When you have that close bond with your pet you will know in your heart when her time has come. It is the most difficult gift you can give.
She’s 12. Or maybe 14. She could even be 16 or 17. She was a scarecrow with a head six years ago when someone reported her breaking into their trash. They brought her into the shelter where they cleaned her up and scanned for a microchip. When the “owners” were contacted they swore they never heard of her, never had a dog; they had no idea how their contact information came into the database.
There was love in her eyes, and desperation when you came into the shelter looking for a young puppy. She was alone in her cage at the shelter but just like now, she didn’t move. Her eyes were on you. They watched every move you made. Just like now they were sad. They were wise. They were old. They had so much love they wanted to give to you and they desperately wanted you to look and give that love back. Just like now.
You wanted a puppy so walked down the aisle and played with this pup and then that. You certainly enjoyed each one. But those eyes haunted you. Those pleading, brown eyes.
You walked back to her cage and read her name was Doodles. “I like that,” you thought. As you approached, Doodles eyes glimmered. They followed you. She didn’t dare hope. Older dogs never get adopted. Somehow she knew that. She’d learned that in the year and a half she’d been waiting, waiting for her family, waiting maybe, maybe for a new family each time she watched a squiggly puppy go off in the arms of cooing human.
You broke down. You asked the attendant, “Is she housebroken?”
“She is fully housebroken and fully trained. She seems to know over 30 commands that we could figure out and she is so eager to please. Would you like me to show you? We love her. You ask her to do one command and she’ll wait a moment and if you don’t request another she’ll show you what others she knows.”
You looked at her. Dog’s eyes don’t tear but people’s do. Yours did as they locked. But suddenly life came into her little body and she stood up, erect, happy, eager, ready. Doodles knew. Doodles pled for and doodles knew what she hoped for what was to be her future.
Well, that was six years ago. The same Doodles, the same eyes, clouded by age now, follow your every move. She can no longer hear. You feel her shame when she bends her arthritic back to realize she’s leaking urine and can’t control it. You tell her she’s a good girl but it’s the one time she doesn’t believe you.
Going out. You take as much strain off her as you can. Now she wears a harness. Your walker comes every afternoon and spends most of his time petting and loving her. You bring her dinner to her and sit with her. Yet, she hardly eats.
Once she followed you room to room wherever you went. Now only those eyes follow you as they did that day in the shelter. They are full of love, desperation and pain. Just as they were that day in the shelter.
You cannot imagine your life without Doodles. She’s greeted you at the door, made friends for you in the park, talked to you over dinner, snuggled and listened to your deepest secrets, shared your joys and shared your sorrows. But you can give her a gift that we humans can never have, a death with dignity. It is the deepest gift of self and she is telling you it is time.
If you would like to say, “Good bye” in your own home, many veterinarians will make house calls after hours or know an associate who does. Contact your own vet. If your vet does not offer this service, contact your Emergency Veterinarian. In Brooklyn our wonderful emergency vets are VERG 718-522-9400 or Blue Pearl 718-596-0099. Often they have a list of traveling vets or one of their associates who will come after their shift so you and Doodles can say, "Farewell" in a place you love.
Next week week we will talk about you. This week it's about sweet, sweet Doodles. But the hole in your heart where her paws once danced will need to slowly heal and if you need help, know it's there.