Forgive me for indulging my grief, but I process best when I am able to compose my feelings and thoughts in written form.
As most of you reading this probably already know, we had to end the life of our beloved pet and family member, Clyde, this past Sunday, May 22, 2011, just 2 months after his 15th birthday in March of this year. We adopted Clyde from my younger brother’s family when he was 5 years old, and he has been a part of our family and home for ten wonderful years.
Clyde was a healthy, vibrant dog, so far as we knew, up until this past Friday, May 20th, when his behavior became drastically different, walking slowly, not eating, drinking when he could only to purge immediately after, and sleeping for the better part of two days. His attention seemed distant and it was obvious to us that he was not well. 2 days later, some expensive blood work and the second of two visits with a veterinarian confirmed our worst fears, the ones we held at bay as we took what we knew was probably our final car ride with him: Clyde was very sick, he was suffering with kidney problems and his prognosis was not good. After much discussion about our options, we made the single hardest decisions we have ever had to make in our combined lives: to end Clyde’s suffering, say good-bye and put him to eternal sleep with two small injections.
Jeffrey and I have always believed that it takes more love and compassion to end your pet’s life than to allow him or her to live on in suffering because you do not want to say good-bye. We vowed to one another and Clyde that we would show him all the love he has shown us by making that decision if and when the time came: to end his suffering as quickly and compassionately as we could, no matter how hard it was for us to do.
We thought we were prepared for that decision, even when the time came, out of the blue, far sooner and rapidly then we ever could have imagined. Despite spending his final day alive at home with him, cuddling and kissing and petting him, despite knowing what was about to happen, despite believing it was time and the right thing to do, I was completely unprepared for the final decision and moment. As I held him in that room, saying good-bye and spending our final moments together, with my husband and dear friend at our side, I felt my resolution start to slip. The thought of letting him go was beyond my comprehension and, I feared, my ability. All I wanted to do was take him home. To have one more day with him to love him and pet him and watch him sleep.
But I knew that meant watching him suffer in pain, desperate to drink and not able to, weakly walking about or struggling to get comfortable and sleep when his body wouldn’t let him. All because I was too weak to fulfill the vow I made to him. So I thought about all the times I laid their suffering in pain that he laid next to me, protecting me and looking at me with those eyes, desperate to lick away my pain or cuddle away my aches and tears; all the times he cried for me when I was whisked off to the doctors or hospitals and jumped for glee when I returned home to him healthy once again. Through all my doubts and fears and pain and struggles in my life and our time together, he never showed anything but unquestioning, unwavering love and affection for me. Even in his final days, he seemed to want to be able to stay as close to us as he could and give what love and affection he had left to give us while struggling through the betrayal of his little body.
And I knew that I owed him my strength and love and compassion like I’ve never owed anyone anything in my life before. And I knew, if I truly loved him, I had to let him go.
I feel grateful that I got to be there in his final moments, petting him and whispering to him as he slipped away, and I’d like to believe he knew we were there until the end.
Those who have had pets and lost them or face losing them know or can imagine the pain and loss that comes with the passing of a four legged family member. We all understand when we lose a human family member, but many won’t or don’t understand the bond we form with our pets, the huge part of our life and our daily routine they become, and the void in our hearts and life they create when they are gone.
Returning home without him last night was almost unbearable. Climbing into bed for the first time last night without him between us made it almost impossible to sleep. My first morning, this morning, having to get up and walk through my morning routine, to get ready for work, without that familiar little pal following me and begging me to go outside to do his morning pee, running back in excitedly for his treat, then either returning to bed to steal a few more minutes of sleep with his other dad or sitting by the door and making me feel guilty for leaving him as he whined and looked at me with those big, puppy dog eyes begging me to stay, was like a constant stream of daggers in my heart. I saw him everywhere I looked, hearing his sounds, seeing his movements, feeling his presence remembering his habits I knew all too well, as they had become ingrained into my heart and mind after 10 years of living together. Tears fell where I was sure there could be no tears left after the gut wrenching sobbing I did yesterday. I ached to feel him against me, to pet him just once more, to hold him close and feel his little heart beat with excitement as I talked to him in my baby voice and assured him, like always, I would be back to see him soon.
I know I am not the first to experience this and I will not be the last. I know I will survive this. I know I have Jeffrey and together we will forge ahead without our little buddy at our side. I know it will grow easier and less painful with time and, despite the indescribable pain and loss I feel, I know it was the right decision and the right thing to do.
But, despite knowing that, it does not ease the burning in my heart for him. It does not ease the desperation I feel to have him back with us, alive and healthy and whole again. It does not erase the vision of him closing his eyes to me forever and taking his final breath, or the image of the doctor walking away with the lifeless body of my greatest and most trustworthy friend.
I miss him. More than I thought it possible to miss another living thing. I find myself not wanting to know what life will be like without him, not able to truly believe and conceive that he is gone for good.
Despite the well intentioned wishes from my friends who have beliefs I don’t share, I am not comforted with the thoughts of him bounding around in “heaven” or that we will be reunited in some eternal paradise when I finally pass, too. As an atheist, as much as I know how comforting that must be for some to believe, it is not something I can grasp or accept, no matter how desperately I seek any form of comfort or relief right now. And even if I could believe it, it wouldn’t change the fact that he is not here with me, now.
Instead, I live with the pain of his absence and just try to get through the next minute, next hour, next day, dreading the return home and another night without him here, fighting off yet another batch of fresh tears and trying to focus on my job or other things in life that need attending,. We will move, in one week, and we will begin a new life in a new home, void of any of Clyde’s presence. I have yet to decide if that is a good or bad thing. His ghost will not be there to haunt me around every corner, but neither will the walls be saturated with the echoes of his memory and unconditional, unlimited love, so I will have to settle for carrying him in my heart where I once would have carried him in my arms.
As I remarked to a friend earlier who sent his condolences, it seems a cruel twist of fate that we are destined to have the least amount of time with the ones who loved us the most.
I love my husband with all my heart. I love my friends more than they will ever know and I am truly grateful for the love and support they all return to me, but there is a special love I hold for my dog that will never be replaced by any other, for he was the great love and friendship of my life. There will never be another like him.
Good-bye Clyde. I loved you and love you more than my words or actions ever did or could show and I’m sorry I couldn’t find a way to keep you here with us longer without letting you suffer. There is nothing I wouldn’t give to have you back here with us and I will never forget you.
Be at peace, little buddy. And thanks for everything. My life would have been so much less had you not been part of it.
Your eternally grateful and loving “Dad”,