Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The hardest day- letting my best friend go

This was Godiva today.
This was Godiva about 7 or 8 years ago, when he was 5 or 6.

Today was the saddest day, maybe one of the saddest days of my life. It seems ridiculous, because I've experienced a lot of death in my life, more than most people. I've had people I cared about die, helped people die dignified death in hospice, sat with patients when they decided enough was enough, and had feeding tubes pulled, watched patients die and their families grieve, and helped young men try to redefine their lives after terrible injury in war. This was a dog. But he was my dog, and I loved him. He helped me through a really awful depression, weather a divorce, tried to protect me at times, and when Nate and my son, Marcus was born, he tried to watch over him, even as an old, tired dog, in some pain. I agonized over this decision- he was in some pain, which we had mostly controlled with pain medication. He had a spinal tumor, and had trouble walking, and sometimes he would fall down, and be incontinent- and then be deeply ashamed afterward. He was confused sometimes, and wandered around at night. But I still wonder- if I had been old and sick, would he have euthanized me? I worry that I made the wrong decision for my old friend. I have never really known what I believe in terms of religion, but hope he is somewhere better.

I got him from the pound in Woodland in May 1999. They told me he was an adult dog at 40 lbs, but I realized soon that he was only about 12 weeks old at most, and he grew to be 80 lbs. He had been abused, and someone had cut his tail off at a vertebrae with clippers, and he already had some scars, even as a puppy. But he quickly grew into the loving, affectionate, gentle dog that he was his whole life. He learned a lot of tricks, including, "get your butt out of my face" which  meant he would get up, and turn around with an enormous sigh, so his head was facing me, instead of his butt. He never begged at the table, and learned that folding your napkin meant that we were done eating and he could come solicit pets and scratches under the chin. He didn't climb on furniture, and mostly didn't bark (until this year, when we moved back to California and he got confused). He loved to hike with us, and wade in streams, but couldn't swim very well. He drove cross country with me twice.

Friday, we went to the Vet and talked to her about Godiva. She agreed that he seemed like he was suffering, and I made the difficult decision to let him go. We gave him special treats all week, and this morning, a special treat. At two o'clock Nate had to give him tramadol to sedate him so he wouldn't be scared. Unfortunately, he was not sedated, since his tolerance was so high after taking pain medication. I gave him more treats, groomed him for the last time, and spent a few hours petting him and telling him how much he had meant to me all his life. We took him to the vet, and they took us in a special room. He was scared and fell over, and then huddled next to my legs. I petted him while they gave him an injection of barbituates, and in seconds, before they were even done injecting the medication, he was gone. I sat with him and petted him for a while, and he seemed like he was sleeping. It was awful. The whole time, I wondered, did I do the right thing? I left him there, but kept his collar and tags. They're doing a special cremation for us, and we're planning to go for a hike and spread his ashes doing what he liked best in the whole world.

 I already really miss my buddy. I looked at all his toys, his bed, and his bowls, and feel overwhelmed by them. We love you Godiva.


  1. The love of a pet is the hardest to let go. Wishing comfort for you & Nate. Trust in your decision that you did what is best for him and you did it out of love.