goodbye, my friend

by ck on July 8, 2013

“Can you climb out, baby?” I whisper. Maggie’s watery brown eyes meet mine for just a moment, and she turns away. I rub her head; her body shakes beneath my hands. She looks up again, her eyes dart around me, past me, at me. “I’ve got you, baby,” I promise, leaning my face into the side of hers.

I straighten myself and contemplate how to lift her from the uneven surface of the car’s backseat, and then balance her and get her through the front door and…

“I’ll get the doors for you,” my friend says. “And I’ll grab your purse and lock up the car.

My purse. Keys. Right.

I turn back to Maggie. She’s trying to withdrawal further into the car, but there’s no place to go. And she can’t move herself anymore. I reach in and stroke her face and her back and put my arms beneath her belly, fork-lifting her from the car. Her almost useless legs dangle over my arms. Her body offers no resistance, just the remnants of fear that started when she realized where we were headed.

The front door dings as I carry her into the lobby. The technician looks up. Our eyes meet for a moment and sadness softens her expression. “The room is ready for you,” she says. ”You can bring her back here.” 

Warm blankets are arranged on the metal table. I lay Maggie’s crumpled body in the middle of them. Slowly. Gently. The technician steps in and situates her for me. I just stand there. Useless. I don’t know what to do. Her body shakes so hard. She looks for me. Locks in on my eyes. I wrap my arms around her neck and sob into her fur.

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The technician comes back in with paperwork. I hadn’t noticed her leave. I wipe my eyes and read. I’m consenting to an overdose. I’d hadn’t actually thought about how they’d do it. I’ve never put an animal down before. It makes sense, but reading the words is almost too much. I drop my head. But I sign. I have to. I leave the pen on the table and walk back over to my dog. I wrap my arms around her neck again, my body now shaking as hard as hers. “I’m so sorry, Maggie,” I cry into her fur.

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The vet enters. Quietly and solemn. She offers a small, understanding moment of silence. She strokes Maggie’s fur and softly goes over the last few years of Maggie’s declining health. All of the things we tried. Everything we did. She tells me that I’m doing the right thing, and explains how the process will work.

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Two shots. The first will sedate her and after a few minutes lull her into sleep. The other will put her down.

Whenever I’m ready.

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I nod. I can’t speak. I keep my arms around Maggie’s neck as they inject the first shot, whispering what a good girl she is. The vet tells me it will take a few minutes and they’ll check back shortly. I hear them leave. My body is too heavy to turn and watch them go. Instead I keep rubbing Maggie’s face, her head, her back.

She looks at me one more time, and then turns away and puts her head down. Her shaking stops. Mine accelerates. Her breathing becomes slow and even. Mine becomes erratic. My friend puts an arm around me.

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The door opens and the tech peeks in. She signals to the vet. They enter. As the vet administers the second shot, she talks quietly about Maggie’s life. I’m so surprised by this I almost laugh. A eulogy? Really? It’s absurd. The whole thing is absurd. That I’m such a mess is absurd. She’s a dog. A dog.

And yet…

She’s somehow so much more than just a dog that I can’t stop weeping and nodding along with everything the vet says. She did live a good life. She was a wonderful dog. And this was the right thing to do.

And then it’s over. Just like that. Done. The room feels empty. The vet tells me she’s gone and encourages me to take as much time as I need. She and the tech leave the room. I stand there for a moment. A little dazed. I can’t find my purse. My keys. My friend holds them up. Right.

We leave the office. It’s really bright. The air feels weird. My friend drives me home. I have to focus. I have to pick up my kids. I have to plan the rest of the day. And for the first time in almost 14 years, I’ll have to walk through the front door to a silent reception. 

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©2013 CEK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

 

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{ 31 comments }

Lisa July 8, 2013 at 7:59 am

Oh I am so very sorry. It is so hard to say goodbye. When we had to put our golden down two years ago, someone suggested we plant a tree or shrub as a reminder. It really helped us grieve, especially my son. Give yourself time to cry.

ck July 10, 2013 at 2:44 pm

That is a beautiful idea – planting something in her memory. I think we’ll do that this fall. Thank you.

