Saying Good-bye to My Best Friend
I’m sitting on the floor beside my almost 15-year-old best friend – my big, brown labradoodle, Lucy. Her breathing is labored. She hasn’t eaten in a week. I guess this is my version of dog hospice.
In the middle of a pandemic where so many people are sick and dying, it may sound trivial to feel so much love and potential loss for Lucy, but feelings are feelings.
My daughter, Mary, found Lucy on the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) site. I wasn’t looking for another family dog after the death of my beloved Bassett hound, but Mary and I both fell in love with Lucy when we met her, and we knew she was our dog. She was 3 months old.
Lucy quickly attached herself to me and became my dog. I’ve never had a dog that connected to me with such exclusivity. She wouldn’t even let anyone else walk her. Lucy is so intelligent that she needed no training. I just told her what to do, and she did it. My kids joked that she was a human in a dog suit. My mom used to say, “I wish Lucy could talk. She really wants to talk.”
Lucy stopped eating almost a week ago. Her vet, Dr. Lori at South Memorial Animal Hospital, did everything she could, thinking it might be pancreatitis. I know Dr. Lori loves Lucy, too, and I so appreciate her compassionate care. When it became obvious that Lucy wasn’t responding, my husband and I decided to bring her home. Lucy just wanted to be near me, and I wanted to be near her to say good-bye.
Being the good dog that she is, she stumbled weakly outside to pee until she just didn’t need to go out anymore. Now, all she can do is lie beside me. I sit, as I have so many times over the years, with my feet tucked under her for warmth.
I know that when I put up the Christmas tree and get the boxes of ornaments out, I’ll miss her so much. Lucy got more excited than a kid when she saw the tree go up. She loved to look at the ornaments – I never really knew why, but I think she must have thought that I was putting up a dog-toy-covered tree.
She also liked to open presents. We discovered this accidentally one Christmas when Lucy seemed to want to open gifts with the kids. We gave her a present and she happily ripped off the paper. Since then, Lucy has always gotten her own present. She won’t bother any of the other gifts under the tree, but she knows which one is hers and loves to open it.
Lucy’s gift-opening will be missed this year.
Because we’re human beings, we all experience loss. That doesn’t make it easier, but sharing the experience makes it bearable. I’ve been so uplifted by friends who understand and share my sorrow.
The day that I took Lucy to the vet, I was feeling so sad. Just coincidentally, I received a lovely note and some Moonflower seeds in the mail from a friend that day. She didn’t know about Lucy, but her small gift was like a sign that I would be ok. When I told her about Lucy (she is also a dog-lover), she suggested I plant the Moonflowers for Lucy. I will do that.
Another dear friend who had been having heart trouble texted me that day to tell me that he was doing much better.
My brother Dan’s dog, Sylvie, died last week. The friend who has been caring for Sylvie in Los Angeles since my brother’s death has been texting me supportive messages.
It was as if the universe was sending me love.
Dogs give unconditional love. I know that it is better that they leave us before we leave them. Lucy wouldn’t understand if I left her and never came back.
Right now, I’m trying to decide if I should let her go by euthanasia. Am I being selfish to keep her here with me, knowing she will never come back? I don’t know how much she’s suffering or if she’s in pain. She seems very quiet here beside me except for her breathing.
Do any of you have advice for me?