So I put my dog down today. I should have done it ages ago, but honestly, I just didn't have the guts. And for that I feel very guilty. As a (nearly) life long vegetarian I don't take the suffering of animals lightly, and the idea that I let her drag on like this for months is not something I'll forgive myself easily.
Earlier this week I took her little sweater off because the weather was set to warm up - and was aghast at what I saw. She had deteriorated to skin and bones - she had patches of hair loss, and an angry looking sore on her back leg. I just hadn't looked at her that closely in ages, not since I first quarantined her in the office back in the fall. I was pretty horrified, and that's when I knew that despite the fact that she still had an appetite, still could get around and seemed to be enjoying going outside each day, that it was Time. And that I needed to get over my fears and do right by my pet.
I adopted her from a rescue back in 2008 when it was clear that my "relationship" with The Australian was not going to pan out. She was an old gal even then, but very sweet and cuddly. And that little animal really opened my heart, as animals do. I learned how to be affectionate and nurturing. I learned how to not care if you look silly talking baby talk to something. She was my Child Substitute. And later she became my Pregnancy Companion.
But she did not do well being displaced by the baby. And honestly I think she was on a downward spiral health wise anyway - when I picked her up from the kennel after giving birth she just didn't look good; she looked thin, she looked like she had aged. And despite the first few months seeming to adapt well to the baby, it became clear that she was jealous and heartbroken. Then came the putting her in the office...the beginning of the end.
I had so often envisioned having to take her to be put down, waking up knowing "today's the day", driving her over there, mouthing the words "this dog needs to be put down today", having to face a vet who might chastise me for letting her get so sick. But I just had to put my big girl pants on and do it. The vet listened to her heart and told me it was very bad and so he agreed it was time - then listed off all the things they could do: make me a little paw print in clay, give me the ashes or not, etc etc. I felt like a jerk turning all of these sentimental touches down, but I couldn't deal. They asked if I wanted a few minutes alone and I declined because I couldn't cope. I'm a guy, remember?
I patted her little head and told her she'd been a good girl and said, "no more pain, ok?" And that was it. $127 later she was gone.
I managed to distract myself pretty well today making this terrarium, until when I was making dinner I thought about her young and healthy again, running free, free from the body that tortured her. And that set me bawling. These poor little animals are born into so much pain sometimes - when I got her she had been taken from the previous owners after being shot several times by a bb gun. I like to think that despite the sad ending I at least gave her some happiness and love in her final years. She was very, very loved by me.
Sometimes it seems like we're so trapped by our circumstances, our age, our bodies, our lack of options. It made me think about one of my favorite movies, Vagabond, a French movie about a runaway girl told by the people who encountered her. At one point a dutiful daughter who is stuck on a farm helping her parents sees the girl walk by, and her parents say she's filthy and in danger and sad, but the daughter says she envies the girl. Why, they ask? "Elle est libre, elle est libre." She's free.