How Do You Say Goodbye to a Dog? - 06/30/2020
How do you say goodbye to a dog? It starts long before they are old or sick. It starts with acknowledging the day you meet your pup, that it will not be yours forever. That you are given a finite number of years, maybe as much as 15 or 17 but probably 10 or 12. You learn to love your dog with all your heart, but if you are wise, you will enjoy every day as much as possible, because the days are limited. You watch her mature and learn and grow into a sweet companion and friend. You do things that they like to do, and take them with you wherever you go, as far as possible. You take good care of them, getting them bathed and their nails cut, taking them to the vet for their shots, giving them anti-flea and tick medication. And if you are lucky, they are healthy for most of their lives.
But if your dog lives to be 10 or more, you are likely to start noticing changes. The first will be a slight graying of the muzzle, that will spread out eventually and cover most of their face. They may began to limp, and not be able to jump as high as they once did, if at all. They will stop chasing other dogs at the park, but instead politely sniff and then hang around you and the other people for rubs, because it feels better. And one day, you may notice that they are panting all the time, for no reason. So you take them to the vet, spending more than you can afford on tests, because you will do anything to help your girl. If you are lucky, there will be medication they can take, or procedures that can be done. Even so, sometimes the diagnosis is a disease that can't be cured. If you are lucky, it can be slowed.
So you buy the medication and the special food, and you change from a collar to a harness, so she can breathe better. For a while the panting stops, and she breathes more normally. You've done your research, so you know that you are buying time, that while she may have two years, it may be two months. And you remember to cherish the days, because after all, they are limited. And now you know that they are numbered. But you keep doing the things she loves, taking her with you wherever you can, and spreading happiness and joy to everyone you see, because that is what dogs do. They freely give their love and acceptance to everyone you meet. And because your dog is adorable, everyone is happy to receive that love.
She is gettting tired, though, and after about a year, the panting comes back. This time the diagnosis is more grim. There are no good outcomes for the disease she has. But there is more medication, so you add that to her food, and it starts to help. She's limping now, so you have to treat her aging joints as well. But she still loves to go for walks, and rides in the car, and to the dog park. She loves her food and her treats and her chews. She's sleeping more, because she tires easily. She has begun to develop a severe cough. At first you try antibiotics, but this isn't an infection. It's a symptom of the structural damage she carries in her trachea and her heart. As the cough gets worse, she starts refusing food with medication in it. Eventually, she stops eating at all. And then she can't stop vomiting.
You rush her to the vet. On the way there, you talk to your beloved companion, and you tell her what a good girl she is, and what a good life you have had together. You thank her for all she has taught you, and you tell her how much you love her, and that you will never leave her. You know that she is nearly deaf and probably doesn't hear or really understand what you are saying. But you need to say the words anyway. You sing her favorite song, "Paradise" by Coldplay, only you sing "Claradise" because that's the way she learned it and was astonished when she heard it on the radio the first time. She gives you her sideways look and smiles her doggy smile, her tongue hanging out as always because it's too big for her mouth. You tell the vet when you arrive that you think it may be time to let go. They take her, and put her in a room alone, but you're seated right outside the door and you can hear her breathing, panting so hard, and you know she is scared. You go to the door that separates you, and try to make her hear you, but she can't, so you enter without permission to spend the last remaining moments with your dog. She sits on your lap, and looks up at you with her "I love you" puppy-dog eyes, that she only gives you at special times. She knows it's time.
The vet comes in and examines your girl. She asks questions, and says that she thinks the trachea is a lot worse than it was the last time she checked it. She says that she thinks your dog is only going to get much worse, and that the kindest act now is euthanasia. This is the decision that you have been dreading since your pup got sick. But because you have cherished the days, taken good care of her, done things she loved to do, and just generally tried to love her as completely and unconditionally as she loved you, you know that it is time to say goodbye to your dog, and that you will be able to let her go.
The vet leaves for your to have a last talk. You rub your girl's head and velvety ears. You tell her that you will always remember that she had a little snout, not a flat face like most pugs, and that her nose had gotten really dry because of her panting, and that nothing seemed to help it. You tell her that you will never forget her incredibly long tongue that always looked so cute sticking out of her mouth. You rub her belly and her legs and tell her that you will remember that she had a skin tag on her right hind leg that was funny-looking but not harmful, so you left it there. You tell her how much you love her little tummy. You hold her tight one last time, and then you summon the vet.
You take your dog in your arms as you sit on the floor next to a brightly colored fleece blanket. You point out that it matches her pink vest and her little pink cuffs that the doctor has placed on her forelegs to hold the catheter. And then you hold her firmly, as the vet injects the poison that will stop her heart. She struggles a little, because it probably is cold and doesn't feel good. But in a matter of seconds, her body goes limp. You are still stroking her head, and crying, saying "I love you," when the vet says, "There's no heartbeat." And it is over. You kiss her one last time, and the vet bundles her in the bright blanket and carries her away.
Your dog is gone. You will never see her alive again. You have your pictures, and you have your memories, and that will have to be enough. But then you remember when she was on the other side of the door but couldn't hear you. And you realize that maybe, wherever she has gone, she's just as close as through that door, but you just can't hear her. You know that one day you will see her again, even if it's just in dreams. And because you have kept her death in front of you always, when the time came, you were able to hold her fast, and let her go. That is how I said goodbye to my dog.
RIP Clarabelle Floyd, January 2009? - June 29, 2020
#Clarabelle #Claradise #CollapsingTrachea #CongestiveHeartFailure #Euthanasia #LoveForever