Saturday, January 28, 2012
There have been many posts on the death of an animal family member, mostly horses, so I don't want to repeat the sentiments of everyone who owns and love their critters: we outlive our pets and know at some point that we will have to deal with and make decisions about their deaths no matter how difficult. Thursday, however, we had to put our lovely Labrador retriever down, and the sadness is still on my mind. Dozer had been on two pain medications for over a year, yet his arthritis continued to get worse. The past several months, he struggled to get up, his hind legs often collapsed, his breathing was labored, and he limped on his front. Still he greeted us cheerfully, ate heartily, and although he couldn't handle our long walks, he refused to give up our twice-a-day short walks with me and his other two dog buddies. Until last Monday.
I knew something was off when he vomited breakfast. Without meds, his pain quickly increased, but when I tried to entice him with pills in cheese (his favorite) he refused with clamped jaw. A first. Unfortunately, my husband had just gone out of town for work, and I knew I would be handling this alone. Which isn't easy with a one hundred pound dog. Thinking illness (yeah, I know. Such denial!), I managed to load him in the van and head to the vet. $400.00 later the vet told me what I already knew--he had congenital heart problems along with everything else and his lungs were filling with fluid. One more medicine to add to the daily dose.
After I got him home, he speedily went downhill. He fell several times and could only get up with a towel sling I used to lift his middle. Then on Thursday after class, I came home to find him flat on the garage floor where he'd fallen and hadn't been able to get up. He'd waited patiently and quietly but looked at me with trusting eyes as I helped him to his feet. Well, you can imagine by Thursday, I'd about cried myself dry because I knew the decision was being made for me. Luckily, it was a beautiful day, so I got him on his bed in the sun, where he lay with his one buddy, Jake, until my husband came home late afternoon (there had already been many teary phone calls) to say goodbye and wait for our wonderful horse vet who came to the house. I gave Dozer a last hug and kiss, and like a giant coward, left to teach class. When I came home, I helped Bruce dig a grave in the pasture and we buried him.
While we dug, my husband and I talked about how part of the difficulty of losing Dozer, other than he was a great friend and 'child', was his leaving the family marked a sad passage in our lives in other ways. Dozer grew up with our children--they were eight and ten when we got him--and now they are grown and making decisions about new lives and places to live, and will soon be leaving us, too. When my kids headed to college, although it was a tough transition, they came home often, and we all adjusted. Now my daughter is graduating and thinking of moving west with her boyfriend. We also see our son, who is working about two hours away, less than we used to and know that one day, he may move away to follow a dream or career. Which is what we want, I know. We can't cling to our children forever and our beloved pets die before we do. Each change, each passage, for me is gut wrenching. I slowly adjust and try find new passions because I realistically know that this is how life works. Still, it's just dang hole-in-the-heart hard.
Thank you for letting me share!