On Losing The Dog That Helped You Grow Up

Cry warning

The story starts here: Christmas 2007. Mark and I had moved in together a few months earlier, and were celebrating our first holiday season in our new apartment. We were fairly broke: I was in law school, and Mark worked for a nonprofit. We bought the smallest Christmas tree available and then headed to Target to buy decorations. We bought a few boxes of ball ornaments and tinsel, and had just enough money left to buy one “special” ornament each. Mark picked out a psychedelic lizard—silver and blue and green. I picked out a Black Lab ornament. We were talking about adopting a dog, and buying the ornament was a special sort of wish—by next year, we’ll have a black lab of our own.

That wish came true a few months later. We had spent a few weeks trying to adopt from rescue organizations, but kept running into roadblocks. Despite our extensive experience with dogs, rescue agencies were hesitant to adopt to a young, unmarried couple living in a rental apartment. So we turned to Craigslist, and quickly found a candidate: an eighteen-month-old Lab mix named Eli. He was living with a family in suburban Maryland, but one of their sons had developed a dog allergy and Eli just couldn’t stay.

I picked him up on the first day of spring break, 2008. He didn’t want to get in the car: his crate was rattling in the back seat, and the noise made him nervous. His paws had been licked raw—apparently Eli was the one with allergies, not the son. Eventually I lured him into the car with enough treats, and we drove home together. We set up his crate downstairs, and spent the evening eying each other, unsure of what to expect.

Around eleven p.m., Mark and I started to get ready for bed. We crated Eli and went upstairs. Eli quickly let us know that he was having none of that—he howled and cried and positively demanded to be let upstairs. I thought we would let him “cry it out,” and that he would settle down eventually. You know how this story ends—he didn’t settle, we let him upstairs, and he slept in our bed for the next six years.

If you have ever loved a dog, you know a lot about those next six years. You know all about the miles and miles we walked, hiked, and ran together. You know about the vet trips. You know about the time I accidentally stepped on his paw and he pretended that his foot was broken. You know that Eli liked to make snow angels. You know that he preferred to poop in high grass, if possible. You know about the rainy August day that Eli was in our wedding. He put on a bow tie and marched proudly down the aisle with his owners. You know about the camping trips, the hours spent in lazy enjoyment of the outdoors, and each other. And if you’ve ever owned a Lab, you know that Eli was a lifeguard: his passion for swimming rivaled that of Michael Phelps.

You know about Eli’s quirks, too. You know never to grab Eli by the collar, because he hated it. You know that he will run through open doors if given the chance. You know that he would seize any opportunity to counter-surf. And you know, particularly as he aged, that Eli personified the old saying, “let sleeping dogs lie.” I could tell you all about those six years, about the moments and images of love that are seared into my brain. But you already know.

The Internet, with its diverse communities and subcultures, has created myths and standards that we all feel that we must live up to. For runners, the Internet suggests that every race must be a personal best, a negative split, and that you should finish without a hair out of place. For creative types, the Internet suggests that works of art should burst fully formed from the mind, without years of work or revision. For working mothers, the Internet suggests that you really can have it all (and stay sane). Every pitcher should be able to pitch a perfect game. Every lawyer should win every case. The list goes on. Life can be without flaw, without heartache, and without tragedy.

One myth that the Internet has created about dog-ownership is the myth of the “last good day.” The story suggests that, as your companion ages, and the time comes to consider euthanasia, you will be able to stage one last perfect day with your best friend. You can do your favorite things, feed him his favorite dish, and cherish each other one last time. Then, when you’re ready, and never sooner, you can make the final trip to the vet’s office and slowly, gently unwind the cord that ties you together.

I know the myth of the “last good day” sounds unrealistic, but I cherished it in the moments I saw Eli’s mortality peeking around the edges of his existence. Moments when I noticed how grey his hair was getting, or how lumpy his chest was, I would always take solace in the fact that it was not yet his time. His time wouldn’t come until after I was ready. He wouldn’t leave me until I was ready to let him go.

I did not get one “last good day” with Eli. I did not get to drive him out to the park, hike to the Overlook, and let him take one last dip in the water. I didn’t get to feed him bacon and duck-treats. I didn’t get to lay on the deck with him, soaking in the sunshine. I didn’t get to show him the depth of my gratitude for the years of companionship and devotion he gave me. I didn’t get to thank him for the way he was the glue that bonded my husband and me into a family.

