I swore I wasn’t going to do this…
…write about today’s events.
I also swore I wasn’t going to cry…
…I lied again.
When the heart needs to grieve…it needs to grieve. The heart always knows what it wants and this time, it also happens to be what I need.
The last few days have been emotionally tough. We had to let our wonderful little pup of almost 17 years go yesterday. We made the decision Wednesday to take him in Friday. The fact is, his quality of life had deteriorated so—he was suffering and it was too hard to let it continue any longer.
I had told myself for sometime now (approximately 8 months) that Sammy’s time had come. I could see he was suffering. My eyes were open to this fact and it broke my heart to see him day after day struggle to do the simple things like stand up, eat, walk, and yes even go to the bathroom. And as much as I didn’t want to prolong any of his suffering more than necessary, I also knew it had to be a mutual decision with my husband. If the truth be known, Sammy was more my husband’s pup than mine. I had to wait until we were both on the same page regarding Sammy’s care.
And silly me—I “emotionally prepared myself” for this very day that we would have to let Sammy go. I planned on being strong for my husband who was very attached to little Sammy. Funny how he ended up being the strong one. Now I wonder, why I ever bothered? It doesn’t matter how much preparation you go through, letting go is one of the hardest things to do.
Sammy came to live with us in late March of 1996, when he was just a whopping 4 lbs and 6 weeks of age. He came on the heels of the tragic loss of my dog Max. We were pregnant with our first child when we brought him home and he was just the cutest thing ever. He was a smart dog and he learned fast. He was our fierce little protector—alerting us to anything moving outside the front window. Yes, I do mean anything—people, dogs, cats, squirrels, and even leaves.
He took the introductions to each of our new born children very well—greeting each child with a good sniff and then resolved himself to be more vigilant than ever in protecting what was his. He loved to play with the kids when he was younger—running around outback with them, and being ever mindful of their every move.
Oh did I mention he loved to bark? I used to tell people he loved the sound of his own voice—because he barked so much!
He was such character—too. He never understood he wasn’t a human. He seemed to have a knack for saying ‘woof’ at just the right moments, as if he was responding to our conversation. It used to crack us up laughing. It wasn’t a ‘yap’ or a ‘bark’ or even an ‘arf’, but distinctly a spoken ‘woof’—and always at just the right moments. He loved it when we came home, after leaving the house for a certain amount of time, and he would get all excited to see us. He’d jump around as if to say, “see it is all in one piece.” He especially loved to greet my husband…as they were often two peas in a pod. He loved being near me, always sleeping at my feet.
He wasn’t without his faults though. He escaped our premises once or twice—sending us on a frenzy to track him down before a car hit him or worse, someone took him. As he got older—he got grumpier, but he was entitled. We just had to be careful with the kids. Unfortunately, he was plagued with horrible ear infections his whole life, and for a number of years he had to go have his ears checked every 4 weeks or so by the vet because they were chronic in nature. All that said, he was a happy little fella.
About 4 years ago, I noticed Sammy was getting older. He was sleeping most of the day—sometimes 16-20 hours a day. It was a clear sign that he had entered his golden years. There was no more running outback with the kids, and no more barking out the window. He lost his hearing around the same time, which was expected given his ear problems. Once his hearing was completely gone, his voice was completely gone too. Then his sight started to go—he could see shadows and get around the house fine—but you could toss a cotton ball on his nose and it would bounce off of it and he wouldn’t even flinch.
As time marched on his left back hip gave him problems. He eventually stopped using it and he lost all the muscle mass in that hip. He looked horribly disfigured but—it was just he didn’t use that leg at all, as if he didn’t have any feeling in it. This caused him to fall down quite a bit—and that was hard to watch, especially toward the end. But we bought him meds every month to deal with any pain and we kept him as comfortable as we could, still there is only so much medications can do.
The last few months were really difficult for me to bear personally. It was starting to affect the children too. They didn’t like seeing him like this anymore. We took him to the vet in November and we loaded up on meds again to keep him comfortable. Our goal was to make it through the holidays. We were quite happy he was able to hang on that long.
Wednesday of this week we noticed a horrendous sound coming from his mouth. At first we thought he was crunching one of his teeth—but it turned out to be his jaw. It was just too much and so we made that painful decision to finally end his suffering.
I spent Thursday afternoon bathing and grooming him. It was hard to accomplish—because he didn’t like anyone to touch his head. Those painful ear infections conditioned him to duck his head if anyone went near his ears with their hand. Some how I managed to trim him the best I could. Handling his body reminded me how fragile he had become. I knew we were absolutely making the right decision. Somehow, I felt good to know he would no longer be in pain.
Funny how perspective works. Friday came and the day to let him go was upon us. The kids were in school, so my husband and I took him in. Our vet’s office has this little room with a couch and a doggie bed for big dogs on the floor. The room had pictures of other dogs that were let go. A dimly lit room with candles and I suppose a bit less clinical feeling than an examination room.
They took him back briefly to put the IV port in his leg. The vet let us spend some time with him and she spoke to us a little bit. As he lay in my husbands arms, the realization that, “this was it” and I was never going to see him again, sank in. My heart was breaking. Sammy didn’t seem to understand what was going on around him, but I’ll always wonder if he sensed or if he knew.
Then it was time. Deep breath. My husband held him in his arms, I placed my hands on him, and the vet injected the medicine. He was asleep within 20-30 seconds and gone in under a minute. I was sobbing as I lifted his little head up and kissed it, saying for the last time, “Good Night, Sammy, my little sweetheart, I love you. Mommy will always love you.”
I had no composure—as the vet gently lifted Sammy from my husbands arms, crying where she stood. She slowly left out the back door as it was time for us to go out the other door. My husband had to help me to my feet so I could leave my little Sammy forever.
Really, it was the best way he could have gone, in our arms-with our hands upon him—feeling only the immense love we had for him as he drifted off to sleep. If anything, I hope he knew that we loved him so very much. He lead a good life, a happy life, with a family that loved him enough to realize that he didn’t need to suffer anymore. He is no longer suffering.
Somehow, that alone should make it easier.
But it doesn’t.
It doesn’t even come close.
I broke my own promises—I spilled my guts and I cried my heart out. And if anyone deserved my words and my spilt tears, it was our little Sammy.
“Good Night, Sammy, my little sweetheart, I love you. Mommy will always love you.”