I asked our vet this morning whether she thought our pets somehow understood that we thought we were doing them a kindness when we brought them into the vet to be euthanized. I thought it was mostly a rhetorical question at the time, a way of stalling, a way to avoid crying, which I hadn’t thought I was going to do but did anyway, and a way, maybe, to beg for absolution.
After all, there was the same old perkiness in his step this morning, the same tugging-on-the-leash excitement he always had at going on a road trip, the same unquestioning loyalty and snuggliness, and even though he could no longer get into the car himself like he could just the year before, he gave every appearance of having a great ol’ time. Every bit of him this morning belied what I knew to be true, that the seizures were coming more and more often, that they twisted his little body into impossible contortions that would have done Linda Blair proud, and that each time wrenched a howl from him that broke my heart when I heard it, even jarring me from a sound sleep with only the memory of it in my ears and the dread knowledge of what it had meant.
I wasn’t expecting a real answer from the vet, but she surprised me by taking a couple minutes to answer fully and thoughtfully what she believed our pets—and hers—comprehended of what was going on in their final moments, and to state firmly and unequivocally that they sensed the caring and concern of their owners. And in this case, no doubt, the caring of the attending vet as well. I love my vet, not just for the year-round care, but because she never shirks from this last responsibility or tries to guilt me into expensive and pointless tests and treatments, though she lets me know when these might be a realistic option. She knows she has two patients in the room this final time, and manages to give us both what we need.
Goodbye, Toby. You were our “rescue dog,” a nine-year-old Shih Tzu given to us by a family who no longer had room in their lives for you but needed to find you another good home. You were the sweetest dog I’ve known, even if you did like the guys best. You hated the cold outside, and loved finding the warmest thing you could snuggle up to, even if it meant begging to be lifted up onto the chair. It was a privilege knowing and caring for you. If there is a doggie-heaven, look up Sam and Bridget and have a good romp. Then snuggle down between them; they’ll keep you toasty warm.
Heather Rosa is a former small-town mayor. She’s not remotely qualified to be vice president.
This entry was posted on Thursday, February 19th, 2009 at 5:47 am and is filed under Features, Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.