Eli always ran away. He was a runner. I knew that, and worked hard for years to keep him safe. He was always leashed. Doors were always shut. Mine was a life of constant vigilance. And then, one day, in one moment, it all changed. I opened the door to go out to the car. I knew Eli was agitating to get out—we were in the process of moving, so he was in a new place and he was nervous. He pushed past me in the second I opened the door. I reached out and grabbed his collar. I caught him. I tried to pull him back into the house. I remember thinking, “He hates being pulled by the collar, but if I get bitten, it will be worth it because he will be safe.” Eli turned, backed out of his collar, and bolted. I stood there in stunned silence as he dashed into the street, directly into the path of an oncoming car. I was still holding his collar.

He managed to run a few steps after being hit. I heard him bark twice. I thought that it would be alright—we’d go to the vet, he’d wear a crazy dog cast, but we’d be okay. I ran to him as fast as I could. As soon as I got to him, I realized he was slipping away. There was no panic or confusion in his eyes. Just slow deep breaths. I did not get to give him the “last good day” that he deserved. I was able to hold him, one hand on his ear, the other on his paw, as he took his last breaths and slipped into the dark. I hope that is enough. Right now, it doesn’t feel like it.

In December 2013, in his enthusiasm for breakfast, Eli tripped me down a flight of stairs. I crashed to the ground, breaking two of the smallest bones in my foot. The breaks were tiny: my foot healed within two months. My bones are now strong—I’ve run two marathons and an Ironman since then. But every once in a while, when I’m barefoot, I’ll turn in a new direction too quickly and feel the weakness in those bones. A small twinge where there was a break that has now healed.

I like to imagine that my shattered heart will someday feel the same as those tiny, now-healed bones. That someday, I’ll turn a little too quickly, and see a handsome Black Lab who reminds me of my boy. I hope that when that day comes, I’ll feel a twinge of gratitude for what he gave me, not sadness for what I have lost.

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  • scw

    “cry warning” doesn’t begin to cover it.
    beautiful piece. I’m sorry you didn’t get that last good day.

  • DogOwner

    I had a very similar experience with the first dog I ever owned. My heart breaks for you. I am glad to see that you got another dog — in my experience, it’s the only thing that soothes the pain. And remember that you gave him a good life for six years, when he loved you and felt love in return. It’s the great thing about dogs — they are so thankful for what we give them, and so forgiving of our faults.

    • Jess

      We had Gus before we lost Eli – he joined us about 18 months ago. Gus adored Eli – Eli just tolerated Gus ;) For the first few weeks it was hard – I was mad at Gus because he was a cute, adorable fuzzy puppy. All I wanted was my distinguished old-man dog. Anyway, we’ve settled into a new routine, though I wouldn’t be surprised if we welcome a new older gentleman into our home in a few months.

  • Becky

    I know there was a cry warning but I still read it at work and now I’m a mess!! I also have a black lab, and agree that they are simply the best companions for life’s adventures. I am sorry you didn’t get one last day. I hope you are comforted by all of the special times before that.

  • Miriam

    Well, it’s a good thing MY dog is never going to die. Nope, never.

    • Fitzford

      We have an immortal dog too. I tell her not to brag about it.

      • Our cats are immortal. We remind them not to preen about it as well.

      • Carolyn

        Well, if too many people hear about it, everyone will want an immortal dog.

    • anonpsu

      I told my dog that she’s only allowed to die when she’s 17 and she has to die peacefully in her sleep. For those who don’t want to face taking your vet to the dog for the last time, many places offer in-home euthanasia which can be a lot less stressful for the dog (and for you). I know my dog is so scared at the vet (all the barking and smells of surgery and other dogs can be overwhelming), so I can’t imagine that being her last experience.

      • Jess

        We just did an in-home euthanasia with our lovely, funny, 15-year-old Aussie, Coal. It was a the best way to do it, honestly. He got lots of treats, and just went peacefully and comfortably. I really recommend it, when the time comes.

    • Jennie

      Yeah, our dog is immortal as well. When my dog from growing up got to the point where she couldn’t get up anymore, we knew it was time. Euthanizing her was the hardest and most painful thing I’ve ever done.