Jessica July 8, 2013 at 8:02 am

Oh I couldn’t really read past the first line. Immediately sobbing too. I’m so sorry girl. Sending happy thoughts even though I know it won’t really help yet. They are so family, usually the best members.

ck July 10, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Thank you, Jessica. Happy thoughts always help. :)

Deanna July 8, 2013 at 8:50 am

I am so sorry for your loss.

ck July 10, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Thank you so much, Deanna.

Caryn July 8, 2013 at 8:51 am

You’re in my thoughts. I am so sorry.

ck July 10, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Thanks, Caryn.

I’m afraid it’s a hole that only margaritas and bad acting can fill. :)

Carmen July 8, 2013 at 8:52 am

I’m so sorry, I’ve been through that with a couple of pets I knew but weren’t my own and it was so difficult. I hope your family finds peace.

ck July 10, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Thanks, Carmen. I’ve been through it in the past the same way you have, mostly with my parents’ animals (that were around when I was living at home). It was sad, but a different sad. Thanks for reaching out. :)

Faith July 8, 2013 at 9:03 am

I’m so sorry. This made me cry and I know there are no words to bring you peace right now. I wish the best for you and your family.

Justine July 8, 2013 at 9:07 am

We had to put down our dog of 12 years last year. It was ridiculously hard. Hugs to you my friend.

ck July 10, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Thanks, Justine. (And hugs to you, too. 12 years is a long, beautiful life.)

erika July 8, 2013 at 9:25 am

Your story sounds a lot like mine 2 years ago. I put together some pics (ok a lot of pics, she was my first baby) to a song that my son still calls “Mia’s Song.” It’s really “Sweeter Life” by The Afters. If you can’t view the picture montage, check out the song. It sings of a better life.

I’m very sorry for your loss. Mia’s birthday is in a few days and she’s been on my mind a lot. When I saw the title of your blog post, I knew…

My video montage:
http://youtu.be/3_ACluqhYJc

Just the song:
http://youtu.be/A6LcUhRNFUY

thekitchwitch July 8, 2013 at 9:47 am

I hope that writing it out helped ease your pain. Love you.

Gretchen July 8, 2013 at 9:48 am

Anyone who’s ever had to step thorugh all of the parts of this blog knows how you feel and grieve with you. I had to finally let go of my little Sammie and I am still dealing with the fact that I ultimately had to choose his last hour and his last day. I am so sorry for your loss, and know that we are all out here too helping you and your family grieve, while letting you help us grieve a little too for our lost furry kids. Thanks

Kim Jorgensen Gane July 8, 2013 at 9:53 am

Beautiful, poignant and familiar, Cindy. I’ve been there with my first standard, Winnie the Poodle; my first experience, too, in 2010. And I still cried and shook right along with you at every paragraph, knowing what was to come. I went to great lengths to make sure Max, eight years her junior, would be OK. My son, 7 at the time, took it all in stride, but I was a wreck. I was also very lucky to have a dear friend take me. I wish you and your family peace and beautiful memories during this difficult adjustment.

Gibby July 8, 2013 at 10:18 am

Ugh, what a tearjerker. Your words about trying to get Maggie out of the car reminds me of how our lab, who used to be so strong and full of energy, couldn’t even stand up at the end. Just heartbreaking to experience. For weeks afterwards I would turn the corners in our house expecting to trip over him, but no one was there. It was such a strange emptiness. Afterwards I also realized how much I talked to him when no one else was home, which may or may not make me seem crazy. I feel for you and your family! I wish you good memories and laughs about her doggy ways.
(P.S. This may sound over the top, but I made a photo book of our dog and it seemed to help our girls, it gave them a chance to talk about different memories, and I think it made it seem “OK” to talk about it.)

Colleen July 8, 2013 at 10:39 am

Sobbing….my heart is breaking for you. Unless you’ve been in that moment, in those decision making shoes, you can’t fully understand the hurt. I completely understand. My 12yo puppyboy has been gone just 8 months. And my heart still breaks when I think of him. Coming home to a silent reception is the worst. ???? I blogged about it too http://bit.ly/XhrrFN.
Sending love and thoughts to you & your family, especially your girls. Its so hard for them to understand. Unfortunately, the biggest lesson our furbabies have to teach us is about loss and letting go.

