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Is It Time?

You will call your local vet, and the receptionist will say the vet cannot come to the house, but you can bring your dog to the office any time. Your eyes will have that sandpapery feel. You won’t know why, but you will feel the need to shower while your poor dog is suffering in the other room. Maybe you just want to make sure. Maybe you will get out of the shower and she will have stopped dry heaving, and she will be better!

She isn’t.

So you will dry off and get dressed and you will realize you can’t wait for your husband to be done with his meeting. It is time.

You will lift your old dog from her bed and carry her down the stairs. She will not resist you. You will put her on the grass, and she will sniff around and go to the bathroom, and this last act of normal doggy behavior will nearly bring you to your knees.

You will call her, your voice cracking. She will see the hand motions you now use since she can no longer hear you, and she will look into the car as if she might try to jump into it. Before she can try, you will lift her into the car, and put her on her bed. She will smile, knowing she is going somewhere.

You will call your ex, telling him you are on your way to the vet … that it is time. You will call your friend Eve, who has three dogs, because you figure she might offer you some words of wisdom, and she does. She tells you to have them do it in the car. She will tell you that is how she has had all her dogs put down.

When you walk into your vet’s front office, everyone will know why you are there. The front office staff will tell you they will help you carry her in. You look around at all the other pet owners with their animals who will have to watch this. Your vet will agree to come out to the car. You are thankful for your friend who told you to have it done that way. You will go out to the car, open the back and sit with your dog in the morning sun.

The front office person will come out with paperwork. He will ask if you want your dog’s paw print. You will imagine them sticking the dead paw into a mold and quickly say no. Then you realize that your ex might want said paw print, so you call him.

“Do you want her paw print?” you say when he picks up.

“Her what?”

“You know, they make a plaster imprint of her paw.” Then you add, “But they do it after she’s dead.”

Your ex will agree that the $79.95 paw print isn’t needed.

“But you are doing the private cremation, right?”

“Yeah,” you will answer.

“Call me. Later.”

You agree that you will.

You also agree to the more expensive “private cremation,” even though a former student has offered to dig a hole in your yard.

Here’s what you need to know if you are afraid of the actual procedure. Don’t be. You will not believe how easy the dying is. Afterward, you will wonder why we can’t let our humans go in this way, with compassion and kindness and love.

Here’s what happens: The vet tech will tell you that your dog will be given something to calm her down, make her “loopy.” You will ask if you can have some. “Only if you want to puke,” your vet will say. “It makes dogs feel great, not so much with humans.” Your dog will very quickly stop dry heaving and foaming at the mouth. She will lay her head down and seem to be in a very happy place. You will pet her and talk to her and do your best not to cry because you do not want to upset her. Then the vet will say she is giving the second injection. You will keep your hand on your dog’s chest, feel her heart slow and then stop.

“We’ll be right back,” your vet will tell you. “Take a few minutes.”

That is when you will bury your face in the fur of your dead dog and you will wail. The vet and vet tech will come back with a little stretcher, they will lift your dog onto it and cover her with a fuzzy ducky blanket that seems at once sentimental and silly, but heartbreaking, really.

The next day, you will relay your story to your running partner, and when you get to the ducky blanket, your voice will crack. You will have to stop talking. Your friend will say, “That isn’t heartbreaking. It’s soulbreaking.”

And so it was.

As with most dogs, Riva Jones taught me how to be a better creature in the world. How to live in the moment, to go with the flow. How to be a friend. How to live and, finally, how to let go.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Jacqueline Guerin | March 18 2014 |

Thank you to Editor in Chief Claudia Kawczynska of The Barkand Firend of the German Shepherd contributr Clarence Goodlein for sharing these moving End-of-life essays with our group. Thanks to Suzanne Roberts for writing it. J. Guerin

Submitted by CathyJo Buley | March 21 2014 |

I too am a member of Friends of the German Shepherd. Thank you so much Claudia Kawczynska for allowing this link to be posted in our forum. Thank you Clarence Goodlein for your efforts in bringing these articles to us. I'd also like to thank Riva's "Mom" for sharing her story with us. I know it was harder to tell that story than it was for us to read it. In my case it was a "two hankie" story because of the tearful memories it brought back. I have been at that crossroads myself many times. Riva will live on in the memories of hundreds that don't know you because you shared her story with us. May God comfort you in your loss.

Submitted by Sue Vilsack | March 22 2014 |

Being in rescue for many years, I always read these articles (and books) and have never come across one that is so perfect. Thank you Suzanne Roberts for writing this and thank you Bark for publishing it. It is beautiful... Riva Jones... you were so very loved... rest in peace beautiful girl!

Submitted by Jill foley | August 23 2014 |

Thank you for the painstakingly beautiful article. My golden retriever Trooper is12 suffering from cancer. He is still comfortable on medication, still wags his tail when I comes home, eats and drinks well, loves his apples for a treat... I'm not ready.... I may never be, but he will be. He is my first dog and first baby, I don't know how to know or how to cope but he will go out with dignity .... Thank you for the car advice, I will use it when it's time.... Thank you although I sit here and cry waiting for him to tell me, I know it me that's going to be strong enough to make the choice. It's not yet but it will be soon....love Jill and Trooper

Submitted by Abby | September 20 2014 |

I only read up to the end of the first page and have no interest in reading further.
How could someone who loved their dog so much, make her sleep in the garage? Especially a blind and deaf dog.
It's nothing short of cruel.
I have been cleaning up after my soon to be 14 year old lab, for almost 10 months now. She has been incontinent of feces from neurological side effects from frontline tritek I had to put on my dogs when they got ticks. And the worst part of it, it didn't even work. Didn't kill one tick on any of my dogs, just made four of them throw up, and made my Maxie's back legs go out. I've been helping her up ever since.
I get up often in the middle of the night to clean up stool, not to mention what I have to clean up during waking hours, and can't tell you how many times I had to clean up stool that was smooshed all over the place. There were times I just wanted to cry, but at no time did I ever consider putting her in the garage or outside on the patio. Ever! On top of it, my oldest dog also became incontinent at the end of her life, and recently passed, so I was cleaning up after two dogs.
I would like to know if the author would have put her human child or mother in the garage if either were incontinent. It's really despicable to treat an old, blind, deaf dog that way.
They depend on us to take care of them, through thick and thin, and to do right by them, through all stages of their lives.
Banishing an old dog to the garage, as a matter of convenience, is heartless.

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