  • J9funk

    Beautifully written. Thank you.

  • Jennifer

    I have to agree — for every person who has ever loved a dog — “cry warning” is too mild of a warning! We lost our beloved miniature schnauzer JJ a year ago, two years after we were married and she had marched down the aisle as our ‘flower dog.’ We have since brought two boy schnauzers into our home who love us just as much as she did, but every so often we stop and say, “JJ would love this” and “I miss JJ so much.” I don’t think we will ever stop either. Thank you for sharing.

  • Alice

    Cry warning indeed! Please don’t blame yourself. I worked at a small animal clinic, and can’t tell you how many really wonderful, kind, responsible dog owners have horrible accidents like this happen. But it wasn’t your fault, I promise. It just happens sometimes. And you were there with him, and he knew how much you loved him. That’s what matters.

    My hubby’s dog brought us together… I was staying next door to him, and always met him walking her in the front yard at night–a big, tall, bearded man crooning to his German Shepherd puppy and proudly showing off her new tricks. She’s three now, and I hope we can have many more good years together. But I’m in vet school now, and in some ways I dread that I’ll be so responsible for her health. She is such an integral part of our lives.

    • Jess

      Thanks, Alice. I ended up going to a pet loss counselling session, and one of the biggest things I took away was that really awful accidents can happen to good people, and good pets. So, realistically I “know” that I did my best for him. But the “what ifs” still creep in around the edges.

  • Lauren

    Losing a pet is so, so difficult. While you may never be able to fully fill the hole in your heart from losing Eli, it’s nice to know that you can honor him by offering your love to another furry little friend. And it sounds like you’re on the right track :)

  • Hannah K.

    A big hug to you. So much of what you wrote about Eli resonated with me. We’re the proud parents of a senior dog who really did play a huge part in the building of my relationship with my now-husband (then boyfriend). I know he won’t be with us forever, but I just about lose my shit even just thinking about that. Anyway, thank you for sharing your story.

    • Jess

      For what its worth, though the whole experience has been traumatic and awful – the one (single) good thing that came out of it was showing me the depth and strength of my marriage. In those first, really dark days – we took care of each other. So, even though it sucks to think about, I hope that is a little bit of comfort.

      • Hannah K.

        That is an enormous comfort actually. Still, big hugs. (I read this after seeing that a friend’s Golden Retriever passed away last night. Sigh.)

  • I have never cried after reading a piece on this website. I am tearing up as I type this. Losing an animal is the absolute worst, I’m sure of it–and I’ve been through some pretty major deaths in my life. I don’t think everyone feels that way, but it is heart-wrenching to know that something so innocent and sweet and well-meaning can be taken away from you.

  • Sarah

    Oh no, I am so sorry for your loss. I know how this feels. My family lost our dog about a year and a half ago…she was my sister’s dog, but she was like a little baby sibling to all of us. It was a freak accident as well, and she was only 5, so it was really hard. We still can’t talk about her without crying. We had lost pets to old age before, and this felt different, and a lot worse. You gave him a great life. It’s the hardest when it comes so unexpectedly.

  • Meredith

    I regret reading this first thing on a Friday morning.

    • Meredith

      also, so sorry for your loss. My lab was in my bed last night and I kicked him out because he was snoring in my ear. NOW I REGRET IT! HE CAN SNORE IN MY EAR EVERY NIGHT!

      • Rachelle

        Oh my gosh, my thoughts exactly! Every time I think about the fact that my dog won’t be here forever or hear about someone (a friend, stranger, fictional character – really doesn’t matter) losing their dog I cry like it’s a close family member that passed away and feel awful about any little bit of discipline/not letting him do every single thing he wants. You can sleep in the bed every night for forever and sample every single thing I eat if you’ll just live as long as I do!!!

  • lori

    When I was a kid I cried when we got gerbils, thinking of the day they’d die. I cried when I read this post, thinking about the day the dog-I-don’t-own-yet dies. Pets, man! I’m sorry for your loss, but happy for the many many happy times you had together.

  • Lauren from NH

    In know this piece had a “cry warning,” but I found myself laughing along in the middle. My family had a “Marley” dog that was wildly mischievous and you capture that nature of dogs very well. Your Eli sounds like he was a real rascal in the best possible way that makes you feel more alive.

