Dante and his favorite hedgehog toy. Photo by Adri
I haven’t written this post until now because I found it too difficult to write at the time. At the beginning of November I sent out my newsletter and, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, gave thanks for Dante still being with us after 13 years and 2 months. I didn’t know at the time that I would be saying goodbye to him 2 weeks later.
Dante was very stoic, never complained even though he was stiff. He would get up, shake it off and go for a walk, or come out to the studio with me. He was always eager to just be a part of whatever we were doing. We gave him medication to help with joint pain and he had a good quality of life but, bit by bit, his dignity was being robbed from him.
The weekend before Dante was put down, he fell and skinned his chin (because his back legs couldn’t support him), he had an accident in the house (this had been happening intermittently for the last 6-8 months), and when I gave him a bath, he couldn’t stand for more than 2-3 seconds. As he sat there slumped and lathered in shampoo, he had a look on his face like he’d had it. It was in that brief moment (and after months of deteriorating stability) that I felt the time had come, and I looked at my husband and said the words out loud. It was excruciating to admit, and wasn’t the first time we’ve gone through this. Things happened very similarly with our first Shepherd, Boomer. It’s a horrible decision to have to make, and yet I know it’s the biggest act of mercy a pet owner can bestow.
Dante left us on November 15. The vet came to our home with his wife and Dante was surrounded by my husband, three kids and myself. I placed my head on his side and treasured every last heartbeat and breath, silently chanting “I love you”. And then, he was gone. It was horribly sad and yet such a beautiful thing to be there all together in his last moment.
We’re all ok. Not to say there haven’t been rivers of tears cried – that’s all part of the process of letting go. I know he’s in a good place and in excellent company, and I will be happy to see him again, when it’s time…a long, long time from now. I sure miss that old gentle friend and will always be thankful for the years we had together, and his unconditional love.
It helps to think that Dante and Boomer are sending me emotional support from afar. I asked both of them to scout out our next dog for us. I have no doubt they will find the perfect friend, just as Boomer did with Dante. Things are already happening in that direction and I’ll post when I know for sure. For now, I’d like to share a poem that my dear customer Terri sent me. You may have heard it, but I hadn’t, and it really speaks to the doubt and conflict a pet owner faces when they have to make a the hardest decision.
Hug your dogs for me,