A Postscript On Love, Death and Saying Goodbye

There is a time for every season or so the saying goes. A time for love, a time for death and a time for moving on. They also say with great love comes great responsibility and thus our story begins and ends.

I first met Libby when she was roughly 18 months old, the dirtiest raggiest excuse for a mutt you have ever seen. I was looking to replace my last pet, another mutt who went to live with my Father who was lonely and missing the love of his life too, my Mother who had passed on a couple of years prior. Pet Finder led me to a private shelter to look at another animal there but it was Libby who ended up coming home with me.

Our first night together she got a bath which revealed she was not in fact brown and tan but a lovely shade of beige and white. She didn’t care much for her first bath and never cared much for bathing in general but she always loved being close to me so a tedious process was made better by her patience and grace. That first night she slept curled up on my head and so our love affair began.

IMG_4110Its been twelve years since that first night and I have never once regretted the decision to select her over another possible companion. She has been the light of my life since the moment our eyes touched. She loved me when I was incapable of loving myself. She taught me what love really is and was with me through some of my darkest hours and for that I will be forever grateful.

A few years ago, she suffered an acute episode where she had difficulty breathing and it was discovered she had a collapsing trachea combined with congestive heart failure. We treated her aggressively and yet her condition did not appear to improve. An appointment was made to end her suffering.

Then, she made a miraculous recovery. Those were the words from her veterinarian to me the night it happened after I called to cancel her appointment. He also cautioned the rest of her life would be a balance between managing her condition and ensuring her quality of life was respected.

Since then, we’ve been through several episodes though none quite as acute as the first. That is, until the past two weeks. Despite another round of aggressive treatment she is still struggling. I spoke with her new vet last week and got everything in order in case this really was the time. All I needed was a sign from her to know she was ready to go or so I kept telling myself.

I’ve seen a lot of death in my life. I sat helplessly by and watched my mother and brother die from the scourge that is cancer. I’ve lost other family members too as well as friends and a lover. I know quite well the desire and strength to live that dwells within us all. I know how hard it is to balance the need for compassion against the will to survive.

IMG_3453The absolution I’m looking for will never come and I must make the best decision I can make though really there is no good decision here. She has lived a great life and been a faithful and loving companion. I owe it to her to make sure the end of her life isn’t more painful than it needs to be. I would have her with me forever if I could but selfishness has no place in this decision.

So tomorrow morning we will make the short journey to her final resting place where she will get the relief she needs. She will no longer struggle to breathe nor handle it with such grace and courage. She will be at peace and I know in my heart she will be welcomed with open arms in that great pet sanctuary on that lovely island where pets live forever and never suffer pain.

I write this not as an homage, but as a promise to the love of my life and to the companion who has so faithfully and lovingly shared her life with me. I owe her that and in writing this I seal that promise even though it breaks my heart and I pray for the strength to carry it through. We might be parted but I will love you for the rest of my life and hopefully one day we will be reunited through the bonds of that love.

A peaceful day

Postscript

In the end, she went exactly as she had lived: never making anything easy yet completely and utterly charming everyone she met. Although its nothing less than I expected, I love her all the more for that. I didn’t even think that was possible.

The day before was spent with us together. Just the two of hanging out and chilling. She had a good day and I will forever be grateful for that small mercy. She slept a lot and I took the time to have a mini spa day determined to make it as normal as possible. My lil guys kept trying to intrude but I shushed them away. Perhaps that seems cruel but I was determined that Libby have her final special day.

After scrapping an ill conceived plan to get up early and get to the veterinarian hospital we went to bed late. She had a typical rough night. The nights were always the worst. I held her close and we weathered through the times when she struggled to breathe.

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We eased into the next morning spending more quality time together. I got ready slowly and then went to load her crate into the truck for her final ride. She watched me solemnly never once exhibiting her typical air of excitement nor dancing to be taken along. She always begged to go with me and at times would jump into the vehicle uninvited determined to be included.

I attached her lead and she sat there looking at me with this look on her face that broke my heart into little tiny pieces. Yet with some gentle coaxing she came came to me and I carried her to the vehicle. It was only after we got underway that I realized she had on her lovely purple harness and that I had dressed in that same color as if to match.

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I don’t remember much about the journey except we got lost twice. Mercifully, the waiting room was empty except for one other small dog with a similarly large personality. She wanted to meet and play with Libby who was willing to accommodate so long as you followed her rules.

My alpha dog gave one low growl to the other to show her who was boss. This is how she greeted every other dog without fail. A growl or two or three and then some tail wagging to show she was good to go so long as you recognized and respected her greatness. Even at the end she was true to who she was and that is a moment I will always cherish. The other dog’s owners, a middle aged lesbian couple, just laughed and remarked on how cute she was.

Her time came and of course I was with her til the end. Back in the room designed for her a variety of people came and went with each one stopping to hug her and tell her she was a cute little doggy. While I appreciated the affirmation and she loved the attention each word cut me like a knife and merely reinforced the loss to come.

In came the veterinarian who took me look at me and came over to hug me. We had a brief discussion about the process with her promising she wouldn’t feel a thing and that the knock out drug would numb her to the final injection. She gave a yelp as the first drug was administered and I held her closer whispering over and over how much I loved her and what a brave big girl she had been. Nothing would interfere with her going out to the sound of my voice.

The last injection proved the hardest. Despite the assurances she gave a whimper as the lethal dose was administered and despite the other drug looked me in my eyes. I held her close and whispered words of encouragement and then thankfully it was done.

There is a void in my life that can never be filled and an ache in my heart that might ease but will never go away. Yet, through it all, she was worth every single moment of it. Goodbye sweet girl and know that I will love you until the end of my life.

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