Saying Goodbye to your Beloved Pet
Goodbye Sammy Boy
We came home from our hectic work day last night. Things were the same as they always are, we arrived to our comfortable home and were greeted by our Sammy and his younger brother Lou with kisses and whines of "you were gone so long." Treats were handed out along with pats to the head and some scratches of the bellies. Then we were off to start dinner.
It was while we were in the kitchen preparing our evening meal that we looked at Sammy our aging 9 year old Cocker Spaniel and noticed he looked different. He coughed and seemed to choke on something. We opened his mouth and looked inside with a flash light but did not see any blockage. He suddenly started to pant and his breathing was labored.
9 years old, is not all that old for a dog. True a dog of 9 years will probably slow down in activity but most healthy dogs live to 12 years or longer. Our Sammy however, was the offspring of over breeding and inbreeding by over zealous, greedy owners of puppy mills. This practice causes many breeds to develop illnesses or diseases most careful and loving breeders do not heap upon their dogs.
Our Sammy's parents passed on to him (not from any fault of theirs but from their breeder owners) a life long history of ear, eye and skin infections. We spent a fortune on veterinarian bills and even took him to a special doggy dermatologist. We were told to feed him organic dog food. He was put on a diet of salmon and sweet potato. He was given daily doses of vitamin E along with steroids, antibiotics, ear solutions--it never ended. There was not one day in his life that he did not have his morning hot dog stuffed with medication or have his ears cleaned and fresh medication drops placed in them.
We found him on Martin Luther King day at a pet shop in the half off sale bin. My daughter and I were enjoying a day off from work and school strolling the beach in Los Angeles, when we walked into a pet shop. We had no intention of buying a dog that day and certainly not a pure bred with so many wonderful rescue dogs in need of a home. Sammy, however, looked so lost and lonely. He was already close to 5 months old--too old to be for sale at a pet shop where he would soon have to make way for the cute 6 week old puppies which sell for full price and help bring in the customers.
We feared what would happen to this runt of the liter with big brown eyes if he did not sale. Would they take him to the pound? Would he be put to sleep? Once we picked up and held this bundle of fury love we could not let him go. We bought the half-priced doggy and took him home along with bottles of medication he was already taking for an eye infection--the first of many medications he would take daily.
From the paperwork the shop owner gave us, we learned Sammy was born in Kansas City, Missouri on September 11, 2003. 9/11? Thus the name Sammy after "Uncle Sam" in memory of 9-11-2001.
Sammy, in spite of his constant ear, eyes or skin problems, never showed it. He was always energetic and his stubby tail would wag at just the hint of going on a walk. We soon learned to not say the word "walk" because he knew the meaning of the word and you better be ready to go at that instant! We shortened walk to "W" so we could get our shoes on before Sammy started his happy dance. He also knew "go for a ride" and he would take off to the garage before we could grab our car keys.
Sammy was a very social dog, he always gave a wag of his stubby tail to a stranger. He especially liked children. Halloween was his favorite time of year. At the sound of the ringing door bell, he would bounce his way to the door and waited patiently for it to open. He did not bark and he did not jump on the children but instead sat as a good boy until the treats were handed out then his stubby tail would wag as if to say "look at me, pet me" and the trick or treaters would giggle with laughter and pet his furry little head.
Sammy was a passive friendly dog. He never met anyone he did not like, for if he had, we would have serious doubts about that person's character. Sammy was our child. We were both married before and had children. Adding Sammy to our blended family, was the jell that brought us together and formed a family.
When Sammy started to breath harder and harder, it became apparent he was in trouble. We made an urgent call to our Veterinarian and received the answering service for the on-call emergency pet hospital about 20 minutes away. My husband and step-son immediately loaded Sammy into the car and took off. I do not know why I stayed behind. Maybe I was in denial. Maybe I was certain Sammy would be home that night.
