Saturday, January 28, 2012

Passages


There have been many posts on the death of an animal family member, mostly horses, so I don't want to repeat the sentiments of everyone who owns and love their critters: we outlive our pets and know at some point that we will have to deal with and make decisions about their deaths no matter how difficult. Thursday, however, we had to put our lovely Labrador retriever down, and the sadness is still on my mind. Dozer had been on two pain medications for over a year, yet his arthritis continued to get worse. The past several months, he struggled to get up, his hind legs often collapsed, his breathing was labored, and he limped on his front. Still he greeted us cheerfully, ate heartily, and although he couldn't handle our long walks, he refused to give up our twice-a-day short walks with me and his other two dog buddies. Until last Monday.

I knew something was off when he vomited breakfast. Without meds, his pain quickly increased, but when I tried to entice him with pills in cheese (his favorite) he refused with clamped jaw. A first. Unfortunately, my husband had just gone out of town for work, and I knew I would be handling this alone. Which isn't easy with a one hundred pound dog. Thinking illness (yeah, I know. Such denial!), I managed to load him in the van and head to the vet. $400.00 later the vet told me what I already knew--he had congenital heart problems along with everything else and his lungs were filling with fluid. One more medicine to add to the daily dose.

After I got him home, he speedily went downhill. He fell several times and could only get up with a towel sling I used to lift his middle. Then on Thursday after class, I came home to find him flat on the garage floor where he'd fallen and hadn't been able to get up. He'd waited patiently and quietly but looked at me with trusting eyes as I helped him to his feet. Well, you can imagine by Thursday, I'd about cried myself dry because I knew the decision was being made for me. Luckily, it was a beautiful day, so I got him on his bed in the sun, where he lay with his one buddy, Jake, until my husband came home late afternoon (there had already been many teary phone calls) to say goodbye and wait for our wonderful horse vet who came to the house. I gave Dozer a last hug and kiss, and like a giant coward, left to teach class. When I came home, I helped Bruce dig a grave in the pasture and we buried him.

While we dug, my husband and I talked about how part of the difficulty of losing Dozer, other than he was a great friend and 'child', was his leaving the family marked a sad passage in our lives in other ways. Dozer grew up with our children--they were eight and ten when we got him--and now they are grown and making decisions about new lives and places to live, and will soon be leaving us, too. When my kids headed to college, although it was a tough transition, they came home often, and we all adjusted. Now my daughter is graduating and thinking of moving west with her boyfriend. We also see our son, who is working about two hours away, less than we used to and know that one day, he may move away to follow a dream or career. Which is what we want, I know. We can't cling to our children forever and our beloved pets die before we do. Each change, each passage, for me is gut wrenching. I slowly adjust and try find new passions because I realistically know that this is how life works. Still, it's just dang hole-in-the-heart hard.

Thank you for letting me share!

16 comments:

Val said...

Thanks for sharing. In many ways, what you describe is the hardest part. Losing a friend or family member brings us closer to our own mortality and face to face with the reality that time carries us forward.

Kate said...

I am very sorry for your loss - it's never easy, no matter how many times we experience it. And I understand what you are saying about the context - I also have children who have left home recently.

Dreaming said...

Oh, Alison, I'm so sorry. Your post couldn't have been easy to write. All those achy points. I'm where you are with the children... it's hard to let them 'fledge' but it is important. It hurts so much to let a pet go, but knowing you have brought peace to an animal in pain brings me comfort in that situation.

Leslie said...

So sorry for your loss,Alison.

Your story of Dozer was very much like our story with our beloved German Shepherd, Xena. Our two sons grew up with Xena.Both sons were on to their other lives by 2008 when we had to have Xena put down. Our oldest son had just gotten married and moved 50 miles away.Our youngest son had completed college and was planning his next move.Xena was twelve. She'd been having trouble with her hips for a long time. She'd been on supplements for two years, which seemed to help. We found her lying in the yard on a warm September day.I think she was waiting for us to find her. She always had an expressive face and it broke my heart when I found her lying there, unable to get up. We also knew what was coming but since it happened on a Saturday, tried to doctor her over the weekend. When she refused food, water and could no longer get up, we also realized the decision was being made for us.

I had never seen my husband cry in the 30+ years I've known him. When we took Xena to the vet,who examined her and gave us our options,we were pretty much prepared for our decision, but not for our emotions.We said good-bye, I held her head and petted her through the end, my husband couldn't,he pretty much lost it. Needless to say, I was a mess too. We brought Xena home and buried her under the trees near the creek.

It's so heartbreaking to lose our beloved animal friends, but like you and your husband, we spent time talking about Xena and the good things she brought to our family. She'll always be missed as I'm sure Dozer will be too.

