I’m a terrible person, that’s the state of grief I’m in, at least that’s how I feel right now. Putting two dogs to sleep within less than a 24-hour period is making me question everything. I am emotionally breaking. Mourning one dog is hard but two at the same time is very difficult.
Two weeks ago, our fur baby who we’ve had for almost ten years didn’t want to eat or even get up for a few days, he wasn’t himself. I woke up one morning and he had peed on the floor, the next day his legs were swollen. On Monday we took him to the vet, they did x-rays and found that he had a tumor the size of a softball pushing on an artery which wasn’t allowing the blood to flow through his legs. The tumor was growing around organs and would be impossible to remove. Over time, if we let it go, if he would even live long enough, the tumor would push into his spine and he wouldn’t be able to walk, or it would push into the artery and he would die. His time was very limited and his quality of life was getting worse every minute.
Monday evening, we decided to let Ralphie go, we wouldn’t be fighting to figure out if this could be fixed, we wouldn’t be letting him suffer any longer, he’d suffered silently long enough. We didn’t want to be selfish.
We called him The Sherriff because he enforced the dog laws, if one of the dogs was barking uncontrollably at the UPS guy, he would tell that dog to hush up with only a few barks. Our other three dogs would bark at birds flying overhead, a truck driving by, or a funny smell that blows past. But when I would hear Ralphie talk I knew it meant something important was happening.
My last best memory of him was the last time it snowed and I went down our hill on a sled with my daughter and he chased me down and started jumping on me and nipping at me to play. Every now and then he would forget he was The Sherriff and he’d simply be a puppy.
Buddy, who we’d only had for 5 years, began his life with us by wandering up to me, he liked me right away, he immediately tried to hump my leg. I wouldn’t say that was my fondest memory of him but it’s where our relationship began.
My husband drove around our rural neighborhood asking whose he was, did anyone own him. We were told by other neighbors that he belonged around the block, the owners didn’t treat him well, left him outside in the bad weather, with little to no food or water. Those owners denied owning him, so he was our Buddy now. The name fit, he was loving, he didn’t have a mean bone in his body, he was never more than a few feet away, he just wanted to be loved.
After being a part of our home for only a little while we started to understand why he was kicked outside. A lot of people in the country do leave their dogs out all the time, we don’t. They stay in the house at night and go outside when they want during the day. Buddy would throw up after he eats, we thought it was a nervous habit or him gorging because he was the bottom of the pack and didn’t know if he would get to eat so he ate as much as he could as fast as he could.
I should have known it was something more. I feel terrible that we didn’t push the vet sooner to do more testing. He also had a problem with incontinence for the last year. He would leave presents wherever he was laying sometimes.
Buddy was having trouble breathing and coughing a lot, he wouldn’t eat much and when he did, he tried to cough it up. This was different than his normal throwing up. Then he started it constantly, even without eating he was coughing.
The morning after we said goodbye to Ralph, we took Buddy to the vet. A few weeks before that the vet found a tumor or growth but they weren’t sure what it was or why it was there. They gave us medicine to see if it would shrink it some but I think that was my husband talking them into a hopeful diagnosis.
This visit, because of his labored breathing, the vet observed him for a few hours and took x-rays. We found out he had lung cancer and a tumor in his lungs. He wasn’t getting the oxygen he needed. He would never get the oxygen he needed. He was in a lot of pain.
I decided for both the dogs that I would be there when they left this world, just me and them. My husband would stay with our 3-year-old daughter at home. I’d never had to do anything like this, not alone.
My husband and I had been together when we had to put our other dogs to sleep. The first time I experienced euthanizing an animal I saw the life leave his eyes, I don’t want to see that again. I will never forget that horrible feeling of knowing that something was living and I made the decision to end its life and I could see the moment that life ends through its eyes. That was too painful.
Ralphie was hard but immediately after I knew Buddy was gone, I regretted it. I thought this is wrong, we shouldn’t have done this. We could have done something. Maybe the vet is wrong, maybe he’s not a good vet. How could this be, two dogs at the same time? It can’t be right, how could it. It’s all my fault.
Then I would feel nothing, emptiness. It would make me wonder if I was a good person or not. Why don’t I feel anything? I don’t feel sad, I don’t feel happy, I feel like all feeling has left my body. I guess it is my brain protecting itself from complete meltdown. Then the sadness would come back and I would cry, then the emptiness would punch down the sadness and I would wonder if I was making myself cry so I don’t feel like I am only the empty person I thought I was an hour ago. I don’t know what to feel and what’s right and I’m trying not to get myself into a hole that I can’t get out of.
I feel angry with myself for not being a good dog owner and not giving them the love and attention they deserved. I feel guilty about putting them to sleep, did I do it too quickly, I didn’t even think it through, did I do it so I wouldn’t have to clean up hairballs, and throw up, and poop, and did I not want them anymore. Am I that lousy of a person? Maybe. Maybe I am. The guilt is so painful.
We are all sad in our house, even the dogs are confused. One of the two of our other dogs is a big ten-year-old boy and I wonder when his time will come. Hopefully, not soon, I don’t know how I would handle that.
My 3-year-old daughter loves all the dogs and I am hoping that enough time will pass and she will forget about them because I don’t know how to explain to her what happened. I think that the safest route to explaining, is less is more. She doesn’t need to know much at all at this young age. But I don’t think she will forget them, because who forgets your best friends?