What a dramatic headline!
I’m feeling rather dramatic as my face is still encrusted with tears as I write this — it’s Friday the 2nd August 2013, a day I’ve been dreading for the past week and there’s no going back now.
I had no intention of writing about this so soon (if at all) but was suddenly struck with the urge to share this and, hopefully, shed a bit of perspective (and possibly a tear or two) with you.
D-Day and Empty Spaces
We put down our aged dog this morning, something I haven’t had to do before as I never had pets growing up.
“You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
Although the procedure went very smoothly, nothing can prepare you for the emotional torrent that washes over you the minute you step back into your home and feel the empty space that furry little sausage has left behind.
I am already catching myself half way to the front door to let her back in and looking at the clock wondering what I’m going to give her for supper tonight. Then the stark reality hits.
Needless to say, I feel like I’m drowning in my own tears right now but I know that, in time, this too shall pass and she will just be the sweetest memory (and I have so many) that will always bring a smile to my face.
A Vote of Sympathy or a Shift of Perspective?
The reason I’m writing this is not to angle for your sympathy or to make you feel lousy. I’m writing this because I have been battling with guilt for the last week. A guilt that led me to alter the way of looking at death.
Let’s cut this down to brass tacks.
This decision was a few months in the making. My husband and I have been debating whether to put her down or to wait — weighing up the pro’s and con’s. Every time we seemed to reach a conclusion, guilt intervened. The voice in my head would rear and whisper:
- You’re playing God.
- Maybe she still has a few months left in her…hell, maybe even a year!
- She’s still got a wet nose and a twinkle in her eye on those good days.
- Why don’t you just let her go naturally?
- Look into those big brown eyes — she trusts you and you are plotting to kill her!
Yup, as melodramatic as it sounds, these cursed thoughts pop up every time I became resolute that we needed to do this and soon, as now her limbs were giving way.
Then the voice of reason would start a counter-argument:
- She has had a good long life.
- She is deaf, half blind and riddled with arthritis and ever-growing fatty cists.
- Her back legs are failing her and you aren’t always around to help her back up.
- She sleeps most of the time and her quality of life is not what it used to be.
- She hasn’t been able to go for a walk in almost a year.
- Things are only going to get worse from here on out — let her go!
You know, when I write this out and look at it, it seems like a no-brainer but when you’re the one calling the shots the weight of responsibility is overwhelming.
The run up to our appointment this morning was thwarted with days of feeling like we were doing the right thing and days when indecision crept up and cracked it’s whip in our ears.
The Point at Which Acceptance Came
My neighbor has just had a litter of Labradors — yes, utterly adorable little creatures that catch my eye every morning as I open my bedroom curtains and look down at them galloping about in their yard.
Early on this week, I was looking at how curious, eager and happy they were, frolicking about the garden investigating every little thing. It made me think of Smudgy and how much she loved her walks in the field (I never had her as a puppy, she was adopted by my mother when her first owners passed away and then when my mother died five years ago, she came to live with us).
Yes, Smudge had definitely been around the block!
But back to the puppies…I realized that instead of thinking of this as a linear thing (i.e. you are going to kill her), I needed to see this from a broader more ‘quantum’ perspective — I am going to help her to transition.
Then a new series of thoughts struck me:
- You are coming from a place of love, she’ll feel that (i.e. this is not a betrayal of trust, it’s an act of kindness).
- You will only be helping her to cross over and who knows, maybe sooner than later she’ll be one of those pups running amuck in a brand new body!
- When she does transition, she’ll also be met by all of her other mothers (and father) who will be waiting on the other side of the veil for her.
When the Moment Came
The days that preceded today were fun. I can’t lie, there were moments where I would have a wobble, but, mostly we made the last days the best we could.
Smudgy lived for food, so we bought her everything we could think of as a treat. Every meal she had this week made her eyes bulge! It was classic to see. She got massages and was showered with love, hugs and kisses.
This morning came and I sat beside her and calmly told her what we were about to do and why. I told her about the other side and all the potential that lay ahead of her. I know she couldn’t understand what I was saying but I hope that she could feel the message and sense my love and excitement for her and her transition.
I called on my mother to be with us and the archangel Ariel (angel of animals), so my entourage was on hand! Then I swallowed almost half my bottle of Rescue Remedy (for those of you who aren’t familiar — it’s an herbal tincture to calm you down) and got into the car.
When the time came, I was able to keep her focused on me whilst telling her I loved her and kissing her until she fell asleep. She was looking up at me with her beautiful brown eyes — full of love and trust right up until the moment she fell into permanent sleep.
She was the bravest little soldier imaginable and I couldn’t have wished for an easier transition for her — thanks to my excellent vet and his assistant and my husband, Michael.
Detaching and New Beginnings
It’s always harder for the ones left behind, we know this. But, if you’re ever up against a decision like this or if you need some peace and detachment, please try to see that death is a gateway to a new beginning.
Detachment is different from blocking off or forgetting. It’s about accepting the good, the bad and the in-between and finding peace with all three. A middle ground of acceptance of what is. It’s making a list of the pro’s and con’s and finding that all is in balance. There’s a circle to life and circles are infinite.
Michael said that when she slipped away (he was standing next to me), he felt a great sense of relief, as if she was conveying to him that she was happy to be released.
I think that when death presents itself on our doorstep, we can find solace in remembering that all things must pass in order to be rebirthed. And when transition is inevitable, find the strength and courage in your heart to send a soul on its way with all the love and joy that you can muster.
However, in saying that I’m still bleary-eyed and exhausted from this emotionally draining experience and I need to mourn and take some time to reflect, integrate and grieve.
Thanks for reading this, I know it couldn’t have been easy. I hope my ‘lil Smudgy has let you see things from a slightly different perspective.
I’m going to end this off with the comforting words of my amazing vet. ‘You let her die with dignity’.
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