    • Jess

      Hahah yes, like any true family member – Eli was both sweet and sour :)

  • Meg

    well that was a good eye cleaning. Much love for this pup at heart.

  • Cait Hawley

    This was really beautiful. We lost our dog a month ago yesterday and your last sentence hit me like a ton of bricks. Thank you.

  • Alyssa M

    After all the tearjerker posts that haven’t said cry warning… I should have known they were dead serious… I ignored it and read this in a coffee shop and now I’m blubbering in public. I’m so so thankful that my 13 year old dog is alive and well enough to be in my wedding next weekend. I can’t imagine your pain losing him like that. *internet stranger hugs*

  • Sara

    Dammit, I saw the cry warning and thought “i can read this at work”. Nope.

    So sorry for your loss.

  • GG

    I’m so stupid. I’m pregnant, and a dog-lover, and I’m sure I won’t love my kid as much as my dog, but I thought I could handle this, hormones be damned. And I’m a puddle of tears at my desk.

    • Jeanne Lemba

      Lol GG, kids are just like dogs (at least at the beginning) so I’m sure you will love that baby plenty. I thought it was my hormones too (at first) but then it seems other non-preggos shed a tear too, so is it the hormones or just a sad-ass story?

  • Jeanne Lemba

    Jen, blogger at jen-writes.com :

    Oh wow, i just started sobbing like mad. I was writing a new blog post about our dog, Gaia, and how she was the glue that prepared my BF and I for our journey into parenthood (39 weeks, any day now!). I remembered all the WTF moments we had these last 2.5 years and reading this, was just too much. I started crying and Gaia just took one look at me and bolted lol the part where Eli pretended to have a broken paw? Happened with our dog too. Lol it’s so hilarious but dogs, they really change your life for the best.

  • Tania

    I was doing ok until the last paragraph.

  • Stacey Fraser

    Oh God, I’m glad I’m working from home today. Ugly crying doesn’t begin to describe it.

  • Molly P. Kopuru

    I’m a dog lover and this broke my heart. I hugged my dogs extra before I left for work today. I dread the day when I have to say goodbye to them.

  • *Huge sloppy internet cry-hugs to you* Eli sounds like a wonderful dog, and what a lucky boy he was that you rescued each other. :)

  • pajamafishadventures

    I’ll never forget the day in college that I called my parents to find out how best to clean mold from my mini-fridge to be met with an incredibly dodgy father who refused to put my mom on the phone. After five minutes of the strangest, most confusing argument of my life he finally put her on when he realized he didn’t know anything about fridge mold.
    Turns out the reason he didn’t want to put her on was she was driving (because of course, he couldn’t have just SAID that), and they were making that last car ride with our 15 yr-old lab mix, Ariel. It was the cherry on top of an already miserable year for me. We never truly got that last day either, me of course because I was at school but for my parents she went from “elderly with serious health issues” to “unable to stand on her own at all” overnight, which is when they decided they just had to let her go. For me, that was the definite “childhood is over” moment, as I had literally grown up with that dog from five to 20. She was the same age as my brother, which really made it feel like I was losing a sibling.

    • Jess

      I think I mentioned below, but I ended up going to a pet loss counselling session put on by a local shelter group. In listening to the other pet owners, I learned that it’s never easy – even if you do get to make that fateful vet visit, it’s often scary for your pet, and it almost always comes sooner than you expect. There is a lot of guilt and grief that can be tied up in euthanasia, just like the guilt and grief that accompanies awful accidents.

      And yeah, I accompanied my dad the day we put down my childhood dog. I swear that is the only time I’ve ever seen him cry. Tough stuff.

      • pajamafishadventures

        I had never heard of pet loss counseling until this post, and wish I had known about it when we lost our lab. I also wish it were a more widely publicized option. It didn’t feel weird to seek out grief counseling after my grandparents’ deaths, but somehow I felt like I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I truly mourned my dog (which I don’t think is that rational of a feeling given how pet-centric so many people are)

        • Alice

          This is growing in availability and popularity. It’s something they teach us about in vet school, so that we can better advise our clients and make the whole euthanasia process, if not easier, at least better-supported. I’ve lost many pets and human family members over the years, but the two hardest for me by far were my horse and my guinea pig, Errol. And it’s really hard to explain to most people why you’re twenty and still grieving for a guinea pig months after he’s gone… people write it off. I haven’t personally sought pet loss counselling, but I think it can be a really excellent safe space to be taken seriously, and I will definitely be recommending it to my future clients.

