A dear old dog

Beloved Pets- Links to Our Past & Hearts Forever

Last month I got a text from my brother letting me know he had reluctantly, but lovingly, made the difficult decision to have my dad’s Cairn Terrier Mandi euthanized. I had just pulled into my parking stall at a local strip-mall where I planned to get a haircut. I read that text and immediately lost it. Yes, I lost it right there in the parking lot in front of Cost Cutters and Papa Murphy’s Pizza. 

A few days later after the news sunk in, I wanted to write and share about this with you, dear readers. But I waited. I held back. I thought, geez, should I really share about this? Would you think I was/am nuts? Mandi was just another dear old dog, for crying out loud. So I waited some more.

A month later I found myself still wanting to share about Mandi, and so I finally figured, okay, just do it. Besides, I know many of you are pet lovers like me, so you’ll relate, right?

Because to love a pet is also to understand what it’s like to grieve for a pet when it dies.

When a beloved pet’s life ends, it’s like saying goodbye to a part of your life too. Saying goodbye to Mandi was like saying goodbye to my parents. Again. It hurts. Again.

Pets come into our lives and pets leave our lives and by the time they leave us, they have etched themselves into our hearts forever.

This is one more reason pets are so deeply loved, deeply grieved for and deeply missed when they die.

Mandi lived to be 16 years old. That’s a lot of years, as dog years go. A lot happens in a family during a dog’s life, during 16 years, or however long it happens to be.

Life in dog chunks, as I have said before, that’s how I sometimes look at mine.

Like all pets do, Mandi witnessed the joyful times in my family. And the not so joyful times.

For example, as I shared in my memoir, the day my brother wheeled our mother out of the house in her wheelchair for the very last time, we placed Mandi on her lap, so my mother could say goodbye and give Mandi a pat on the head, which she did.

My dad’s and my three siblings’ mouths, as well as my own, dropped open as my mother unexpectedly smiled and said, “Goodbye, Mandi. You’re a good little dog.”

You see, that day my mother was not speaking to ANY of us. At all.

But she spoke to Mandi that day.

Says a lot right there, doesn’t it?

After my mother died, Mandi took on an even bigger role in my dad’s life. She was his constant companion as he adjusted to life alone. Mandi filled that role, and admirably so, for over eight years.

My dad and Mandi grew old together. Their bond deepened.

Then unexpectedly my dad became ill. As many of you know, he died this past July. My heart aches still.

My siblings and I were struck by the fact that Mandi somehow managed to outlive both our parents. She stood by our mother. She stood by our dad.

Shortly after my dad died, Mandi’s health deteriorated, and rapidly so.

Her work was done, and it seemed somehow she knew it.

Do dogs sense such things? Who knows?

It doesn’t matter anyway.

Mandi was just another dear old dog.

A dear old dog who will always be remembered for her spirited, feisty and unconditional devotion.

Thanks, Mandi.

You were a good little dog indeed, a link to my past and heart. Forever.

 

Beloved Pets, Links to Our Past & Hearts Forever

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18 thoughts on “Beloved Pets- Links to Our Past & Hearts Forever

  1. Well, I’m just sitting here crying. That was so beautiful. What a great little dog. I’m so sorry for your loss – it is a loss, just like any other family member. What a lovely story about your mom too.

    Our pup just turned 12. She’s a funny creature, but her company is so precious.

    My condolences to you and your brother. (((((((<3))))))

    1. Elaine, Sometimes tears are good because it means you were moved. I know what an animal lover you are too. I didn’t realize your Lily is 12. Your words describing her are so perfect – “she’s a funny creature, but her company is so precious.” I love that. It’s a privilege to love an animal deeply and make her/him a member of your family. Of course, it also means heartache is inevitable. Thank you for your very kind words. xx

  2. I have lots of good memories of Mandi. As you know, she made the drive up to visit me my freshmen year of college. She was struttin’ her stuff around campus, that little tail held high! I played a lot of tug and chase games with her, especially in her younger years. She was a fun dog and I miss her.

    1. Lindsay, I know you have lots of good memories of Mandi too. I can just picture her on campus strutting her stuff. She was a confident little thing. She was a fun dog. I miss her too. Thank you for sharing a couple memories of her.

  3. Our cat Shere Khan went through chemo with me. I would come home and stare blankly at the TV. He would sit next to me and snuggle. He knew when I didn’t feel well. In February 2015, he stopped eating and drinking so we reluctantly put him to sleep. He was 20. He was a part of our family. We still miss him. Pets become family members.

    1. Caroline, I remember you sharing about your dear cat when all that happened. It’s incredible he lived to be 20! Pets do indeed become family members and you will always miss him. We miss our Elsie so much. It’s been one year since we had to make that tough call on her behalf. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thanks for writing such a heartfelt post. We have a 17 year old dog who is still walking (slowly), eating and barking at things we cannot see. We were at the vet today and she gently told us that our dog may not have a “health crisis” that makes us decide it is the end, but rather a slow decline (which we are already seeing) and it will be up to us to decide. Difficult decisions when it is so hard to assess quality of life from such loving and stoic creatues.

