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Animal Loved One Dies

 

When an animal loved one dies

by Katie Boland


In the summer of 1997, my entire pet family left for heaven. The first to go was nine year old Rosie, the Brittany I had rescued some five years earlier. She had eaten raw sewage when the pipes had backed up and burst, and she was so ill, I had to put her down. I had faced mountainous vet bills her entire life for thyroid, incontinence, allergy and digestive problems. I felt guilty that I had not bonded with her like I had with the others. She was hard to love because she ate poop in the backyard and I couldn't kiss her. She gagged constantly. (Wouldn't you?)

Two days later, my dear 18 year old Siamese, Sasha, had a stroke and his kidneys failed. He was deaf and senile, having spent a good deal of his final year sitting on a (formerly) white chair, shrieking and screeching at the living room wall while vomiting intermittently. He would have died on his own within days, but I saw no reason to prolong his life and made another trip to the vet. As shaken and sad as I was, I consoled myself with the fact he'd had a wonderful, long journey and had not suffered at all. He looked like a kitten in repose.

Less than three months later, it was time to help my cherished and adored Weimaraner, Alex, leave this earth. For two years, his back end had been deteriorating. I had always said that when he was incontinent, that would be it for me. But when he was, I wasn't ready. Sometimes Alex could still stagger outside to relieve himself, but his legs would collapse and he would fall in his poop and I'd have to clean him up. One day after returning from the vet, I placed him gently on the driveway while I locked up the car. I turned to catch him rolling down the hill, looking frightened and helpless. I knew it was time to let this mighty dog, who had been so proud in life, go on. And yet, I wasn't ready to let him go. And he would need my help to leave.

I had my own live, call-in talk radio show here in LA at the time, and I did several shows looking for answers on letting go. Not everyone agreed it was time. When I told of Alex's plight, one listener suggested wheeling him around in a wagon. That smacked of selfishness. Would he want to be dragged around like that? This once regal, powerful, incredibly fast dog? My instincts told me no. I kept wishing he'd die on his own. I hated having to decide. Looking back, I am most glad that I was with him; that he died in my daughter's and my arms; that our faces were the last ones he saw. Animals sometimes need our help to leave.

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