Saying Goodbye to a Best Furry Friend
It is coming up on almost three years since I lost my beloved terrier mix, Mickey. He was a rescue puppy, the first dog I ever owned on my own, and one that I was blessed to have known for 13 years. His diagnosis of cancer came as real blow, especially because the type (hemangiosarcoma) generally occurs in larger breeds.
As difficult as the news was to deal with and accept, it gave me a chance to prepare for life without him, even as we fervently battled his disease together. We weren't ready to give up without a fight. However, I later realized that I actually began the grieving process at the time I received the diagnosis from the veterinarian. It didn't change the fact that I was dedicated to helping to enhance his survival and overall quality of life, but I knew I couldn't change the ultimate harsh reality. I wasn't going to have him forever, and the realization that I was losing my best furry friend was more than I could bear.
Together with my husband, we began the essential equivalent of veterinary hospice in our home. We provided Mickey with his copious supplements on schedule and coaxed him to eat as best as possible. When circumstances warranted, we administered subcutaneous fluids after being taught and receiving the necessary supplies from our veterinarian. To cover our bases, we also put together a list of animal clinics with emergency services that we kept handy. And, we engaged in the difficult conversations about what to do next and when to do it.
I had always promised Mickey that I wouldn't let him suffer, so it was a no-brainer that I would euthanize him when necessary. I agonized over the decision, though, especially around the timing of it. I didn't want to cheat myself or him of precious time together, but I didn't want to prolong the inevitable either. I knew my dog well enough to know that he was putting up a good fight for me, and he may have needed me to give him permission to go to sleep and let go. Colleagues and friends assured me that I would know when the time was right. In the end, they were right.
Another aspect of this process was where to do it. I felt strongly that Mickey should not leave this world in the cold surroundings of an unfamiliar, clinical environment, preferring instead to have him put down at home, if possible. We were diligent in our research and had actually identified mobile veterinary services available to perform the procedure when the time came.
As is typical of life, though, the process of life and death is not something that adheres to a convenient schedule. It was roughly midnight when I phoned the nearest emergency animal hospital asking if they would take us and help Mickey leave his disease and us behind. Because I didn't think it appropriate to call any mobile vet at such an hour, we bundled Mickey up in his dog bed and transported him to the local clinic. By one o'clock in the morning, he had peacefully left this world to run and play somewhere over the rainbow. I stayed through the whole procedure and felt my precious mutt take his last breath as I bid him a teary farewell. When I returned home, I was promptly sick to my stomach.
I am grateful that I didn't have to go through this experience alone. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. My husband was there by our side through it all.
Mickey left us the day that the local Catholic church was to conduct services for the blessing of the animals in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. We found significant comfort in that. His remains were cremated, so I now keep his ashes close to my bed, a place where we spent special time snuggling together.
Saying a final goodbye to a beloved furry friend is a heart-wrenching and extremely painful experience. The void left behind is a place of vast emptiness. One way that I've tried to move beyond the grief is to continue to honor Mickey's memory by supporting non-profit organizations engaged in funding studies to research and find a cure for canine cancers. This has helped me tremendously in the healing process, but I know that there will never be another Mickey in my life. I am truly grateful and blessed to have had him for as long as I did, and I hold onto and treasure the memories of our times together. I know we will be reunited again one day.
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