This will be a difficult post, but one that begs to be told. I am fortunate to be in contact with many pets during my day because I am a pet sitter. It is very rewarding work. However, recently there seems to be an unusual number of my clients losing their best friends. It started in June of last year when my own 15 year old lab mix died. I count myself as fortunate because Sunshine died in her sleep, in her bed, in my living room. She had been showing signs of coming to the end of her life. Her appetite was waning, her energy was slowing down and she had difficulty maintaining control of her bladder. After many days of this behavior, I just knew it was her time. The night before she crossed the rainbow bridge, I laid on the floor with her. I told her how much I loved her, how important she was and how she would be missed. I also told her it was okay to go. I cry thinking about it.
Not long after that, one of my clients called to tell me her chow mix, Cassie, had died. This was a sudden death, preceded only by an increased lameness in an already bum knee. My heart went out to her owners. They, too, felt fortunate that Cassie did not suffer and that she was at home when she passed away. Then it was my sister’s scottish terrier, Andrew. He had somehow hurt his shoulder and what started as lameness turned into irreparable nerve damage that was too painful for the dog. He had to be put down, euthanized. Andrew had been one of my regular walks and he was such a joy. I miss him still. My sister can’t bear to bury his ashes. Too soon I received a text from Deliliah’s mom that she had to be euthanized. Deliliah was a 13 year old doberman who had suffered with arthritis and was gradually becoming incontinent. When I would walk Deliliah, it was like speed walking. That dog could flat out move. I delighted in our visits. Now it has been only days since the last loss. Her name was Brandy. She was a whippet mix, maybe 8 years old. I cared for her most recently just a week ago when her mom and dad went out of town. My last visit was a Saturday morning and I was contacted the next day and told she had been put down. I was stunned! Brandy had been fine during the week I cared for her. Full of energy, playing with the neighbor’s dogs and a hearty appetite to boot. I left a note for her owners that she had lost her breakfast that morning and I thought she had simply eaten too fast. Turns out there was a mass and, in the end, she suffered cardiac arrest. I think Brandy was waiting until her mom and dad came home before she surrendered to her illness.
How do we handle this major loss? What sense can we make of a dog that suddenly becomes ill, then is quickly out of our lives? An older dog that is beginning to lose bodily functions deserves to leave us with dignity. That is the responsibility of pet ownership. Andrew and Deliliah had lived full lives and were loved beyond measure. Euthanasia is not a decision to take lightly, but it is a decision we can make for our pets so they will not suffer. Pets, such as Sunshine and Cassie, were taken by the natural cycles of life. Those cycles will continue for all pet owners.
I said this would be a difficult post and it has been for me. I mourn my Sunshine, I mourn the dogs I no longer will be able to share time with and I mourn the dogs I have lost in the past. Hug your dog today. Sit with him and just relax in their calmness. Tell them you love them.