TBDancer said...

Times like these teach us how important--and how difficult--it is to be compassionate and "do the right thing" by our four-leggeds who trust us to send them on their way when they tell us it is time. We are being good stewards, and while we ache with their passing, good memories soon fill the very deep hole in our hearts. Tincture of time.

Laura Crum said...

Alison--I have been there, too many times. I am so sorry for your loss--I know how much it hurts. For me, there is always a little consolation if the animal has lived a long, full, happy life, as your dog clearly did. Going through the grief of losing our animals is the price we pay for the joy of owning them. Even though I (we) know that, it is still so hard when it happens. I believe their spirits stay with us, and they will greet us when we die. Call me foolish, but the thought comforts me. I also take great comfort in the animals still living with me. And the knowing that there are other critters I may yet find and love. I'll be thinking of you.

Francesca Prescott said...

Alison, I'm crying. I know how hard it is, I've had to do it a few times. I always plant a rose bush when someone or a beloved pet dies, and when they bloom I always think, oh that's Simba's rose, or Nana's rose, or Barney's rose, and it's nice. Have you read "The art of racing in the rain"? It's written from a dog's point of view and it's wonderful. Well, I read it recently and I loved it. I can recommend it, it's a soothing book, especially in a time like this. Lots of love to you.

Mikey said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. It's just so hard to lose a member of the family, and that's what they are. After they've been such a part of your life for so long, it is like a hole in the heart feeling. Sending you a big hug.

Alison said...

Thank you ALL! I am crying as I read all your incredible comments, which are so right on because all of you are animal lovers. My daughter Beth was telling a guy she was tutoring about losing Dozer, and he had never had a dog. That I guess is almost sadder than having to go through the death of so many. Leslie, thank you for sharing your story. It was so a strong heart to anyone else who has an aging pet.

Mary said...

It always makes my heart heavy when I read of someone losing a pet. I have outlive a few beloved dogs and I wouldn't trade any of that sorrow for all of the unconditional love that they have brought to me. As I write this my little Fred is sitting next to me with his nose in my lap. It is unimaginable to think of him not being with me, even though I know it's inevitable. I will do my best to give him as much happiness as he gives me.
I am so sorry for your loss.

Linda Benson said...

Alison - I am so very sorry about Dozer. We love them just like family, don't we? They worm their way into our hearts and leave a hole when they leave. I am very sorry you lost him, but it sounds like you had many years together, and I'm glad your husband was with you to bury him. Take care, dear. *Hugs*

Alison said...

Thank you Mary and Linda, As I said before, people who love animals totally understand how difficult it is to say goodbye! Thank you for your warm thoughts. And right back atcha when the time comes for each of you.

Danielle said...

I lost the cutest cat I have ever owned, his name was Adonis which means handsome in Greek, he was black with white paws and a white chest, his death was a accident, I was moving to a new apartment from the one i lived at which was on the 12th floor, my dad took out my air conditioner from the window and didn't put the screen back in, I was in the shower when it happened I got a call from my building supervisor answering the phone my worst nightmare came true, she told me that a black and white cat was found on someone's balcony, running down the stairs I returned the building and I cried like I never cried before my baby boy was laying in a pool of his own blood, he released his bowels while I sat with him, I called my dad and begged him to take him to a vet but by not even ten minutes later he died in my arms.
Five months earlier my childhood dog Tasha a golden retriever cross died of old age last year was the worst year of my life
I still have my other two cats Lily belle my silver tabby female and Lucifer my cream Burmese but nothing will ever fill the hole in my heart for my lost pets

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It's the real fruit of life.

jenj said...

Alison, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your precious Dozer. They are truly members of the family, having shared so many wonderful times and made so many amazing memories with us. May you cherish the memories of Dozer and his time with your family.

RiderWriter said...

I knew from the photo that your story was going to make me cry, because I, too, have suffered the loss of many beloved pets. I'm so sorry about Dozer. Virtual hugs to you and your whole family, Alison.

What I didn't realize was the emotions you would also stir by talking about your kiddos leaving home... I have one who's a senior in HS, and a sophomore. I've been trying to mentally prepare myself for losing the first one to college for years. The thought of BOTH of them being gone just blows my mind. For so long my life has revolved around them...

And then we have my darling fur-child, my doggie who is now nine. I hope and pray that she will not leave me before the kids do because I simply couldn't handle it. My husband likes to threaten that she's the last dog we'll ever have, but I'm telling you, I will never be without one again. Sunny is darn near perfect and will never be "replaced," but the role a dog plays in my life can't be understated. What Laura said is true - they are worth every bit of the price we pay.