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.
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.
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.
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
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.