I’ve said goodbye to a number of pets including turtles, fish, dwarf hamsters, cats and dogs. For me, dogs have to be the hardest to let go perhaps because I spend so much time with them outdoors and in my home office.
Three years ago, our handsome Golden Retriever, Skipper stopped eating around age 12. Aside from skin allergies necessitating a fish diet, Skipper was beautiful and healthy. At the beginning of his fast, I was able to convince him to eat. Over months it became a chore for us both, with me cooking him an entire meal and hand feeding it as he turned up his nose like a two year old with mushed peas. The weight came off too and his energy flagged so that he could only eventually raise up his two eyebrows to mock me. See I told you I was old.
My husband didn’t ask me, he just took Skipper to the Vet. He came home and didn’t say a word ~ the collar hanging by the leashes at the door. He was quiet for weeks and I cried at the most unexpected times. Sometimes there are no words.
Two years later, Callebaut, our easy going black Labrador Retriever was 14 and was the marvel of the leash free. Even with gray whiskers since age nine, his hips, eyes and ears [selectively] were pain and disease free and he could roam for miles if left unattended. Over several months, I noticed he was restless at night. He’d wander from room to room panting heavily. Confused, I guided him from the door to the water bowl, but he wanted neither water nor to pee. When I returned from a week’s vacation, I noticed that Kona our Goldi-Poo would no longer sleep in the same room with him. After a couple of weeks, it suddenly hit me that maybe he was looking for the door.
I know I would rather have my pet die naturally, like I would like to die in my sleep. As a child, our dogs would wander off or go to the dog house or under the porch to die. I’m not sure if it’s the access we have to quality pet food and pet health care, but I know of very very few dogs that have died naturally. Mostly, I know people who have waited too long until their pets were in agony before they chose euthanasia.
How do our pets tell us when they are ready to be unburdened with old life in this age? How do we put our feelings aside to do the right thing? It’s a very personal question. I think in both cases Skipper and Callebaut did communicate beautifully.
I was very blessed that my son dropped by exactly as I was taking Callebeaut to the Vet Clinic for euthanasia. My recollection was correct that in spite of the open file on the Vet’s desk which showed years of tender care and my dog’s advanced age, she still felt it necessary to challenge my decision for euthanasia. What about blood work or xrays, she said? What about an overnight for observation?
I held onto my son and only his tearful face in front of me could remind me of the 14 plus years of the envious life of a healthy, well-loved dog that was Callebaut.
Deep Breath. a Choice, following which the Vet was incredibly helpful and sympathetic. My son and I held each other a cried a river between us.