I’m a terrible person.
Actually, let’s back up.
We have two dogs, Lady (13 years old, who has recently started to show her age) and Skye (three years old and way too energetic for Lady); they get on each other’s nerves like any sibling set would. Since we moved from an almost-completely carpeted house (soft on dog paws and easy to maintain stability and traction) to an almost-completely hardwood floored house (hard on paws, and makes it difficult for the dogs to get and stay upright) just three days ago, Lady has slipped and fallen more times than I can count, and her labored breathing woke me up early Wednesday morning. My mother-in-law says that Lady choked during the night about a week ago, and she had to get up and give her the Heimlich (I can’t attest to that happening, but I’m inclined to believe her, because who would make that up)!
My husband and I decided that instead of letting our dogs continue to lack the care and attention they need and deserve, we’d have to put Lady down, and we’d try to find a new home for Skye.
My sister-in-law, who is almost perpetually on the lookout for homes for animals she or her friends and family have found and can’t keep, tasked herself with finding homes for our dogs. She knows a lot of people, and everyone who knows her loves her – it’s a fact of nature, she’s even got one of those names that make you smile and think happy thoughts.
This time, she found no one.
It was too late for Lady; I’d already dropped her off at a county shelter just before noon. I took pictures of my little girls with Lady as she laid on the shelter floor, and I removed her collar before I corralled her into the very depressing metal box with a door on each side – one for saying goodbye, and one for saying hello.
It made me think of the dogs (and friends and family members) we’ve lost in our lives. I’m not sure – who can be sure without experiencing something? – but I like to believe in an afterlife. I don’t think that this life is all there is – there’s gotta be something more; so when I say goodbye to Lady, it’s sad for me, for my husband, for our kids, and even Lady, but then she gets to reunite with her puppy friends and previous owners, and that’s happy. That thought kept me from worrying about her too much the rest of the day.
In the end, I know we could’ve kept Lady alive longer, but how happy would she be, having to beg one of us to let her out to go potty, slipping around on the floors, falling down, and suffering the inevitable playful torments of our 19-month and three-year-old kids? They mean well, but so did I. I didn’t WANT this to happen. I didn’t ask to play this role. When I signed my name on those lines, I believed then as I do now, that I was doing the best thing for Lady, not for me. Maybe my one-way ticket on the bullet train to hell hasn’t been sold yet. Maybe I’m not a lost cause. Maybe I’m not so horrible after all.
Have you ever had to put a pet down?
Last summer, while we were on vacation, my mother-in-law had to put one of our dogs down; he was in a much worse condition than Lady, and I’m so glad we didn’t let Lady get to that point before we took action. Five years ago, we had to put down my husband’s dog, one he’d had since just after his dad passed away. It sucks, but I think it can be the right thing to do, even if it is emotionally painful.