My husband and I had only been married a short time and living in our first home, when the cutest little black and white puppy showed up at our garage door one Valentine’s Day. Estimated age: about 5-6 weeks old. I picked her up and went door to door in the neighborhood asking if anyone knew where she might have come from. No one knew anything.
Patches was a good dog, but extremely shy and submissive. We only heard her bark maybe 3 times in the 16 years that we had her. She took to our bringing our 2 baby boys home from the hospital with grace and gentleness. She accepted them automatically as new members of the family and was always good with them.
Patches was a healthy dog all her life. I can’t remember her ever being sick. She started really showing her age when she was 15. She was losing weight and just sort of wasting away. I would have sworn she had cancer of some sort but never could “find it”. Her blood work and medical tests always looked good. Late into her 15th year, she started showing some strange neurological signs. After consulting with a veterinary neurologist, we were pretty sure she had a frontal lobe brain tumor. The day she started falling, I knew it was time. She fell down the stairs and then fell again when we went out for our daily walk. I found the decision so hard to make since she was still eating reasonably well and she still dearly loved to go on daily walks with me. I remember praying that I could wake up one morning and find that she had passed away in her sleep. Why was I always faced with the dreaded euthanasia decision in all of my animals? Why couldn’t my animals just die natural deaths? It never seemed to happen.
Since veterinary clinics stressed Patches so much, my good friend and colleague agreed to come to my house to perform the dreaded procedure. Patches was always scared of my friend Howard, and so I worried that even this would be just as stressful as going to a vet clinic. I gave her a small dose of a tranquilizer a couple of hours before he came and that seemed to do the trick. I spread a blanket on the living room floor and I remember when my friend walked in the living room, Patches saw him from the dining room and went right to him, gave a little wag of her tucked tail, and stretched out on the blanket. I remember my friend looking me in the eye and saying (as a veterinarian and not as a friend), “Gail, it is time, you are making the right decision.” After hearing that, I was comforted in some ways, but also knew I had waited too long. After all, my girl was skin and bones, despite her okay appetite. Our whole family was around her and comforting her, when she was euthanized. We said our final goodbyes to our old girl and my husband and friend buried her in the backyard.
As a veterinarian, I have always found it interesting that some people, after euthanizing a pet, can go right out and get another one, while others have to wait a while. I was one of those who had to wait. I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules on this matter. I always advised clients to do what was best FOR THEM…. to listen to THEIR heart and not to anyone else. I needed to wait. I needed to grieve for my girl. I needed to heal. Losing a pet you have raised from a pup and had for 16 years is needless to say, difficult. I have always been a dog lover and couldn’t imagine myself without ever having a dog in the family, but it has been 7 years since we lost Patches and we still haven’t adopted another dog. But I have had another reason for waiting so long. My cat, Bigfoot, (the one pictured with Patches above) will be 17 years old in February and is easily stressed. I know bringing a puppy or new dog into our family would turn his world upside down. I know it would not be the best thing for him. So I will have to wait a little longer, but that’s o.k.
When the time comes, I will get a pound puppy. A few years ago I made several visits to the local pound after my mother’s dog disappeared from her fenced in back yard. I always vowed after that, that when it did come time for me to get another dog, that it would be from the pound. There are so many dogs there that need good homes. Good dogs. And smart dogs. And beautiful dogs. So many that lose their lives needlessly because there’s no one there to adopt them. Yep, it’s finally feeling like it’s about time. I’ll keep you posted.
“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.”
This is one of my favorite videos… so simple, yet so beautiful. Please watch God and Dog.