    • I had a moment like that as well. My parents called one morning to let me know that Trixy, our stubborn 15-year-old terrier mix, had taken a turn for the worse and they were on their way to the vet. Going home for the first time after that without the barking at the door and the paws clicking on the floors was really hard.

    • JDrives

      For me it was my cat, but yeah – “childhood is over moment” for SURE. I also got engaged and my parents were selling my childhood home around the same time so it was like WHOOSH childhood over!

  • Glen

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I have such similar feelings about my cat. 17 months ago, about 1 month after my daughter was born, my husband took our cat to the vet for a follow-up about his blood pressure medication. I was at home nursing my daughter when I got a phone call from my husband to say that our cat had passed away. Apparently our cat had an enlarged heart, and the stress of being in the waiting room at the vet was too much this time. The only symptom our cat had had was the high blood pressure, and at 12 years old, the vet attributed it to his age. I had been his primary caregiver since he was a kitten, and my husband had been a part of his life for 5 years – I had to keep telling myself that the same thing would have happened if I was there. Every time I see a Tabby cat my heart breaks a little, and I remind myself that he had a good life and was well loved.

  • falnfenix

    ow, my heart.

  • Amanda L

    Oh Jess. I am in tears. My husband had two lab-mixes when I met him. Casey and Toby soon became my babies as well. They took up most of our king-sized bed, they dragged us around the neighborhood on walks, and they were always ALWAYS at the door to greet us when we got home. They have both since passed, and in two very different ways. Whether it’s fast or slow, expected or unexpected, the heartbreak is the same. We thought we’d never be able to welcome another dog into our life again. No one could compare to Casey and Toby.

    But then, the house was just a little too empty with just the two of us rattling around in it. This past June (on the anniversary of Casey’s passing, no less), we adopted Fritz and Freddie. We’re back to not having enough room in our own bed and having to guard against them rushing out an open door.

    All that to say – I feel your pain and I thank you for your sharing story.

  • So, so sorry for your loss. Now a mess. The dog I grew up with just turned 17 this week and slips farther away each day. There won’t be a “one last day” for him, either, and it’s just a waiting game. Although it is so terrible, I am glad you got to spend several years with your dog and that he went quickly rather than having a long drawn-out existence where he can’t see or hear anymore. Many hugs to you.

  • cschell

    I’m so sorry for your loss, and happy that you got to have Eli in your life. My golden retriever Samson died a little more than a year ago I had had him since I was 9 ( I’m 23 now) I’m sure it isn’t the same as having a biological human brother, but as an only child he was the only living thing other than my parents who was with me every day during my childhood. He didn’t have a single grand last day, but there were moments leading up to his death that showed how positive he had been throughout his whole life. Just like with weddings, its not just about that one perfect day, but how we live and how we treat people all the days of their lives. It sounds like you came through for Eli and did right by him throughout his life.

  • Vanessa

    Jesus H Chrysanthemums this is sad.

  • Daisy6564

    My family had a rascally cocker spaniel who was a real mischief maker until his last day (stole and ate a whole loaf of bread, plastic back and all). He went from being a completely healthy 10 year-old to developing canine leukemia about a week before my wedding in May and died 3 weeks later. Even though you get a dog knowing that you are going to have to eventually put it to sleep, nothing can really prepare you. It’s especially sad when you feel like they go too soon. I am so sorry for your loss and wish you many happy years with all of the dogs that come in to your life.

  • Emma

    Oh Jess – it was enough. Being there with him and holding his paw – he knew that he was and is incredibly loved by his humans. I”m so sorry for your loss.

  • KateS

    this was a hard week, so i was already primed for tears about any/everything, but MAN. beautiful, powerful, and so sad. i’m so sorry for your loss and wish you peace. thank you for writing about it and reminding me to love my crazy canine today even though he’s been really demanding and i’m exhausted.

