When the life of a dear pet nears its end, you often hear it said that you will know when it’s time. You will know when it’s time to do the right thing. You will know when it’s time to let them go. You will know when it’s time to euthanize. I’m not so sure this is always true. Sometimes it’s a tough call. Sometimes you have to make the tough decision even when you don’t know for sure if, in fact, it’s time. Sometimes you just have to do the best you can. Sometimes there aren’t clear-cut answers. Death doesn’t work that way.
When you think about it, it’s a very big responsibility making life and death decisions for another living creature in your care. Last week dear hubby and I made the tough decision to euthanize our dear old dog, Elsie. It was hard. Very hard. But we chose to be Elsie’s advocate, to make the call as best we could, and to be with her at the end.
We are grateful we had an extra six weeks with Elsie following her leukemia diagnosis. But letting go was still hard. It always is.
Sometimes I think of my life in dog chunks, a time-line of dog lives intertwined with mine. There has always been at least one dog in my life, so of course, by the time you get to be my age, this adds up to be a fair number of dogs.
Pets of any sort come into our lives, then leave, too soon of course. Time with pets is limited, but we willingly give our hearts to them anyway. It’s worth it. The joy outweighs the inconvenience. The joy outweighs the exasperation. The joy outweighs the heartache.
We had Elsie for twelve years. Twelve years is a good amount of living for a dog, a fair amount I suppose, but still, I wanted more.
A lot happens in a person’s life in twelve years, in the lifetime of a dog.
In the twelve years with Elsie, various members of my family experienced a gazillion different things; things like middle school, high school, college, job losses, new jobs, selling a house, buying a house, relocation, vacations, graduations, weddings, births, and of course, cancer and yes, deaths of loved ones.
And through it all, Elsie was there; so much more than just a family pet.
Right to the end, Elsie took her duties very seriously. Goldens are like that. They have a fun-loving playful side of course, but they never for a minute forget their primary role in life – looking after their humans. I have known, have loved and have been loved by many kinds of dogs; but there is nothing quite like the devotion of a golden.
During the last six weeks or so, I have been thinking a lot about why Elsie and all pets that come into our lives are so special and why it’s so hard to let them go.
There are many reasons of course. But perhaps primarily it’s because our pets truly enjoy our company, no matter what our mood or what is going on in our lives. Pets live in the moment. And the best moments for them seem to be the moments they get to spend with us.
No matter how deeply you are loved by the people in your life, do any of them enjoy your company all the time? Probably not.
Pets seem to. Or at least Elsie did.
No wonder we love our pets so much. No wonder I loved Elsie so much.
One thing I have learned as a result of having pets all my life is that it’s okay to grieve for them when they die. Grieving for a pet is real grief too. And there is no shame in grieving for a much-loved pet.
In fact, it’s a beautiful thing to grieve deeply for a pet because, of course, it means the bond you shared was something special.
Elsie is gone now, but she will never be forgotten. Among other things, she was my grief companion. She was my cancer companion. She was my eye witness and secret keeper and I loved her. I always will.
Goodbye, Elsie. You were a good girl.
Do you have a special pet?
Why do you think we love our pets so much?
Have you ever felt ashamed for grieving deeply for a pet?
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