I watched the clock and added the time together allowing for travel to the hospital, waiting for a doctor and then Sammy getting examined. The clock ticked away. About 30 minutes after they left, my husband called. "Hello" he said, then nothing. "What, what is wrong, what is going on?" I said frightened because he was not speaking and my worst fears were hearing him cry into the phone. "It is not good" He said with a struggle. How can that be? Sammy did not seem all that bad or was I in true denial? I thought back to just a few minutes before they left for the hospital, as my husband went to get Sammy's leash, Sammy's stubby tail was wagging, he was excited. Just minutes before he was having labored breathing but now excited to go for a walk or a car ride. For a split second my husband and me thought maybe he is okay, maybe we need not go to the hospital. How can things be "not good" now?
Sammy had gone into full cardiac arrest. He could not breath without oxygen. He had been sedated. X-Rays showed he had a torn esophagus and air was filling his entire body. His heart was enlarged. His lymph-nodes were all swollen to 3 times their size making his neck bulge in sick distortion. No one knew what was the cause of his decline. The Vet only surmised possibly a rattlesnake bite? An insect? Testing was being done but when the Vet finally said "We are losing him and we do not know what is wrong" the tough and heart wrenching decision had to be made. Submit Sammy to extensive exploratory surgery that he possibly would not survive, or put him to sleep forever.
The silence on the other end of the phone was deafening. Painfully, I asked what were the odds the surgery would give any answers to what was causing Sammy's problems, the answer I feared was "slim to none".
In a matter of seconds, a decision was needed. Unbelievable and difficult beyond any I have had to make recently. From losing our home through foreclosure, being down-sized from jobs, losing our business, being robbed at gunpoint--none of those things matter as much as deciding Sammy's life at this moment.
As hard as it was, we knew we could not be selfish. We knew we could not let Sammy suffer. Surgery to us was not an option. Surgery according to the Vet even if it proved to help determine what was causing the problems, would be a long and painful recovery from which Sammy might not ever fully recover. Sammy was already sedated and as more medication was put into him, we petted him to sleep as he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge to wait for us there.
We are waiting for the results of testing that was done but as we googled Cocker Spaniels and issues we have learned about any host of things that could have afflicted Sammy this terminally. Bloating is one http://www.globalspan.net/bloat.htm and lymphoma the other http://www.pet-screen.com/web/petscr/index.cfm?s=3&dir=5395 Neither diagnosis has good odds of surviving.
Sammy's leash and collar still hang on the door knob to the closet where it used to be kept. We cannot bring ourselves to put it away for now. It just hangs there in anticipation of Sammy's next walk or as a memorial to his passing. We are having Sammy cremated and will sprinkle his ashes over Southern Utah where he was a frequent visitor. He loved to watch the deer as they mingled outside our home there and just the mere words "deer" would make him dance with glee. We are certain he is dancing with glee as he plays with the wild deer across the rainbow bridge. Until we meet you on that bridge, enjoy sweet boy, we will see you again.
A pet is a part of the family for most people. The days of burying your beloved pet in the backyard have advanced to cremation or having a service at a pet cemetery. Of course, the backyard option is still available and especially if you have small children, it can be a positive way to explain the process of dying, death and the funeral services.
Ideas for Having a Backyard Funeral for your Pet
- Hopefully you have a large backyard. Pick a nice spot such as under a large shady tree.
- Wrap your pet in his favorite blanket and then inside a large plastic bag. Tie the bag with duct tape.
- Dig a hole about 4 feet deep.
- Make a marker for the grave site using paint stir sticks found at a home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowe's (these are given out for free). You can make the sticks into a cross (if you believe in Christianity) by securing the two pieces with a small nail or using glue. If you are not inclined to make a cross because that is not your belief, you can use a single stick. Paint the stick with any color you wish with paint purchased at any craft shop. Be creative, use puff paints or buy stickers and allow your child to use their creative talents. Use a permanent marker to put your pet's name on the stick.
- Plant the stick at the grave site of your pet. You can add flowers or plant a tree/plant; stones or decorative stepping stones; candles --use your imagination.
- Have a service. Invite your children's friends to participate. Say a prayer, light a candle, talk about the good times with your pet. Have a small lunch or cake after the service.
If you are not inclined to bury your pet in your own backyard, there are several other options:
Here is a link to Pet Cremation Services:
Here is a unique website that lets you "virtually" remember your pet: