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Bittersweet Heartache

Updated on December 25, 2016
My Christmas Angel
My Christmas Angel

Pet Euthanasia

If you have ever had to euthanize a pet, then you understand a special kind of pain. It is different from losing a pet to an accident. I call this pain Bittersweet Heartache. It happened to me Christmas week of the year 2007.

Chelsea, a dachshund sheltie mix, was my best friend for fifteen of the best years and the worst years of my life. We had settled comfortably into a quiet and peaceful lifestyle. Although she missed her Boy and Girl that had gone away to be grownups, she was a happy dog. She enjoyed long walks, snuggling on the sofa and road trips. But she was getting old.

I believe I must have intuitively known that this particular Christmas would be her last. Through the years she had come to recognize that time of year. I truly believe she knew when the decorations came out that it meant a road trip soon. She would get to see her Boy and Girl and spend time with family.




Every Christmas my Christmas Angel tops the tree.
Every Christmas my Christmas Angel tops the tree. | Source

A Special Last Christmas

I decided to make Christmas special for her that year. I bought shiny new ornaments for the tree. Chelsea liked laying on the sofa and gazing at the lighted tree. I even bought a new tree topper-an Angel with red silk dress and wings of gold. I made Chelsea a bell necklace with a shimmering jingle bell on a Christmas ribbon. We went to the Doggie Gourmet Shoppe and bought decorated dog treats to share with the neighbors'dogs.

On December 20th I finished my Holiday preparations. We had our road trip planned for December 22nd. I would have a day to rest and get organized. Getting home at dusk, Chelsea was waiting patiently for me as always. We went through our normal routine of going outside, eating and spending the evening together side by side.

Later she began to cough. Initially ignoring it,as the evening grew on I could see that something was wrong. Although I hoped that the Vet could help her the next morning, I began to fear the worst. I called both her Boy and Girl and they tearfully helped me prepare for what might happen the next morning.

With Chelsea wrapped in her blanket and Carols playing in the car, we arrived at the Angel Oak Veterinary Clinic at One Salty Paws Lane. The doctor examined Chelsea right away. She explained that Chelsea was experiencing heart failure. There was nothing that could be done. "Think of euthanasia as your final gift to her, " she said.


Source

Pet Cremation

A receptionist came in with papers in hand and arrangement offers. I chose to have her cremated separately with her ashes presented to me. Then the Vet's assistant came in to "send Chelsea on her way." I was given the option to stay or not. I didn't hesitate to stay. Sobbing pitifully,I held her paw and touched her face one last time. She looked up at me, and I saw thank you in her eyes.

After many many tears I left on my road trip the next day as scheduled, thankful that Chelsea's ordeal did not begin while traveling. I decided a Guardian Angel must have intervened.

Last Picture of Chelsea One Month Before She Went to Rainbow Bridge
Last Picture of Chelsea One Month Before She Went to Rainbow Bridge

When To Replace Lost Pets

Slowly my Bittersweet Heart Ache began to ease a little. On Christmas Eve I was greeted at the door by a shy cute puppy in a red plaid bandana. She was from the local animal shelter and she was 12 weeks old. She came with a crate, red blanket, bowls and toys. Many experts say it is best not to gift a bereaving pet owner with a new pet but I disagree.

I was touched by my family's thoughtfulness. The Vet's comment about euthanization as being a final gift stayed on my mind and comforted me. My daughter found a copy of the poem Rainbow Bridge for me.Then I knew what the doctor had meant when she said "send Chelsea on her way" Reading this beautiful poem with an anonymous author over and over, I decided we would have a ceremony for Chelsea. Her ashes would not be ready until the next week. We had time to make plans.



A Funeral For Chelsea

After returning home, I went back to One Salty Paws Lane to pick up Chelsea's ashes .I continued to receive comfort. A sympathy card from the Angel Oak Veterinary Clinicstaff was in the mail. It quoted a Bible Verse;

In His Hands is the Life of Every Creature and the Breath of All Mankind. Job12:10

I would incorporate this verse into our ceremony.

