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.
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.
© 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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