    1. Wendy, A slow decline will be hard too. It doesn’t matter how the end comes, it’s hard and it hurts. I hope your dear old dog has some quality time left with you and your family. Enjoy the special time and special memories you are making. And take lots of pictures! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Pets are so important to our lives. They make us laugh, comfort us when we are sick, give us unconditional love, and break our hearts when they leave this world. I’ve had two special pets, one was a cat, Duke, and the other a dog, Maggie, that nursed me through two rounds of cancer. Ironically, each one was diagnosed with their own cancer soon after I had finished my treatments and was on my road to recovery. I know that putting them to sleep was the only humane option and it was a kindness to them, but it doesn’t stop the pain I felt. I’ll never forget them or the love they brought to my life. I’m sure you feel the same way about Mandi. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    1. Lennox, Your comments sum it up so well. Thank you for sharing about Duke and Maggie, they sound so special. We had to put our golden to sleep in August 2015 and it was heart wrenching. We still miss her so much. You’re right, we never forget the love and joy they bring to our lives. That helps.

  6. This one made me cry, Nancy. Oh my gosh! I am a HUGE animal lover, as you know, so I think it’s completely fine to grieve a pet. In fact, I know quite a few animals that are better than some humans I’ve known. We love our animals and, naturally, we grieve them when they die. Mandi sounds like such a special dog; one doesn’t forget such special animals. 17 years is a long time for a pet. The pet gets to witness so much in a family. My cat is 17, and I hope when the time comes, I can let go….

    1. Beth, I know you are a huge animal lover too. Your words about knowing a few animals that are better than some humans made me smile. Loving pets is such a joy, but gosh, it’s tough when they die. We miss our Elsie every single day. I didn’t realize your kitty is 17. I love that cats seem to live longer and hopefully yours has more years ahead. We think our Ninja is about 5, so hopefully she has lots of years left. Sophie will soon be 11 and I’m already starting to worry about what I’m going to do when she dies. Thank you for reading, sharing and understanding.

  7. Nancy, I am so sorry about Mandi. What a beautiful and kind looking dog. And the story of your mom made me cry. So touching. Losing a pet is always painful. I wish they lived longer. They bring so much happiness into our lives; they should be with us for a long time. I can see how important Mandi was to your family as she represented so much.

    I never felt embarrassed about grieving deeply for a pet. They are family. I went through this with all my guinea pigs and dogs. All the losses have hurt me in different ways, too. I still have my kitty with me and she is getting old. I cannot imagine losing her but I know the day will come. How do you prepare for it?

    I am sorry you’re going through this pain, my friend. Thinking of you. xoxo

    1. Rebecca, Good for you for never feeling embarrassed about grieving deeply for a pet. They are family for sure. I hope your kitty is with you for a long time yet. Thank you for sharing and for your very kind words. xo

  8. I’m afraid I would take Beth’s comment a bit farther – for me, at least, the number of people I’ve cared about more than my pets is in the single digits. My first dog as an adult lived 18 1/2 years, so I was unbelievably lucky. Each and every one since has been equally treasured. You think you can’t possibly love another dog as much as the one that has gone, but all of them leave their mark on your heart in a different way.

    When I met my husband, I still had my first dog, and *some* people thought he was a bit funny looking (he was the runt of a litter, and looked like a miniature Labrador, with very short legs and kind of bulgy eyes, weighing about 25 pounds). When he (husband) came over to my house for the first time, I said ‘don’t you dare make fun of my dog.’ His response was a bewildered ‘why would I make fun of any dog?’ and he sat down on the floor to get acquainted. Pretty sure I knew he was the one for me at that point –

    I cannot imagine life without a dog.

    I am sorry about Mandi – it does tear out a piece of your heart to lose a pet.

    1. Cathy, I love that story about when your future husband came over to meet your sweet dog. That was a major clue you had picked the right guy for sure! Thank you for sharing that. I can’t imagine life without a dog either. The joy far outweighs the heartache. Thank you for reading and for your kind words.

  9. Nancy,
    I have grieved for many dogs in my life. Each special in his/her own way. We’ve got 10 year old brother and sister now, they’re German Shorthaired Pointers, I think you’ve seen them on Instagram. Sister Sammy has been old for awhile, Fritz just got the memo a few months ago when he had surgery to remove a cancerous growth. I’ve had a dog in my life since the time I was 5 years old. I cannot imagine my life without the unconditional love of a dog, but it will probably come to that. Fritz was our dog since he was 10 weeks old, sister Sam was out of the same litter, and lived with my Dad, his wife and their Beagles they breed and show. Dad was getting a little old to get out and hunt and didn’t walk Sam, not the life a sporting breed should live, so when he said he was going to give her up, I asked him to bring her to live with her brother. She’s been with us for 5 years. Fritz stayed by my side through chemo for lymphoma and now through stage IV breast cancer. He’s my velcro dog, always laying his big head or huge paw on me and dragging his bed over to my side of the bed to watch me at night. They will both leave a hole that will not be filled in this life. I don’t think it fair to leave my hubby with animals to take care of after I’m gone. I am sorry to hear about Mandi. It sounds like everything a devoted family member is and I’m sure it was very painful to lose her, and with her, another connection to your parents.

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