On Sunday December 29th, a beautiful service was held for Chelsea. Her Boy and Girl came of course. After speeches and the reading of Rainbow Bridge, we sprinkled her ashes along the shallow tide of the river where she loved to play the most.

During the following days, I sought comfort and found it with Chance's Spot, an online support group for Pet Loss. People who have recently lost pets can post a tribute to their pet. They offer forums and a hot line for those who may need it. Having a new puppy also helped comfort me. Every year since that Christmas, I place Chelsea's bell necklace around that same Angel tree topper. She has joined my other Guardian Angels. She is my special Christmas Angel.

I can not tell you I hope you never experience Bittersweet Heartache because if you are a pet owner I hope you do. It means that you and your pet took care of each other. You gave the gift of yourself before the final gift of euthanasia.


The Angel Oak Veterinary Clinic

A markerOne Salty Paws Lane Johns Island -
Johns Island
get directions

Pet Memorial Days

A few months later, through Chances Spot, I learned that there was a National Pet Memorial Day as well as A World Pet Memorial Day. World Pet Memorial Day is observed on a day during the second week of June and National Pet Memorial Day in the second week of September. The designated days vary each year. Thanks to Chance's Spot I have found so many touching photo stories posted by people to honor their pets. Here I would like to share my favorites. Get a box of tissues and watch them.

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    • YogaKat profile image

      YogaKat 5 years ago from Oahu Hawaii

      I know "Bittersweet Heartache". I was forced to euthanize my "Amber" and I also wrote a hub. Writing and reading about this is the therapy for me. Thanks. Voted up and awesome.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 5 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      This makes me so sad. I have a 12 and a half yr old chow mix and even though she does well most of the time, I have noticed labored breathing lately and it makes me sad that that time is close. Very touching hub.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I will look for that Hub YogaKat, for Chelsea. PDXKaraokeGuy you have obviously been a great pet parent so I know you will be reunited with your Chow in another place.So take heart.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Such a beautiful story to share with us. My cat will be seventeen in Feb, and I am very worried about her. She has been at deaths door before about ten years ago but at her age now I can't hope too logically that she will be so lucky again. I will find out in a few days. I got her for my mom but when I left home I took her with me. Dogs are so much more human I know, I have lost those too. Voted up.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Take heart Jackie. I love cats too, and to have one that made it to 17 years is truly a celebration for you.Good for you and your cat!

    • profile image

      linda 5 years ago

      This was beautiful. Will send to all my pet friends.

      linda

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for the nice comment AND for sharing!

    • MissFrost profile image

      MissFrost 5 years ago from 50% Island Girl, 25% East Coast Girl, 25% Country Girl

      Thank you for sharing this story with us. Have you ever read, "Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul?" It's very inspirational.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      No, I haven't. Thanks for suggesting. I'm glad you read my little story.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Hi Rebecca, thank you for directing me to your hub and it was very beautiful and touching! I have had many dogs over the years - my first at 13 and I'm 49 now! So I've been blessed with many beautiful friends over the years.

      It's always hard to let a loved one go, whether it's a fellow human being or our animals! But we do have to be strong - animals themselves accept without question or fear when their time has come. It's us humans who make it so difficult for ourselves and them. Your vets beautiful words, of thinking about euthansia as a final gift is so true. Indeed, the majority of us are kinder to our animals than we are to our fellow humans at times.

      Rainbow Bridge, although written anonymously has to have been penned by someone who was in touch with the animal spirit and soul. If animals could write, I'm sure they would have written this wonderful piece of work. And I believe as well, like the Bible quote, that the Creator has a love for his animal creations as he does for humankind.

      A beautiful hub to be treasured + voted up awesome!

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thank you so much Seeker7. I thought after reading your Hub and seeing your profile that you would relate to my story. I often think of the author of that poem and wonder how it could have ended up to be anonymous .

