When your dog dies

The best dog ever.

When your dog dies…

“I could give you some medication for him. It would alleviate some of the pain, but…”

I knew when I hugged him that it would be for the last time. Cradled in my oldest son’s arms, I bid farewell to our family’s dog.

He had a wonderful life. He lived better than some humans, as he never wanted for a meal or a warm place to lay his head.

Apparently, I slept through what my husband said was Jack’s very labored breathing. Our dear old dog made some very odd sounds, jarring my husband awake. And since I woke at my usual time, I let Jack outside while I filled his dish with his breakfast, not knowing what had transpired through the night.

Dear old Jack never missed a meal. We called him a “food opportunist.” But when he tried to climb two steps to get in the kitchen for breakfast, he collapsed. Though he was eventually able to stand up, he couldn’t climb the steps. Running to him, I knew in my heart that this was the end. He was 13 and a half years old. His back legs were giving out on him more frequently, yet he had never fallen this hard. I carried his food bowl to him, where he polished it off, as usual.

Well done, good and faithful servant. Click To Tweet

He heard his master rise, and slowly this dedicated dog climbed up the two steps leading into the kitchen, even though I told him, “It’s okay. Just stay here.” Loyal to the end, he wasn’t going to miss out on greeting my husband.

As the morning and early afternoon progressed, he became weaker. He couldn’t walk, nor could he lay down unaided. He shook severely. And he was surrounded by his family.

By sheer coincidence, we ended up with a house full after our grandson’s baptism. This wasn’t planned, but it was the best way for Jack to spend his last day.

I’m not going to lie. The ugly cry was happening – in fact, is still happening. When I looked into that dear dog’s face, I swear he was communicating to me. His eyes pleaded for help. And I could see he was frightened. Most likely, he was shaking from the pain. I buried my head into his neck as I always did when I needed his comfort, and promised him he wouldn’t be alone. I thanked him for all he had done for our family; for who he was; and I told him over and over that I loved him.

And then, he was gone. My husband and youngest son took him to the emergency vet. Though we could have given him painkillers, buying him maybe a week, the vet was concerned it would create more problems. So they stayed with Jack until the end, comforting him as he entered his final rest.

Sure, he was “just a dog.” But you know what? He was the best dog. Ever. He bonded with us after we rescued him, almost like thanking us for giving him another chance.

And to thank us, he loved us unconditionally. He fiercely protected us. He didn’t lie, cheat or steal. Well, yes, he did steal food, whenever he could. We’d feel like celebrities when we came home, as he greeted us like he was seeing us the for the first time. And have you ever seen a service member reunited with his dog? We lived it, and it was great.

I haven’t grieved this hard in over a year, when my husband left for a ten month deployment and my Aunt Rachel died less than 24-hours later. When I sat on the floor that day, I buried my head into his neck, and sobbed uncontrollably. All I want to do right now is hold him while I cry, but he isn’t here. The empty, quiet of the house feels stifling. The rest of the family have jobs to return to. My office is here at home. And he was my co-worker. He’d snore on his rug in my office, and nudge me when it was time to eat or go outside. I brought his favorite toys in here, so when I look over at where he’d be, I will have something of his to see.

It will be too quiet when the garbage trucks go by, and he doesn’t bark. The mail carrier and over-night delivery trucks will pass unnoticed.

I know in a few days we’ll get used to our “new normal.” I will wash his food and water bowls, and use them when my “grand puppies” come to visit. I’ll move his bed out of our room, because the empty spot where he slept is a gut-punch each time I see it.

In a few weeks, I’ll cry when I still find his fur while vacuuming. I know I’ll shed tears when I walk down the dog food aisle.

My eyes will eventually reduce in swelling. The tears will eventually stop flowing.

But for now, I will grieve the dog that filled this home with joy and memories and fur and barking. I will remind myself of what a dear friend told me when my dad died – that when you grieve that hard, remember you were blessed, because you have something so special to treasure.

When your dog dies
Jack, guarding his kingdom… also know as our yard.

We’ll get to a new normal. And we’ll probably rescue another dog in time. Once you’ve opened your heart, you can either slam the door shut or keep it open. We’ll keep it open.

We all know Jack is okay, and in another place – a good place. We know this because within minutes of my husband and son returning from the vet, a brilliant red cardinal came and sat on the fence, among the grape leaves that grow in our yard. The grape vines that Jack ate from each fall. And while my husband and I sat outside mourning, looking out at the yard that was Jack’s domain, a monarch butterfly flitted around me, and then hovered over husband, encircling his head, eventually settling to his left, right where Jack would sit to be petted by his master.

One of my dad’s favorite paintings was Jesus hugging someone entering heaven, with the Bible verse from Matthew 25:23 stenciled on it. The verse, “His lord said unto him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.’” (King James Version). I pictured my dad bending down to pat Jack on the head as he crossed over. The two of them had a bond – especially if my dad had food in his hand.

Yes, Jack was a dog. And, he was part of God’s creation. Our dear Creator brought dogs into this world for mankind. They are our companions. They give unconditional love. They forgive. They don’t hold a grudge. I believe God gave us dogs to give us a glimpse of His unconditional love. I mean, how can it be a coincidence that dog is God spelled backwards?

Oh my dear Jack, thank you. You served us well – in sickness, health, deployments and grief. You were there in the happy times – the weddings and parties and holidays. You protected us and entertained us. You were always there. Enjoy your well-earned rest. Well done, our good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord. You will always be in our hearts. We’ll see you on the other side. Godspeed, buddy.

When your dog dies
Rest well, buddy. You were the best.

© Lynne Cobb – 2017

Have you grieved the loss of a pet? Feel free to share your experience in the comment section.

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13 Replies to “When your dog dies”

  1. We are so sorry to hear about your loss. Your post is a beautiful tribute to Jack. I’m sure he is already aware of it. I would have commented earlier, but I had to wait for the tears to subside. Our pets mean so much to us. They are truly part of the family. They comfort us so much. Time for the grieving process to begin. I’m glad to hear that you plan on keeping your heart open in the future. We never forget out pets that have passed, but in time you may want to bring another needy companion into your household.
    This was a very moving story and one that I’ll remember for a long time! Jack would be proud!

  2. Oh. my goodness, Lynne, I can’t see to type. I’m so sorry you had to say good-bye. But it is only for a while. You will have your sweet Jack again. We just said good-bye to our Aldo, who was with us since his birth fifteen years ago. I can see him and your Jack running along at the Saviour’s heels. They’ll be fine till we get there!

  3. Hi Lynne – I am so sorry to read about your dog. I almost didn’t want to read this because our 14-year-old dog is in a similar way and I didn’t want to feel sad at the end! But I’m glad to have read it and adjust my expectations of what’s to come for us in the near future. How nice that you plan to rescue another dog.

  4. I related with your story on many levels. We rescue dogs so they are usually older when we get them (over 30 dogs already) but we fall in love deep and quickly. Some of our rescues we have had over ten years. But, our lab Mercedez, was one of the most difficult to say good bye and she looked so much like your Jack. She grabbed my heart and held it for 15 years. She has been gone for two years and in her place we have two mini Dachshunds. They were show dogs and abused. I never thought I could love this deep again. But I have fallen in love – again. I still grieve my precious Mercedez – probably because she understood me so well and always knew how to comfort me. I assume it was the same for you. My heart hurts for you.

    1. Awww, thanks Carol, and thanks for your story. I love the name Mercedez and just this morning thought about that name! Yes, Jack and I had a special bond. But I know there’s room in our hearts, in time, for another. Not a replacement… an addition. ❤

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