Today, I gathered you up in my arms and held you tight. Today, I took you for a ride. Today, I took you to the veterinarian to have you put to sleep.
Only those who have owned or treasured a pet can understand my pain and anguish. Not even the time-honored phrase, “A dog is a man’s best friend” gives me comfort at this time. For it was I, the one who loved you most in this world, who made the decision to have you put to sleep.
You brought us so much joy these past nine years. As a small puppy, you learned to carefully unwind the roll of bathroom tissue and back out the door, down the long hall with the long streamer still intact, pleased with yourself for accomplishing such a delicate feat. You never learned to love your bath; just hearing the word “bath” sent you scurrying under the nearest table or bed. But when you were scrubbed clean, you dashed from room to room with excitement and relief, the aroma of my best shampoo and conditioner in your trail.
You barked every time I took a shower, pretending someone was knocking at the door. When I left the house without you, you leaped onto the chair by the window, wailing and waiting for my return. The hundreds of times we took you in the car, you jumped from front to back, looking out every window, barking at cows and horses which you considered just big dogs. You had a good life, you were surrounded by people who adored you and your place in our family prompted our son Johnny to opine, “If there’s such a thing as reincarnation, please let me come back as my mother’s dog.”
You despised going to the vet for your regular shots and shook violently when we entered his clinic. No amount of coaxing or petting could calm you down. But you endured it, and leaped high into my arms when the ordeal was over.
You helped me avoid the “empty nest syndrome” when my sons left home for college or to purchase homes of their own. You loved to wiggle around on our bed at night until you found the small of my back, to nestle close beside me for sleep, heaving a final loud, contented sigh. You were impatient if we left the bedroom temporarily, standing erect at the foot of the bed barking in reproach for disturbing your sleep.
When you became very ill, we made a midnight emergency trip to an all-night animal clinic twenty miles away to discover through x-rays that you had a slipped disc. Knowing you must remain quiet for several days, I slept on the floor beside you at night, holding you close to me. I fed you small pieces of chicken and spoon-fed you water, then carried you outside on a pillow so you could relieve yourself. After several weeks, your recovery seemed complete and again you sprinted through the house, jumping on the furniture, reestablishing yourself as master of your domain.
One day you broke away from me to chase the large German shepherd dog across the road at the horse ranch. But a car speeding down the road swerved to avoid hitting you and nipped you slightly on your right foot. You seemed dazed but the vet was pleased that you showed no injuries and after a few hours you were jumping and playing as usual.
But apparently there were internal injuries. You began to lose bladder control. I took you outside much more frequently and began placing plastic sheeting and towels under tables and on the chairs where you liked to nap. Finally, when we moved to the mountains you lost all bladder control and would hide under the bed in shame whenever you relieved yourself on the carpet.
We tried to think of everything. Could we put pampers-type diapers on you and would you learn to live with them? Of course, you wouldn’t. You would have loved tearing them to pieces and scattering them through the house. Things became progressively worse and I lay awake nights dreading the inevitable. There was no room that was not carpeted where we could keep you. You could not be kept outside because, as an indoor dog, you would freeze during the harsh, mountain winter. I knew that putting you in another building separate from us would make you wail with wondering and loneliness. If I gave you away, someone might mistreat you for soiling their carpet.
I knew the decision was mine and it was mind-numbing. John and I discussed it endlessly and he offered to take care of it for me when he returned from out of town. My mother-in-law offered to go with me to the vet, as did my friend, Sarah. But I knew it was something I must do alone.
So gathering you up in my arms, I drove you into a neighboring mountain town for your favorite vanilla ice cream cone. As you happily licked away, tears streamed down my face. I looked at the white fur on your small body, how carefully the groomer had recently cut it into the “Benji” look, how the red collar with the silver dog tag with our name and phone number on it fit so well around your slim neck.
When you finished the ice cream and wiped your face with your paws. I drove slowly to the vet’s office, blurred vision making it difficult to see the street sign. We were new to this area and this neighboring village was unfamiliar to me. I found the new vet’s clinic and held you tightly in the car for as long as I could.
When we walked into the clinic, I was sobbing unashamedly. You began to shake. I kissed you goodbye and asked the vet to make it quick. Your brown eyes looked up at me in utter bewilderment, almost pleading. They closed the door behind you, my beloved little dog, and I ran to my car, laying my head on the steering wheel and crying while my heart broke in two. A kind, elderly man who had been in the clinic, reached inside the open car window and patted my arm. “I’m sorry,” he said softly before walking slowly to his vehicle.
The grief I feel over losing you is beyond any reasonable description. The heartache and guilt I felt driving alone along the country road was overwhelming. The stark stillness of the house when I walked in and began picking up your favorite toys and half-chewed bone cannot be expressed in any words I know.
No other little dog will ever take your place in my heart. I miss you so.
Goodbye, my little dog.....