A week ago today I had to make the very painful decision of whether or not to let my best friend of 14 years go. I read somewhere that writing helps to heal a broken heart so here I am trying, but in my opinion, only time will help. Jackson was the kindest, gentlest dog and he was also the first dog I ever had in my adult life that I had to care for and raise on my own. Losing a pet when you are a kid is hard, but its nothing like the attachment and bond that you form with an animal that you’ve had to care for and that you’ve loved for many, many years.
It’s quite funny how Jackson came into my life. My ex husband thought he would be good for me, since I spent a lot of time alone. I won’t get into why I was alone often, but that’s how Jackson came into my life. My marriage lasted less than 3 years, and I can tell you this, Jackson was the best gift my ex had ever given to me. Ever.
I bought my first home because of Jackson. No one wanted to rent to me after my divorce because I had a big dog, whatever. Some people even suggested “I get rid of him” – like he was some expendable “thing” that I could just toss away.
Jackson taught me unconditional love, loyalty, responsibility (because Lord knows, I was a wild thing back then) - he grounded me, and now he has taught me painful loss and pure heart break. You see, a piece of me died with him last week, but a piece of him will live on forever in my heart. “Animal people” will understand the huge hole left behind and that painful, empty feeling in their belly. Non-animal folks may think I am crazy, and quite frankly I probably am crazy, or I just don’t care what people think, because it’s my life and life is short. Cliché but true.
Animals do not show their pain as we do. My Jackson must have been in pain but he never let me know until the day before I had to make the decision of whether to let him go or not. I knew he may have had nasal cancer, but the testing for it was too risky because of his age, and there was no cure for it anyway, so I opted not to put him through that. He also had liver issues for a long time, and Laryngeal Paralysis and the typical old age stuff like arthritis. The day before he was limping badly and I thought it was attributed to arthritis. But the next morning, he did not get up, he could not get up, he could not walk. I managed to get my son off to school knowing in my heart something terrible was wrong. I called my husband to come home from work and while waiting, I said my goodbyes to my best friend.
As weird as it sounds when people tell you that you will know when it’s time, it’s true, at least it was for me. I thanked him for being there for me for 14 years, through many ups and downs, divorce, moving 4 times, remarriage, childbirth just to name a few. I also promised him if it was anything bad, I would not let him suffer. We had to carry him to the car and off to the Veterinary ER we went. They took him right back and I sat in the waiting room crying. I’d like to thank the kind, compassionate woman whom I’d never met and probably will never see again, for hugging me and giving me tissues.
We were brought back to a private room and told that Jackson had Osteosarcoma, bone cancer. We were told his leg was like cauliflower and there was no cure. We were given the choice of amputating his leg and chemotherapy, taking him home only to be on strong drugs for the pain, where he would have to be picked up and held to go to the bathroom, or Euthanasia. Immediately I declined amputation, how do you cut off the leg of a 14 year old dog who already had arthritis? Did I really think he would even survive that? No. My next immediate thought, what kind of life would he have if I took him home to die? After all, the vet explained to me that this type of cancer caused excruciating pain. She also said to me, she was sure I didn’t think I was bringing him there to say goodbye, but she was wrong. I knew it was time, I knew before we left our home.
For those of you who have yet to make this decision, or to experience it, I can tell you it was very peaceful and very fast, almost instant. I cried like a baby. I cry like a baby every day. His ashes are in my bedroom, maybe I am morbid, but I kiss the box he’s now in each day, and in time that will fade, but I will be forever changed because of him.
The unconditional love an animal can give is like no other … it’s tough to say goodbye. But none of us live forever as much as we wish we never had to say goodbye to our loved ones, whether furry or humans … it’s so hard to do. In my heart I like to believe the goodbye is not forever and I hope when its my turn, everyone that went before me will be there waiting. I would not have wanted my baby to suffer, for how long was he suffering before he finally let me know? When he finally showed his pain, it must have been excruciating. I am trying to find peace with my decision not to let him suffer and not to let his pain continue. I would not have wanted to see him suffer. Last Thursday he was limping badly, last Friday, he could not get up, and he may never have been able to get up again, his leg bone was gone and he never let us know. Had I brought him home, he would have died a slow, painful death .. or maybe it would have happened quickly, I am trying to stop asking myself what if this or that … Incurable, terminal cancer is bad, they should give humans the choice to go with dignity as they do animals. When our animals are old and sick, we have to make decisions for them.
If you found this blog because you are feeling and experiencing this pain, I am truly sorry. I am right there with you. But always remember you gave them love, a wonderful life and a great home, you were their companion as much as they were yours, and the ultimate love you showed your baby in the end was putting their needs before your own. I will have this decision to make again, I had 2 Labs. My Cracker is just as lost as me. Cracker will be 6 in October, he had never been the only dog. The first days, he wouldn’t go in the yard alone. He will lay where Jackson’s bowls used to be. It’s quite sad. But we are finding comfort in each other. He’s been by my side, just as a dog does, showing me unconditional love. I’ve been letting him cuddle with me at night, because he used to lay with Jackson. He’s getting extra love and attention, and long walks. But he too, is lost.
Time, time really does fly by, but also time will allow us to go on, somehow we all go on, life goes on. And one day soon, I will rescue another dog. Not to replace Jackson, as there is no replacing an animal, they are all as unique as we are as humans. But to save a life, to give that animal a home and shelter and love. I don’t think I will never be without a dog, unless one day I am too old and gray to take care of myself and a furry friend.
I thank you Jackson, I thank you for everything, but especially for teaching me unconditional love. It was time to go home, and I know in my heart, I will see you again some day at the beautiful Rainbow Bridge.
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