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.

Maggie Ellison

Maggie is so grateful to be raising her 2 children with her husband in the low country of South Carolina. Life at the beach is what she’s always known, although living in SC is new to this NJ native! The beauty of the live oaks and the palmettos takes her breath away on a daily basis and being able to go to the beach all year is a dream for her. Art and music have also always been a part of Maggie’s life, and she is happy that her family has the same love and appreciation for it that she does.
Maggie and her family are also very active. Her husband coaches both kids in soccer, and they like to spend their time outdoors kayaking, biking, swimming, camping, etc. They try to seize every moment they can together, and they feel that it’s not just the family time that is important. They want their kids to know a life of activity and respect for the outdoors, expose them to new things and teach them about the world! Maggie and her family are no strangers to overcoming life's challenges. They've had to uproot their family several times when jobs have been lost in the economic crisis.
They also lovingly face the challenges of having a child diagnosed with special needs. Through all this, Maggie has learned to celebrate the good times and never take them for granted. Her family is everything to her, and she is incredibly grateful for every day she has with them and for every moment she has shared with them. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t tell them she loves them and how lucky she is to be her kids’ mommy. How sweet!

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