As some of you know, my family received the sad news last week that Elsie, our dear old dog, has cancer. And by the way, I sincerely appreciate all the kind comments left on Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere. It’s comforting to know so many of my dear readers, pet owners or not, understand how hard this is. Yes, Elsie is ‘just’ a dog. And yes, an old dog at that, but she is a family member no less.
So now what?
We will take things day by day.
Sounds familiar, right?
The cancer Elsie has is some type of leukemia. We’ve been advised it might be a slow progressing sort, or it may not be. We might get days, weeks, or even possibly months, though the latter is unlikely.
I’m glad all three of my kids have been home to see Elsie one more time, although it’s hard to watch them say good-bye now. They realize an important part of their youth is slipping away. There’s something very sad, but yet incredibly beautiful about that as well; the special memories part I mean.
No matter how much time we have left to spend with Elsie, we will fill that time doing things she has always loved to do most. She and I will keep blogging together. As I write this, she rests at my feet keeping on eye on things just as she has done every day since I began.
Dear Hubby and I will take her for walks, even if only up and down our driveway or for strolls around the yard. We will go for rides. We will watch her lounge in her pool. We will have campfires. We will feed her hamburger, bread, hot dogs and mac and cheese because these are the things she is choosing to eat now and our wonderful vet advised, “Let her eat whatever she darn pleases now.” We will pause umpteen times a day to pat her on the head and tell her she is a good girl.
Mostly, we will love her.
I am grateful that my family is getting time to adjust to this news, to prepare for what is coming. Even though I know it’s not really true, it feels as if even now Elsie is thinking of her humans by giving us this time to get ready and to say goodbye.
And if and when that day arrives when we must make the tough decision to euthanize, we will do that as well.
Because as Jon Katz says in his wonderful book, Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die:
We have to let go. Hanging on is not love. Dogs and cats did not come into our lives to suffer, or to stay beyond their time…
Dear Hubby and I will listen and watch for when that invisible line has been crossed – that moment when we will decide it’s time. We have had the necessary discussions in our family and with our vet. We know what to do when that line is crossed.
Jon Katz goes on to share what he imagines any pet might say if she could talk at that moment in time:
Speak for me. Help me to make the decisions that I cannot make. Do not ask me to tell you when it’s time for me to go… I love you and trust you, and I have depended on you all of my life to make decisions for me. Now, when I need you the most, do not fail me. Whatever you decide, I know it will be your best decision, and I wish you peace with it.
Dear Hubby and I have had pets euthanized before. I have never been in the room because I just couldn’t bring myself to witness such a thing.
This time will be different for two reasons.
First of all, my kids are too far from home now and I cannot let Dear Hubby go through that alone. Also, I want to be there for Elsie. No, I must be there for her. After all, she has been my loyal grief and cancer witness and secret keeper.
I will not let Elsie down when she needs me most, though even if I did choose not to be there, I know that would be okay with her.
I will be there to look into her eyes once more and tell her she’s a good girl and that she is loved.
I will watch her take her last breath.
I will watch her find peace.
And then from that day on when I remember and reflect about Elsie’s years with us, I will focus not on the sadness, but rather on her legacy of love.
Do you have a special pet, or one that you remember?
Have you ever euthanized a beloved pet?
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