      May you and your family members, two-legged and four-legged, have a beautiful,beautiful Christmas!

    • mireland19 profile image

      Meagan Ireland 5 years ago from Maine

      This was amazing and very powerful. I think a lot of people can relate to this and Thank you for sharing it with us! I lost my little baby this year and it was extreamly painful. Amazing how attached you can get to animals they really are just like children.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thank you for stopping by...I hope you find comfort in your loss. Be sure to check out "Chance's Spot if you have not already. Yes, our pets do become like children. I always jokingly say that the only differences are: 1)you won't get arrested for leaving the home alone and 2) you don't have to start a college fund for them!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I know when the time comes and my dogs die I will be heartbroken and will grieve for them as if I were grieving for any family member. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. I am sure that it will help many people with the loss of their pets.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thank you, I am glad.... that was why I wanted to share it!

    • profile image

      Lindsay 5 years ago

      Oh how we love and miss you Chelsea, Mom's little familiar. I remember the first time I set eyes on the tiny brown ball that was you. Big black eyes that occupied most of your head -he he- and perfect little wedge shaped ears that perked and tilted in curiosity.

      We painted your nails, took you to Tybee Market and the Post Office and you never failed to say: "I ruv rooo" to amaze all my friends. You climbed trees and never let strangers get too close. "Chicken Bones" and "Bath" solicited the reactions that made us laugh and adore you.

      But "Diddy" was mine. All mine. I love you and I miss you.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      We went through this last year and again just three weeks ago:

      https://hubpages.com/animals/A-Compassionate-Treac...

      We have the ashes for both, and we'll scatter them this summer on the hill where we always camped and they played.

      Excellent Hub, and voted up.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thank you Will for sharing and commenting. We all go through it if we have pets, and it is difficult when we lose one. Take heart. I think they are creatures that are important enough that we will see them on the other side!

    • Chris Kross profile image

      Chris Kross 5 years ago from Dallas, TX

      Wow. What a sad story, and the comments too. It sucks to lose a pet. They become real members of your family. On a bright note, your vet sounds very compassionate.

    • trish1048 profile image

      trish1048 5 years ago

      I cannot stop crying. This hub has stirred such raw emotion for me. I too had to euthanize yet another pet. My beloved cat of 19 years was laid to rest 10/1/11. What made this even sadder was the fact that my 10 yr old granddaughter had bonded with Sasha very intensely in the past year.

      Sasha's behavior was becoming quite disturbing, even though she wasn't sick, wasn't throwing up or meowing in pain of any kind. However, she began going on things she had never attempted before. I came home from work and found her up on the counter. She started to occasionally not use the litter box. What really freaked us out was when she defecated in the kitchen sink, on the stove and in my tub.

      Sadly I knew something was truly wrong. We made a decision to take her to the vet as a family. I explained to my granddaughter that Sasha was not being herself and needed a visit to the vet, who might not have good news and might not be able to save her, as she was very old. My granddaughter decided she wanted to go to be with Sasha, she also opted to go into the examining room as well. We told her what could happen, and she said it's ok, I want to be with her. So, we all stood around Sasha, all of us petting her ever so gently and cried as we watched her take her last breath.

      I miss her so,,,,,,

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I am so sorry Trish for your loss. But 19 years! You all must have done a wonderful job taking care of Sasha! I see cats smashed on the road side so often. Dry your tears and just say "til then" Sasha is with you.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 5 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      rebecca, thanks. I will be. But, I still will miss her for a time :-)

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Appreciate you telling me about Bitter Sweet Heartache rebecca. You did give Chelsea a gift and I'm glad you stayed. Parting is so hard for many that some folks never want another dog and some give a new friend a loving home right away. Again, I'm glad the latter happened for you and theres a support group like Chances Spot. Chelsea was a sweet little baby. Its nice to know your in the Charleston area too rebecca.:)

