Wednesday, November 20, 2013

More than just a dog.

We said goodbye today to an old friend, a furry, gentle soul who has been as much a part of our family as our children for twelve and a half years. A tearful goodbye, for certain. It was not easy for me to coordinate messages, text conversations, email communication, and video chats between three states and two continents, just so all of the immediate members of our family could be aware of the sad events of the day. We all know this was goodbye "for good', and that this day had been approaching for a long while.

Tonight, as the padding of heavy, burdened paws on the hallway tile has been replaced with the clicking-on of the heater and the sniffles of little girls fighting emotions and sleep simultaneously, I'm reminded that this pain is temporary, even though it is deep. Our lives will continue without our beloved Jake, almost without interruption. Almost. Without him, there will be no wet nose to inspect our legs and feet every time we walk into the door. No deep brown eyes searching for love and just one more peanut butter cookie. No one to feed that last piece of garlic bread to, and as a heartbroken 8-year-old pointed out, no one to eat those pizza crusts the girls never finish because he loved them so much. No silent companion on walks down the road outside our house. No big, near-invisible-in-the-dark guard standing watch in the living room to trip over during the night. No ... those have all been replaced with this aching hole in our hearts that has filled with tears far too many times today.

Of course, all of us--the adult children in Maryland and Tennessee, the husband in Abu Dhabi on business, and all of us here at home know Jake is well deserving of this relief from his last few years of physical decline. We nearly lost him last Thanksgiving from a severe reaction to prescription flea treatment, and he has been tortured by those awful pests because the non-toxic treatments don't work. His joints have been growing increasingly more painful to him as he's aged, but this last month has been miserable. Our once strong, fast, and agile dog became weak, unable to stand without assistance, and was falling down almost as many times as he'd get up. It is agonizing to watch someone you love deteriorate physically, but when the only means of communication they have are those "old soul" eyes that just look straight through to your heart, and they scream for help, for understanding, and for relief, it breaks your heart. I have listened to him whimper and whine these last two days in pain from just getting up to get a drink of water, and I promised myself I would never let an animal get THAT bad.

That decision to call the vet was likely the most difficult decision I have ever made. I knew what it meant. I knew I'd have to take him there by myself, without his "daddy" there to offer him comfort or to do the same for me. I knew there was no going back. I knew I was making the call that would end his life. Nothing can prepare you for that. It's probably the worst part of being an adult, and I have been through some "stuff" in my forty years. No one else but me could make that decision. It ate me alive last night. I didn't sleep, because I knew what today was going to bring. I wanted to make the right decision. I didn't want to put him down too soon, but I didn't want him suffering, either. Mental anguish. Over a dog. Someone said today that "it's just a dog". Well, no, Jake was much more than that. He was OUR dog. He was the one we committed to caring for, in exchange for nothing but his unconditional love. And he deserved to have the end of his life treated with the utmost care and respect.

We sure will miss you, old boy. We have those memories to treasure, but none of them will ever come close to the real thing. It has been a pleasure being your family. Rest well.

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