Love Them, but Let Them Go
The stain of loss cannot be removed easily; it may not ever disappear. Watching a loved one die feels like you’re suffocating; there’s nothing you can do. You’re handcuffed. They’re struggling, and you’re struggling…, but it’s never enough. And when it’s over…, you feel like you can’t breathe. You feel their death as they lay dying, and you don’t know if you can take another breath of air without agony puncturing every surface of your body. You’re being eaten from the inside out, and you don’t know how to move on.
But somehow… eventually… you do….
It’s not a science.
It doesn’t happen overnight.
People can’t fix you; only time can, but even that is a mystery.
Death… and loss… are unfathomable but unstoppable.
There is nothing you can do to alter Death’s inscription.
Death has a funny way of screwing with your life, and all you can do is find a way to accept it… and move on.
You have to move on; otherwise, you’ll never know how to live again.
In spite of my birthday and the Christmas season, December 2014 was not filled with smiles or cheers. It was not filled with green and red lights, nor was it filled with joy and celebration. For my family, December was devoid of all high spirits; my family was quiet and broken, and a shadow of death loomed throughout our house. The silence was deafening, but the pain screamed in every cell of our bodies, and it hurt to be alone… it hurt to remember… it hurt to see what could no longer be seen. Shadows and imprinted memories plagued our minds; we were trapped within our own misery… trapped within an uninvited solitude… a mausoleum of agony and death....
However, with time, we eventually found peace in Josiah’s passing; suffering no longer suffers.
Josiah was born on February 10, 2003 and was adopted into our family the following March. As he grew older, he developed a very interesting character; he was afraid of storms, he ate anything and everything in sight and was afraid of the vacuum cleaner. For reasons we didn’t understand, he couldn’t be in the same room as the vacuum, but he could walk side-by-side next to the lawn mower. He loved eggs; eggs, hash browns and biscuits was his favorite breakfast; my dad would made it every Saturday, and Josiah was always first in line, waiting for his rations. His happy place was food and exercise.
And for eleven – almost twelve – years, he was a very happy Yellow Labrador Retriever.
Despite all of his medical issues….
When he was just a pup, we found out he had a weak tendon in his back leg; for his entire life, he never had the strength to lift his leg whenever he needed to relieve himself, but we loved him anyway. He didn’t have a care in the world either. Because of his leg condition, we couldn’t walk him far distances. He took supplements and Aspirin, but medication wasn’t enough; we had to be very careful when we walked him because of his weak leg.
He had monthly appointments with his vet; she gave him regular checkups because of his back leg as well his bowel movement issues. He had four or five (I’ve lost track) surgeries to remove various tumors; only one was cancerous, and the cancer never came back. He also was very sick one year; his vet thought he had pancreatitis, but thankfully, after weeks of having him eat medicated dog food, he was healthy again. We thought we almost lost him.
In spite of all of his medical problems, he persevered – he would not live it down without a fight.
Two years ago, he was diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis; it became harder for him to breathe when he was excited so we had to keep him calm as much as possible. For almost an entire year, he was fine. He struggled a little bit, but he was fine.
Almost a year ago, on my dad’s birthday, we had a scare. He had an appointment, and when we tried to get him into the car, his harness broke, and he fell hard against the pavement. For minutes, he couldn’t breathe. He was foaming, and his tongue was blue. We thought he was going to die, but when my mom came out, slowly, he started calming himself down and was breathing again. My dad had called his vet to reschedule; she said that it was only going to get worse and recommended the unthinkable. Josiah was breathing again; we couldn’t do it… we couldn’t go through with it. Not yet. It wasn’t time. She gave him a month at the most.
A month later, Josiah was still fine. He did struggle from time to time, but his breathing episodes were not worrisome. He was a fighter.
By Thanksgiving, Josiah was still with us, but we had to change the way we lived our lives to accommodate his health issues. We couldn’t do Halloween; the doorbell excited him and would cause an episode. Our grandparents were banned from coming over because he loved them too much, it took a toll on his breathing. We had to walk him on a leash for him to go outside when he needed to relieve himself; he was not allowed to go on the chain anymore. And slowly, Josiah was confined to one room; he could barely do anything anymore. He had to wear diapers because we couldn’t get him outside in time. His food and water bowls were moved to the room he was always sleeping in because he didn’t have the strength to walk more than a few feet at a time. It was heartbreaking, and we knew we were going to have to put him down soon.
He was fine on my birthday; he was fine.
Confined, but fine. He was still smiling and happy; his tail was still wagging.
He wanted life.
He loved life.
December 3rd was rough on him. He had a long breathing episode that lasted 45 minutes. His episodes were usually induced after going to the bathroom because it hurt for him to go outside due to his weak muscles… another health issue he had: muscle dystrophy. My parents were going to make the decision to have him put down; that Wednesday night was very hard on him…. It was storming, and he hated storms. I stayed with him as long as possible, and he was panting almost all night long. I cannot explain the feeling I felt that night; somehow, I knew…. I knew he was not long for this world, but I kept my feelings to myself.
I wish I hadn’t.
The following morning, December 04, 2014, he seemed like a young dog again. He wasn’t panting. His tail was wagging, and he was happy. He didn’t seem miserable. We had hope that his new medicine was finally kicking in and working….
That hope did not last long.
Late at night, I was working on my senior thesis when my brother called me and told me it was time to say goodbye. My heart dropped; I thought my parents were going to take him in to have him put down. That’s what they were planning, and I knew it was coming soon, but I was not prepared for what our family had to go through.
Josiah wasn’t put down….
He died in our home, and I remember every single second of it… seconds of my life I wish to forget, but I can’t. Even then, he was fighting..., but my mother told him it was okay to let go. She told him it was okay... so he did; he let go, but his death did not come peacefully. No words can describe anything my family felt afterwards. Regret is a horrible feeling, and it consumes you whole. Had we had a chance to do things over, we would have him put down after his 45 minute episode…, but we didn’t…, and we had to pay the price for our ignorance.
Josiah fought to the very end….
I wish I had his fighting spirit.
While you may love your pets…, don’t make the same mistake we did. Josiah did not deserve to suffer, and no animal deserves such a fate. I cannot tell you how long we’ve spent beating ourselves up for prolonging the inevitable. I cannot speak for the rest of my family, but for months, I hated myself for not sharing the feeling I had the night before Josiah died. Had I shared that feeling with my parents, he might not have had to suffer. I don’t know if I will ever get over the guilt I feel every time I glance at the corner where he once slept.
So… please, I implore you… do not make the same mistake. It will eat you up alive.
Love your pets, but let them go before it's too late.
Love Your Pet Always
- The Humane Society of the United States : The Humane Society of the United States
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest and most effective animal protection organization