A few days ago, we had to say good-bye to our family dog. Her health was going downhill the last two years and I knew it was coming, but when it happened, it left me in shock and in tears.
After 12 years together, we had to have her euthanized. Prior to having her, I just accepted that this was often a part of having a dog, and it was more humane. But. when you are in the place where you have to decide the fate of your beloved pet, it is very difficult.
Is this ethical? Am I selfish for not doing it? Am I selfish for doing it? Will I be there? Am I betraying her?
The pain of losing a family dog is horrible and one that I did not understand completely until I went through it.
In memory of my sweet dog, I wanted to share her story. We got her in our first year of marriage, 12 years ago. She was a stray that was found by a friend. We were having a birthday party for my husband and were pretty drunk at the time. I wanted to get a dog anyway, but I am sure the alcohol and the sad story of this cute pup being homeless had something to do with it.
It was her first night at the house, and we just let her wander all night. We woke up in a fog the next morning, looking at each other, wondering if we got a dog. Next thing you know, this adorable little black puppy comes walking in with her tail wagging. My sweet girl had found her home, and we found her.
We named her after a song that I loved, and we took her to the beach the very next day. We had no idea what kind of dog she was, and when she was wet, her hair turned into all these tight black curls. I am not a poodle fan, but looking at her, that was what I thought she might be. I really had no idea what to make of her, but I loved her.
She moved all over with us. She went to music festivals, she camped, she went in the boat and the beach with us. There wasn’t anywhere I didn’t bring her. She was my girl.
Once I was going to go kayaking off a friend’s dock, but as soon as I started to paddle away, she jumped in the water, bit the rope in the front of the kayak and swam me back to land. My girl was “rescuing” me.
She was also there when we had both our kids. She instantly saw them as one of the pack and would always lay between the kids and whoever was visiting. If one of the kids was asleep in their room, she would lay on their floor. She loved us, and she protected us.
About 2 years ago, her hip dysplasia and arthritis started to get worse. She would wake up crying and couldn’t get comfortable. We brought her to the vet and got medicine. I also used to sit up with her and put heating pads on her sore body. We had many sleepless nights like that.
Her eyesight and hearing was going downhill, but the next biggest issue we faced was when she couldn’t hold her bowels for any length of time. I always did the best I could to take her out, but there were many, many mornings I would wake up to poop and pee all over my downstairs floor. Often, I would clean it up quietly and never tell my husband. She couldn’t help it, and I didn’t want anyone to get upset with her.
She always had a sensitive stomach, but it started to get worse. So, I was cleaning up her puke as well as poop and pee almost every day. I was petrified the vet would tell me we should put her down, so I just kept on going. She wasn’t crying in pain, and she still loved to be pet and loved. She would even chase the ball for a few throws. These were signs to me that she still had a lot of life in her.
Everyone kept telling me it was time, but I couldn’t do it. Then, the other day I let her out as she was starting to get sick. Her legs couldn’t hold her, so she fell over. Still heaving, my poor dog was kicking her legs in the air, wiggling her body as she struggled to get up. She rolled in her puke and the dirt. It was all over her.
I was frozen and the tears just fell. I quickly cleaned my girl off and warmed her up. Then I pet and held her on and off for the next few hours. I told her how much I loved her, and she looked at me with her big brown eyes.
My husband made an appointment for a consultation with the vet as soon as I called him about what happened. While I was home with the kids, he brought her to the vet. I couldn’t bear to hear the bad news, which I knew was coming. But, I thought she would come home, and we would bring her back if the decision was that we should put her down. I would be there with her when she passed.
Instead, I got a call from my husband about 30 minutes after her appointment. He told me that she was gone. I was speechless, in shock and then the tears started falling.
My husband was upset and couldn’t talk about it. He had to go back to work. and I was at home. Was she still alive? Could I go save her? I just didn’t have closure. I couldn’t let her go until I knew more.