  • Oh! This is my Cobbie, my sweet black lab mix girl that I love so much and who’s grey chin is becoming her grey snout to mark her 8th birthday. A year ago I lost my 17 year old cat, and that was terrible. But there’s something about this dog who has been my companion all over this country and who even though she loves my husband more looks at me with those eager, seeking eyes – always ready, always excited, always happy.

  • penkwin

    I’m so sorry.

    We adopted our lab mix almost three years ago and she’s brought us closer as a couple. She’s a great companion and so, so sweet. When she noses under my hand or elbow for pets, I always try to indulge her because I know someday I won’t be able to. It makes me so sad. But it also makes me try to give her the best life possible. I just can’t think about the end. :(

  • Julia

    I am sobbing my eyes out right now. Rosey is my fiance and mine’s 2 year old bloodhound child and she is our whole world. There is hardly a place we go without her, and we too must go above and beyond to keep her leashed and prevent her urge to run and track. I know how easy it is for her to sneak past us and slip a collar. Your story is so touching and really hits home. Thank you for sharing Eli’s story and keeping him immortal! ♥

  • Julia

    I unexpectedly sobbed reading this post. My fiance and I have Rosey, our 2 year old bloodhound child and our whole world revolves around her. We too have to go above and beyond to keep her leashed or secure in the house to keep her from running off. Your story resonates deep with me as I know how easy it is for Rosey to sneak past us or slip a collar when an exciting noise or smell beckons. Thank you for sharing Eli’s story and thus keeping him immortal ♥

  • Penny

    Jess, I am very sorry for your loss. And your right, “The Last Good Day” is a myth. I lost my Margaret (Shepherd/Lab Mix) on August 21 and the pain of losing her is still raw. We knew she was dying. She was diagnosed with an aggressive and deadly cancer….hemangiosarcoma. She always ate really well, we always spoiled her, but knowing what we knew sent us into overdrive. Steak almost every day. Sometimes with sweet potato, sometimes with vegetables. She loved her veggies! We had a lot of “Last Good Days” but, you know what? It didn’t make us feel any better when we had to bring her to the vet. I still think back and regret that I didn’t make her corn on the cob…I would hold the cob and turn it as she nibbled. I feel that no matter how you lose your fur baby, the regret and the pain is always the same.

    • Jess

      Yes, I hate to keep referencing the pet loss counselling I went to, but yeah, listening to the other pet owners really showed me that no matter when or how it happens, it will hurt.

      One woman there had recently lost her beloved cat after a brief illness. That cat had slept under her legs for years. Even though she had “control” (to the extent anyone ever has control over over how her friend passed, she was still devastated to go home and sleep without him under her legs. The loss is the same, no matter how it happens.

      Penney, hugs. We lost Eli on August 16. So the same week as your Margaret. Just. <3.

  • Valerie Day

    My dog made a break for it this week. I was terrified and I am so mad at him. Thankfully a friend had just come over with her baby (he went over the fence. The squirrels are a hazard). He ran across the street, through traffic. My friend used her baby as bait, (because when he sees me he gleefully runs away) and he was curious and went to see the baby. I am so in love with this dog. In my marriage we have our #1 Rule: “Don’t die, especially if it was preventable.” our dog doesn’t get it.

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  • Brieanna Boyce

    I balled reading this. I remembered my own dog Fred, an adorable awesome Basset Hound whom I fell in love with the day I met him. It’s been 3 years since his passing. I still think about my best pal all the time, and there’s still a twinge of sadness but it’s easier now to look back fondly on the good times. I remember how silky soft the insides of his ears were, I remember being a little girl sleeping on the floor in the kitchen cuddling my dog, I remember how sad I was when he went to live with my dad and how happy I was when he got to live with me again. I still miss him but I’m so glad I met him! I wish he didn’t go the way he did, I wish we got that last day too, I hope he had a good life, I hope he knows how much I loved him. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story!

  • Kate Omega

    Nothing like sobbing at your desk first thing in the morning!

    I didn’t get a “last good day” with my black lab either. I was on an international flight when he took a turn for the worse. I landed and had to catch one more connecting flight to get home. While I was waiting my dad called me to say that Pride was in a lot of pain and they were going to take him to be put to sleep. He went downhill so quickly that they couldn’t wait for me.

