Yesterday, I Experienced Death…

I got a call yesterday from my sister who wanted me to go with her to put her dog down.  He has been sick for a while.  He has problems breathing.  He has seizures.  I guess he had a seizure that morning that convinced my sister it was time.  I agreed to go with her.  To support her.  After all, it wasn’t my dog.

She picks me up at my house (we live 5 minutes from each other) and her dog, Hobbit, a cute, fluffy white Pomeranian, is in the front seat.  He appears just as happy as can be.  I get in and hold him.  I give him lots of love and pets.

The vet is only another 3 minutes from my house.  We get out and he’s happy.  He walks fine.  He does his business.  My sister lavishes him with bacon she cooked.  He appears perfectly fine and normal and healthy.

We enter the vets office and are greeted with a friendly, “How are you?”  My sister almost loses it.  The receptionist realizes her mistake immediately.

We wait.  Hobbit is fine.  Happy.  Unknowing of what is to come.  I observe him.  Devoted as all dogs are.  Completely and totally trusting in us.  Never doubting.  Never questioning.

We are taken back.  My sister is crying.  I’m trying not to.  The vet comes in and explains euthanasia and what to expect.  First a sedative to put the dog to sleep.  Then an injection which will stop the heart.  He will breathe his last breath.

Hobbit is happy, walking around, eating treats.  My sister holds him as she administers the sedative.  In about 10 minutes, he is asleep.  He is so calm and oblivious to all that is happening around him.  He does not know he won’t wake up.  He does not know he is going to a better place.  And he does not care.  For he is a dog, a lower animal that only lives moment by moment, and for him, he is just sleepy.  So he sleeps.

I fight the urge to whisk Hobbit out of her arms and dog-nap  him.  For to me he is fine.  Only my sister knows how much pain and suffering he is in.  Still, there’s a part of me who wants to rescue him from his fate–a fate we all have and none of us can be rescued from.  But that hope is what keeps me alive at least…

The vet comes back in.  My sister puts the dog on a table as they shave a place to find a vein to administer the fatal dose.  She is uncontrollably crying.  She pets him and kisses him his last as the vet pushes the plunger in.  In under 30 seconds, Hobbit is gone.  It is sad and I cry.  I kiss the dog.  I tell him what a good dog he is/was.  I tell him he will play with my dog, Bay, who died almost two years ago to the day.  Oh, how I miss her!

I think of my 12-year old ancient English Mastiff at home who will be alive when I return.  Who is ailing himself.  Whom I love with all my heart.  Who is having trouble walking and standing.  But who takes it all in stride.  Who cries when he wants me to pet him because he can no longer come to me.  But who is happy each and every moment of his remaining days.  I know not how much longer I will have him but I hope and I pray God takes him and not me.  So then he can be with his sister and Hobbit too.  So he too can have his body back and he can run like the wind again and he can play with the kids in heaven and bring them joy–as he has done to me down here.

We walk out.  My sister says “Well, that’s over.”  And I say ironically and melancholy, “Yeah, now we get to go on with our lives,” sadness consuming me as we’ve left a companion behind who no longer has theirs.

I love dogs.  I love owning dogs.  But I hate it when they get old.  I can hardly stand it.  I know they are dying because of our sins and it eats at me.  It does.

Some say it is good to see life and death and to accept it.  I say they are crazy.  It should be unacceptable that all things die because of our sins.  It should sadden you.  It should make you want to repent and turn to Him even more.

My sister will have her dog cremated and a paw print made.  She will keep him for now.  As I have kept mine who sits on a bookshelf in my house, silently watching over our family and our dogs, always abiding in my heart.  I miss her, but she is alive in my memories and thanks be to God in my kids’ memories as well.

Yesterday, I experienced death when I didn’t want to.  And I learned Hobbit was my dog as well as are all living creatures.  He was a sweet, sweet puppy who lived a good, faithful, happy life, which is what gives me comfort.  He will be missed and remembered by those around him.  But more importantly he is in a better place, waiting faithfully for his owners to join him.

The Dogs in My Life
The Dogs in My Life
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The Greatness of Dogs

I can always tell couples who don’t have kids by examining how they treat their dogs.  If you don’t have kids, your dogs are your babies.  I know because I used to be one of these people.  Once kids come along, however, dogs disappear into the background.  No more long walks or endless games of fetch.  You just don’t have the time anymore.

For quite a while, my poor dogs got ignored–extensively.  My first two kids are only 16 months apart so I had no time there for a while.  Yet the great thing about dogs is they are loyal to the end and take what they can get.  My dogs still loved me every bit as much as they did before kids.  Yeah, their lives weren’t quite as exciting as before but they didn’t care.  As long as they had their owners, they were content with life.

Then I read “Marley and Me” by John Grogan a few years ago, which really awakened me back up to the importance of dogs in my life.

Yeah, they are old and just one more thing to do on top of the endless chores of taking care of babies.  But I love them–love them to the day they die and beyond–and so do my kids.  If you even mention how our dogs are close to death, my oldest gets upset.  She defends her dogs to the bitter end and since she has never known life without them, she wants nothing else.

I am definitely not looking forward to the day we all have to say good-bye.  I think the whole family will be down in the dumps for quite a while.  But it will be a good life lesson–for all of us.  How you should cherish the days of your life before one day you are gone.  How you can live in the moment, content with whatever you have and whatever you are given.  “Creatures of Being” as Eckhart Tolle calls them.

I firmly believe all dogs do go to heaven and I tell my kids that.  They may be gone for now but they will be in heaven waiting for us just as loyal as they were on Earth.  I’m sure we’ll get a huge tail wagging and licking when we arrive.  Maybe even we’ll be able to talk to them too and they can tell us what they really think (scary, huh?).

So this is for all the loyal dogs out there who can’t imagine life without their owners and their owners who can’t imagine life without their dogs.