Since then, I cry myself to sleep every night. I miss her, and I feel like I betrayed her by not taking her there myself. All I want is her back, but that’s not possible. I want her to know how much I love her. I also want her out of pain.
My son took the news fairly well. He had a lot of questions and missed her, but he didn’t have the same bond with her because he hated when she barked. My daughter, on the hand, has cried and cried. It has been very hard.
I need a special place for her, so I making one in the garden. I also got a book called Dog Heaven and have been reading it to the kids. I really hope there is a big grassy field up there with lots of room to run and lots of water to swim, where she can eat as many treats as she wants and be pain-free. I miss and love you, my sweet Thea.
Have you ever experienced the pain of losing a pet?
This is an original World Moms Blog post by Maggie Ellison of South Carolina, USA. Maggie can be found crafting with her children at home or playing on the beach with them in the low country of South Carolina, USA.
Photo credit to the author.
No, I haven’t…but you made me cry.
Yes. Growing up, we had a menagerie of pets: fish, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats, dogs and evena pigeon (long story, but he lived 18 yrs). My mom couldn’t bear to euthanize an animal, and as a teen, I had to bring our cat to the vet as she was dying of kidney failure. I’ve been there for our 18 yr old dog and 18 yrs old cat as they also died of kidney failure. I had another cat die in my arms before I could get him to the vet. Two years ago, we lost another cat to kidney failure (seems to be a very common thing). It’s hard, but I remind myself that these were family members and they were loved. We have one cat now and he is 15. Most likely, after he is gone, we will not get another pet. I think his loss will be the hardest for me. You will get through it. Remember your dog was loved and lived a very happy life with a loving family. Look up the Rainbow Bridge story on the Internet.
Sorry, Karyn…didn’t mean to make you cry. I wrote this a few days after she passed and it helped so much to get it all out. Writing can be so healing.
Elizabeth, I understand not wanting another. I feel like I just can’t make that attachment with another animal right now. We had pets growing up, too and losing them never affected me as much as this. I think it was different bc she was my girl and I was hers. We had a stronger bond. Before this, I truly did not understand what people went through. I am not a cold person at all, but I just didn’t fully understand.
Everyone said it would get better and it really has. Its been over a month now. I still look for her or think she will bark at something, but when she’s not there, I don’t cry anymore. I miss her, but I have come to accept things as they are now.
Thanks for understanding. 🙂
Always remember her! Think about the times you will have when you kids are grown looking back on pictures of your beautiful dog, Thea. Thank you for sharing your story!
I am so sorry about the loss of Thea <3 When you love deeply, you hurt deeply. Thea could not have had a better family to care for her. Xox
Big hugs to you, Maggie! I have had to make the decision to euthanize a pet, and it’s just awful. But Thea had a happy life, and you loved her well, especially with the care you gave during her last months. I hope you find some comfort.
What a sad story 🙁 I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your pet. Our little furry friends are really like family members and it’s painful to lose them. I lost a cat “Meisha” a few years ago and it broke my heart at the time. She had some medical problem that we couldn’t diagnose and was always really small and underweight. As an adult she weighed less then 4 lbs, which is more like a kitten. She was peeing everywhere and was especially fond of peeing on my clean pile of laundry. After ruining some hardwood floor we moved her outside. Despite being small and her peeing problems, she didn’t seem to be sick. But one morning she was really lethargic, couldn’t walk well and was not eating. We left for lunch and when we came back she was sitting in the yard soaking wet because the sprinklers had gone off and she didn’t seek shelter. My husband carried her to her box with a blanket and she took her last breath in his arms. It was really sad. I wondered if she had eaten something poisonous and I should have taken her to the vet. However, I think I would have just ended up with an expensive vet bill and the same result. She was just 2 years old.
Very sorry for your loss Maggie. I’ve lost many when I was a child, but not as an adult. I did have 2 cats I had to give away when I had my son, and I cried when they left, but knew they were going to a good home. Your beloved dog is now in a good place too. Chin up!
Oh Maggie – I am so sorry! I teared up reading this. Sending a big hug your way.