their time was near. Not my girl. Wherever her family was…she was. Her favorite spot was the corner of the sofa and I always made sure there was a soft blanket there for her. I read that some dogs stop eating or barely eat when their time is near. Not my girl. She never missed a meal was always up for seconds and treats! She did not follow the “rules” of a dying dog. She would still run, or rather hobble, to get her toy when anyone walked in the door. Her little nub of a tail never stopped wagging. So I waited. I knew she would tell me and I would know.
That morning when I woke up and went to head downstairs I noticed my girl struggling to get up. Her back legs had given out and even though I tried to help her up like I had so many times before she was not “ok”. She could not support herself at all so I had to carry her down the steps and take her outside by taking a towel and looping it under her back end to hold her up so she could go to the bathroom. When we came back inside she plopped over and just looked at me. I saw it there in her sweet, soulful, hazel eyes. My heart knew it was time and there was peace in that knowledge. I took my daughter to school and on the way home stopped for an egg McMuffin and hashbrowns. My girl thoroughly enjoyed her last breakfast. She gobbled it up as I sat close to her eating mine.
Once we finished eating I called the vet and made the appointment for that afternoon. I then called my best friend Maureen and did not even have to ask her to come with me…she volunteered and for that I was very thankful! I would need someone with me that would not judge my “ugly cry” and she was the person for the job.
The drive to Indian Trail Animal Hospital took about 10 minutes and I had to carry my old girl in the door. Luckily they were waiting for me to arrive with her and I was able to go straight back to the exam room. The vet came into the room with the injections necessary to perform the euthanasia. I thought to myself how much power and emotion that word holds, euthanasia. When you hear that word associated with an animal shelter or an aggressive dog it is a harsh word, a dog is at the shelter too long and they are at risk for euthanasia. A dog bites and is deemed aggressive so it is ordered to be euthanized, a final punishment. For me, however, the word euthanasia meant I was able to allow my dog to die with me by her side and without prolonged suffering. As the vet administered the injections that day my best friend stood by my girl’s head and spoke soft comforting words while stroking her face. I hugged that sweet girl tight and told her how much I loved her. I remember smelling her one last time hoping to hold onto her unique doggie smell as long as I could and then just like that she was gone and I couldn’t help but think what an honor and a privilege it was for me be able to give her the gift of dying with dignity and surrounded with love. What a strangely beautiful moment that was when she took her last breath. The last one I would share with my four-legged soul mate. That is how I said goodbye to my girl. My Sadie.
I decided to have Sadie cremated and chose a beautiful wooden box for her ashes. Next to her corner on the sofa there was an end table and I thought how perfect! I put a soft blanket on the bottom shelf of that table and that is where I placed my Sadie. I had a few people look at me a tad strange when they asked about the box on a blanket and I responded “oh, that is my dog Sadie” but I didn’t care. When I dusted that table I would also dust Sadie’s box and give it a pat and say “hello my Sadie girl”. Did my husband and daughter think I was nuts? Probably, but that didn’t bother me one bit. Grieving for your pet is not a group event. There are no instructions on how to grieve properly. We all need to figure that out for ourselves and do what makes us feel comforted and at peace. Goodbye is hard no matter what so follow your heart and do what feels right. That is one of the many lessons I learned from my Sadie.
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