    I have always been there when my animals have been put to sleep. In most cases they have been on my lap or in my arms. Because I wasn’t there for Pride I didn’t get closure. Sometimes I will visit my parents and as I drive into their drive way I look for that sweet, silly dog. And then I have to accept all over again that he is gone. Four years after his death I still expect him to come hobbling around the corner with a tennis ball in his mouth. I miss him so much.

  • “I knew that, and worked hard for years to keep him safe. He was always leashed. Doors were always shut. Mine was a life of constant vigilance.” This is one of my dogs too, and I am often embarrassed about how overly paranoid I am. He’s gotten away from us twice; once it was a fairly not-busy road and though a car was coming, I had enough time to run into the middle of the street and put my arms up to stop it. The second time, I saw his life flash before my eyes when he slipped under the gate and even after I caught him, I couldn’t shake what had happened…and I’ve become so afraid of him getting out ever since. Ugh.

    I’m so, so sorry you lost him in this way, and I hope you’ll feel healed again someday.

  • Bethany

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for writing this.

  • My husband keeps yelling at me from the kitchen and telling me to stop reading these posts–I can’t. It’s comforting to know others are experiencing what I am, though I wish this pain on no one. Thank you for your post and it, honestly, could not be more timely.

    We were gone this past weekend, shooting a wedding about an hour away from our house. We left our dear dog, Tasha, with my mom who is a superb dog watcher. I checked in around 7pm, between the ceremony and reception and heard Tasha was just fine from my mom. I thanked her and told her we would pick her up in the morning, since we wouldn’t be home until close to midnight.

    An hour later, we noticed had missed calls–Ian called my mom and when he came back to the reception, he was pale. He pulled me into the quiet area and told me that my mom said Tasha had taken a step wrong going outside, and her back legs were paralyzed. My mom was taking her to the emergency vet. Panic. Immediately. Tasha is our BUDDHA dog. She is my spiritual advisor. I know it’s ridiculous, but she is my best friend. She’s been all over the US with us, we’ve moved cities with her, she is seriously a dog that reads my mind and is beyond everything to me. She is my heart.

    We were almost done, so as soon as our contract was up, we jetted back to town, and met my mom at the emergency hospital, where Tasha lay, paralyzed from the waist down. I immediately burst into tears, Ian sat with her, we talked with the vet, I cried more, the vet said to wait until the morning, but that most likely she is paralyzed from an embolism in her spine and we needed to plan for the future.

    We went home, exhausted, heartbroken. I stayed awake most of the night, crying, knowing that my best friend was not going to be with me much longer.

    In the morning, we called the vet who said that Tasha had had a good night. Her back legs were moving a bit (more than the night before) and that if we wanted to, we could bring her home and see if she improves over a week or so. We agreed to give it a shot and that’s where we are tonight, Monday.

    She is walking wobbily. We use a sling to get her in and out of the house. She can go to the bathroom on her own, thankfully, and she is showing improvement. I took her in for a rehab evaluation today and the vet there seemed very optimistic. But we have made a plan to reevaluate in 3 weeks. We love this dog like nobody’s business, but we also want her to have a great life and a happy one. It’s going to be a tough few weeks. We appreciate all your love and juju as we try to determine the very best thing for our darling lady.

  • Carolyn

    I’ve had three major events of pet death. The first was a dog when I was a teen that we had for a couple of years. My dad let her out of the fenced area and (forgot?) her. When we came home she was in the yard and trying very hard to come to us. We wrapped her in a blanket and put her in the back of the van, drove 15 miles to the vet. She cried the whole way, I tried to talk to her, pet her, calm her. She had a broken leg and a few broken ribs, she died from shock overnight. Very sudden.

    A cat I had for a couple of years as an adult would slip out the door all the time, and bring me dead things. One day I looked out and saw a couple of kids in the street, went to investigate and found her there, already dead.

    The last I was considerably more attached to, she was a cat we’d had for 19-20 years. She was slowing going blind and deaf, then she stopped eating and drinking water, her nose and pads were so dry and she had lost so much weight. I took her to the vet for euthanasia. It was definitely the best experience out of the three. Even though she was the one I was the most attached to, it was very nice to sit with her and talk to her and pet her while the sedative put her under, then I stayed through the euthanasia too.