Two weeks ago, we put down our 16-year-old Golden Retriever. It was the first time I ever had to do something like that. We had dogs as I was growing up, but a friend of the family was called upon to handle that task on the two occasions it was needed. I recall coming home once each from high school and college, and learning we were no longer pet owners. That sort of made the whole passing of life thing a non-event; which is why I never imagined what it would feel like to go through that process.
As the day grew near, I was helping her up to go to the bathroom and she had pretty much stopped eating. We knew in our hearts it was the right thing, yet it grew increasingly more difficult to think about the inevitable. We decided on Monday that it would happen on Thursday, and the next 72 hours were filled with each of us spending time alone with her.
For a decade in our current home, whenever someone held the gate to our driveway open a second too long, she would tear out and head off to the neighbors. On Wednesday night, we opened it for her, and after pausing to give me a “Is this a setup?” look, she gingerly walked out, and we accompanied her slowly to visit her favorite yards. Then we took pictures with each of us and her.
On Thursday morning, I awakened with that queasy feeling in my stomach, knowing what would happen. As the hour drew near, I kept telling myself, “You’re her best friend, and this is the greatest gift you can give her” – then the tears flowed. When we arrived at the vet, our dog that for so many years went crazy with excitement there gingerly walked inside. We all said goodbye, then our oldest daughter and I accompanied her into the room. She looked at us with tired eyes, and I knew she was saying, “It’s OK, I’m ready.” We loved on her some more, and the vet shared what each of the three shots would do. Within five minutes, it was over, and she seemed so at peace – having lived a wonderful life.
Our family spent the rest of the day together, sharing stories and looking at pictures of our departed member. By Monday, the pain was gone, and today we smile whenever we think of her (although I still look out the window and expect to see her rolling in the grass…and think about putting her out at bedtime). Personally, I believe “All dogs go to Heaven.” After all, wouldn’t God want to have the most lovable, forgiving, loyal creatures in his Creation around him!
Addendum: When she was three, our now college-age daughter loved to have us read the Madeline books to her. One day she blurted out, “When we get a dog, I’m going to name her like Madeline’s dog.” A year later, we did…and she did. A son and another daughter followed, and the entire family is blessed to have had Genevieve in our lives.