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

      o this was hard to read...the hardest thing i had ever done regarding a pet was the day we had to have our Dustygirl kitty put down....o the pain tore at my soul...i wept like i had never wept before but it was a gift to her...to end the pain she was in...i had never been a 'pet person' really but my daughter changed me...and one day this tiny bit of fluff came to our home and i was hooked...she was a dusty ball gray...and was truly a 'Garfield' kitty...so much personality and so loving...her purrs could be heard throughout the room...and then for her to have to leave us...i never thought i could love another...but thankfully i did.. besides the therapeutic value you gave a lot of interesting information i did not know...thank you for sharing this...

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Dustygirl is waiting for you on the Other Side!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

      you are absolutely right...she is hooked up with all of my family that awaited her arrival there!

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks pstraubie for stopping by to read Bittersweet Heartache.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      A sad story. The happiness that dogs bring is worth the heartache, but as they become a part of the family, letting go can be very hard.

      SOCIALLY SHARING and voted up and beautiful.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for the share! Yes, I agree they are worth it, I dread the next time around, though!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

      This made me cry. I'm coming up on the one year anniversary of my dog Turley's death on February 19 and I'm still not over it. My husband and I were with her until the end. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I know how you feel Deborah. Visist Chance's Spot on-line if you get a chance!

    • profile image

      Adama Gidado 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing a beautiful and touching hub. My family has two kittens that we love so dearly and life will be very sad without them. Chelsea looks so beautiful and peaceful in that picture. You did a good job sharing this as it is not easy to do so. Voted up!

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks Adama. Take care of those kitties. They will be waiting for you someday at the Rainbow Bridge.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 4 years ago from Midwest

      What a wonderful tribute to Chelsea. I know I will have to go through a similiar experience in the next couple years with my dog Jack. I have thought about how I will handle it. Thank you for sharing.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks Kimberley, for letting me share my story. I share it every year on this date. I 'll have to do it again too in a few years. I have 2 dogs now. I wish dogs had longer life spans. Good luck. Just keep Chance's spot in mind. It is a helpful organization.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      Like Seeker, I have had many beloved dogs over the years and one cat! I got my first dog when I was nine months old and an "uncle" placed a puppy in the playpen with me. I haven't been without one since.

      Bittersweet Heartache for sure. Our pets are such wonderful creatures and know us so well. It is hard to let them go even when it is best for them.

      Thanks for sharing Rebecca.

      Voted up, useful, and awesome.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      That is awesome! I don't to be without one either. Right now I have Three dogs. Thanks for reading my story.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Painfully, I can tell you that I can't totally appreciate your story. I've been through the euthanasia process 5 times... and it never, ever gets easier. The last one was a very similar situation as Chelsea's. After about a year of chemo, my boy's lymphoma returned and one day his body was starting to shut down and was going critical fast. As hard as it was, I knew that relieving his pain and letting him go peacefully was the right final gift to give him. I've never retained any of my dogs' ashes, but their memories are always here. Thanks for sharing your beautiful memories!

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thank you for reading my story and sharing yours. Today marks 6 years, and I still miss Chelsea. I guess it is something pet owners just have to do. Blessings.

    • K L Evans profile image

      Karen Evans 3 years ago from Lancashire, England

      What a beautiful story. So well described ... I started crying at the part where you described the final trip to the vet's. with Christmas carols playing in the car. This reminds me of my old dog Susie, who was 17-and-a-half when she died, in much the same manner. I loved your Hub.

    • rebeccamealey profile image
      Author

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for reading it. It was a sad day. I'll bet Susie was a sweetheart. You were lucky to have her so long.

    • K L Evans profile image

      Karen Evans 3 years ago from Lancashire, England

      Susie was a wonderful little dog, a Chihuahua/Papillion cross. I thought I would never bear to have another dog after she died, as I was so heartbroken, but I somehow ended up with eight!

    • rebeccamealey profile image
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      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Good for you!

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