Kim July 8, 2013 at 10:39 am

CK, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. My dog passed a few years ago, and it wrecked me. It is amazing how much these creatures become a part of our heart. You and your family will be in my prayers!

Homeslice July 8, 2013 at 11:04 am

CK, words cannot express how sorry I am. I will cherish my time with my Magpie, and I will always miss the girl who wanted a long walk in the rain.

Faith July 8, 2013 at 11:09 am

I couldn’t even make it through this… I’ll have to read in segments. My heart breaks for you, husband and one and two. All my love, CK.

stacy July 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm

I’m so sorry. I did the same for two of the Goldens I grew up with – Molly & Bair. They were sisters from the same litter and died within 6 months of each other after 11 years old – cancer. My heart goes out to you. I found a lot of comfort and was so thankful that I was with them both during their last moments as they were with me during some of my happiest/saddest. Life will never be the same but you will find a spot in your heart to bring in a new pet. My parents now have Maggie, a sweet Beagle and I have a terrible little dog (and one of the loves of my life), a Chihuahua-Terrier rescue, Pickles. Life goes on, eventually. It took my family 2 years.

Jen July 8, 2013 at 9:32 pm

I’m so sorry for your loss.

Tiffany July 9, 2013 at 9:27 am

I am so sorry for you, Cindy. That’s was one of the toughest things we ever had to do. The silence is deafening. Hugs to you, mike and the girls.

Donna July 9, 2013 at 3:38 pm

They are not just a dog or a cat or a pet. Thay are our companions and our friends, giving us unconditional love over their all-too-short lives. If we are very lucky, they die quietly in their sleep after a life of playing and joy. But sometimes we have to help them on their way when they reach a time of suffering and pain. I am so sorry for you and Maggie. I will be making that final journey with my little Ratty, faithful 17 year old kitty, sometime in the near future. Bless you for your story.

Stevie July 9, 2013 at 11:15 pm

I had to do the same thing with my cat of 12 years on July 6th. I got her from my sister when she was 5 because she couldn’t take care of her anymore, I was 12. So there I was at 8 in the morning calling around to places I could take her to end her suffering because my regular vets office in my small town is closed on Saturday. Her system was shutting down. It had been coming on for the last 6 months and there was nothing I could do. She was old, almost 18.
It is the weirdest feeling entering my room and sleeping at night without her. My family moved to the small town after I had her for a few years and, even though I’m almost 24, I’m still here. And now I have to live in a room without her that has always been our home together.

Maggie wasn’t just a dog to you, Mikey wasn’t just a cat to me. They were companions, friends, a part of the family. Relationships with pets aren’t like relationship with humans. With other people there can be ups and downs, good times and hardships. But not with pets. They are always good, always happy to see us and the friendship is filled with nothing but love. It almost makes it harder to get over losing a companionship so good and innocent.
Sorry for the long comment, I just thought I would tell you, even if you already knew, that you are not irrational to mourn her as much as you want. Because that is where I am right now too.

Dustin Fisher July 10, 2013 at 3:52 am

Oh my dear gosh. You made me cry on the train. I’ve never found myself in that position, but you’ve put me there and my heart breaks for you. It’s important to grieve of course, but in time, try to remember what the good doctor said: “Don’t cry because its’s over; smile because it happened.”

mrs.d July 11, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I’m balling reading this.. I’m soo sorry.. yes, they are dogs, but they are forever a part of our lives and hearts.. I know I will have to go through this one day, and I’m dreading it. Saying goodbye is never easy. Maggie had a great life with you and your family, and you have a million memories of her to cherish. That doesn’t make it easier right now.. but at least it’s a comforting thought.
Much love to you and your family!

Irma Stafford July 13, 2013 at 8:53 am

I’m so sorry for your loss . I pray that GOD sends in the Holy Spirit and wraps his arms around the family at this time of sorrow . Love you all .

Jen July 14, 2013 at 1:34 am

Oh, I’m so sorry. Maggie wasn’t just a dog. She was a pregnancy test/alert. She offered a soft spot to bump up against when little noggins would’ve otherwise hit the floor. She helped your home smell like home. We’re about to go through the same thing with our foot licker/spill cleaner/ carrot tip eater who is also losing limb function. God bless your family during this time. And God bless Maggie, for helping you become a mama before a mother. And for loving you right back.

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