I have shared on this blog several things from my childhood and doing what I thought was the "right" thing to do before I really knew the "right" thing to do. This story is no different in that aspect, it will show you a little glimpse of the way I grew up, and how I grew to be me.
I joined the Army when I was 18 years old. I had a childhood pet, a female dog, named Tiny. We had an old vet in the county by this time and he had put Tiny on some kind of birth control that kept her from going into heat. We didn’t have to lock her in the old smokehouse anymore. In a way, it was a gift, in a way it was a curse.
I returned to my hometown of Tyner, Kentucky when I was 22 years old, it was the fall of 1986. My mother had passed away, and I came back from Germany to be with my father. One of the first things he asked me to do was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
Tiny was sick. She had developed breast cancer and was in bad shape. She had open wounds on her belly and had to be suffering. Dad asked me to put her out of her misery. It was a Friday evening; she could not be left to suffer until Monday afternoon when the veterinarian was open again. I went outside, cried, prayed, closed my eyes, and ended her suffering. It was quick, she was gone, and she did not suffer -- my dog, my companion, my friend, my buddy. I cried for what seemed like forever.
Guilt? I had plenty. I thought of all the times she comforted me through my teenage blues and heartaches. I felt as if I let her down in the end, not so much because of ending her suffering, but for not being able to "fix" her, although by this time she was almost 16 years old.
Fast forward. I have had to have many pets euthanized in my adult life; none of them has been easy. Nevertheless, for now, I want to share about my most recent experience on November 30, 2016. I’ve written briefly about this experience in introducing Dylan.
I came in from work and let the dogs out as usual. Abby didn’t want to go out, she was shaking. After the others came back in, I took her and cuddled with her on the bed. She started throwing up. I had known for about a year that she was in kidney failure, but I didn’t know this would be the day, the week, the month or even the year that I would lose my Baby Girl. I picked her up and went straight to the vet where my worst fears were confirmed. She had 0 percent kidney function. The vet said we could try her on fluids and see if we can get a response, but there really is no recovery for this, the kidneys will not regenerate. She was only 8 years old; I had raised her from 1 day old on a bottle. It seemed as if the bottom fell out of my entire world. I wasn’t ready, but she was.
I spent a few minutes holding her, crying, telling her how much I love her. I asked her to tell me what the right decision was. She laid her little head on my arm and sighed. Her action spoke volumes to me. She needed to be pain free. I needed not to be selfish. There was no cure.
I told the doctor that we were ready. I was never so NOT ready for anything in my life. She gave me one last kiss, and I held her tightly and tried to hold back the tears long enough to get through this, for her. This was my final act of kindness and compassion towards her.
They came in with the pink juice in the needle and administered the liquid that stopped her heart and stopped her breathing. There for an instant, I felt it had stopped mine as well. I didn’t know how I could deal with such a tremendous loss. She went everywhere and did everything with me. I was empty inside. I was angry. I was lost. I was hurt and inconsolable.
I had her cremated and her ashes returned to me in about a week. I studied my decision repeatedly, and in the end, I knew I made the right choice for her, even if it was the hardest choice for me.
With Abby, this all happened so suddenly. In other situations, I’ve had a longer time to weigh options and make plans. You know how we try to judge quality of life for our pets. We try to figure out the level of their suffering, their pain and discomfort when weighing this decision. We think about the trip to the vet’s office. Whom do we want with us? Is there someone special in our pet’s life that needs his or her own private moments to say good-bye? What will we do with the body? Cremation or burial? Will this be a group event or do we want to take care of the body alone? There’s so much to consider and when your emotions are in turmoil, it’s certainly not easy. I want to be selfish and hold on to them as long as possible. Letting go is a heart-wrenching experience.
I hope that in the end of my life, I can make that decision for myself if I were suffering and knew I would never be well again. I pray that by the time that decision is to be made, it will be an accepted practice.