Alright. I’m already in straight up TEARS writing this. My 14 year old golden retriever, Lacy, is laying next to me as I type away.
Caring for a dying pet is hard. Or for a pet that is really, really old. Or both.
I’ve lost pets before and it’s devastating. Many of us know the feeling of losing a pet that we truly considered to be family. It’s enough to send someone into a deep pit of prolonged sadness (even depression.)
The pets I have lost in the past all passed away suddenly. I was not prepared for it. And I don’t know if that made it easier for me or not.
This time around, my dog has a cancerous tumor on her side and Cushing’s disease. She is 14 and while she is happy and comfortable right now, I know that her last days will be here very soon. She’s old. She’s tired. I know she is losing steam.
I’ve spent the entire last 4 months taking care of her and it has been an honor for me to be there by her side. She has given me years of joy and unconditional love and friendship. I feel I owe it to her to make her last months the very best of her life.
I was in my apartment in San Francisco when I got the call from My Mom in Colfax (2 hours away.) She told me that she had just taken Lacy to the vet and they estimated she only had a few weeks to live. I knew my little babe was getting older but I thought she had at least a year or two left. I was already planning on returning home for the summer to help my family take care of a really sick loved one but upon hearing about Lacy I planned on coming home even sooner.
When I got off the phone with my Mom I sobbed. “Back home” for me is a place where Lacy greets me and all my troubles seem to minimize as I wrap my arms around her furry little body. She is so precious to me. I’ve had her since I was 15.
Every bout of depression I’ve ever gone through, Lacy has been by my side (When I go home at least, which is often.)
Every circumstance that’s got me down, Lacy is there.
Every time I was excited or happy about something, Lacy would elevate me even higher. She is seriously my best bud.
The thing about our pets is, they love us SO much– more than any human really. Or should I say, in a different way… that is so meaningful to us.
Lacy loves the living shit out of me. She loves me more than anything. And frankly… I love her more than anything. Even most humans LOL.
This past summer I put my life on hold to care for my family. And that includes Lacy. Not to brag or anything… but I’ve found that I’m a damn good Dog nurse. I’ve given her such excellent care that her vets have been blown away that she is still truckin’. They legit can’t believe it. Like she’s a miracle dog or something. (She is to me 🙂 )
Some of them say that perhaps she is fighting extra hard because for the first time in years, she has me home with her for more than just days at a time and now she really doesn’t want to let go. Fills and breaks my heart at the same time.
I know my life is waiting for me to resume in San Francisco, but I just can’t leave her until her time has come.
While people would say I’ve been Lacy’s saving grace this past summer, Lacy has really been mine. This summer was by far one of the hardest summers I have ever gone through in my entire life. A lot of things went down. A lot. And if it wasn’t for her little face every morning waking me up or her cuddling up next to me in bed as I wept (nearly every night- no exaggeration) I don’t know how well I would have gotten through these past months. (Colfax is beautiful but it is very isolating up here. Not to mention I wasn’t able to leave the house much do to my situation. Things are better now.) But no joke this dog has acted as a huge relief for me as I’ve needed comfort more than anything this past summer.
Lacy only leaves my side to eat and go to the bathroom. When she’s not doing that, she’s just right there, pressed up against me as close as she can get. Her companionship just blows me away. And brings me so much comfort and happiness. I am so thankful that God has given me so many wonderful years with her.
Since her diagnoses I have been preparing for that day when I have to let her go. Monitoring her health to make sure I am not just trying to keep her alive for my own selfish needs. We share such a deep bond– I know she will let me know when it is time.
I know myself– when Lacy goes I am going to feel a kind of heartbreak and absence in my life that I have never felt before. I dread it. I dread it so much.
Those who love their animals like I love Lacy, know that she is not “just a dog”… she is like a little miniature life partner. I cannot imagine coming home and not seeing her. Not hugging her. Not having her at my feet. The thought of this actually makes my heart twist. I could so easily fall into depression after she passes.
So I’m trying to do all that I can now before that day comes. All that I can to prepare myself. I wanted to share it with you guys as I know so many can relate.
What I’m doing to prepare is this:
-I’m spending such quality time with my dog. I hold her for a moment in solitude every day just her and I. For at least ten minutes. No TV, no phone in my hand… she has my complete attention. She sleeps with me at night but I know it means something to her when I stop doing all my tasks in the middle of the day just to hold her and be with her. She knows she’s my best buddy.
-I’m taking so many pictures and videos. Saving them all. I want memories of her to look back on. I save every. single. snapchat video. lol… every single one. And hundreds of photos… holy moly. Probably too many of them. But knowing I have them gives me comfort somehow.
-I’m letting myself have tiny grieving periods before she passes so that I can get some of that emotion out of the way beforehand… it may be a personal thing but when she’s gone I don’t want this to hit me like a ton of bricks. What I’ll do is I honestly sit there on the floor and hold her face in my hands and say, “What am I going to do without you?” and I just cry and cry. She sits in my lap because she knows. And I feel like it’s her telling me that it’s all going to be okay. That she is grateful I’ve been so good to her all her life and that our time together mattered so much to her. I try to picture what it does look like without her, and I tell myself that I will be okay. That these memories I have with her are forever and the fact that I’ve had her companionship is an experience that many don’t get and for that I should be so grateful. And it’s almost like she’s consoling me before it even happens.
-I tell myself that I have given her an incredible life and the last chapter has been one of her best chapters yet. This brings me great comfort knowing I’m not going to look back thinking I could have given her more. I tell myself how lucky she has been to have me, and how lucky I have been to have her love. Even the intense pain I’ll feel of the aftermath of her death will be worth all the years she’s given me.
-I’m letting her be a little chunky monkey and eat more “bad food” because I know her time is so limited and this dog loooooves her food. She’s the cutest beggar in the world. Every other week she gets a hamburger or something of the like and I take her to the lake or even just outside under a tree on a soft blanket and she just eats and enjoys the great outdoors. Knowing she gets to indulge makes me happy… it’s like she’s getting her ultimate foodie bucket list checked off. Homegirl deserves it.
So basically… I’m slowly letting myself really come to terms before hand that this sweet girl is not going to be with me forever and that when that time comes, I can look back with no regrets knowing that I did what I could to show her my love and give her my time and affection. I am so grateful to know what it means to be “a dog’s best friend” even though she won’t be with me forever. The sting of her absence will be worth the experience I’ve had with her. I keep telling myself that… and somehow it helps.
So take pictures, record videos. Cry beforehand with your pet while they can still comfort you, and remind yourself how lucky you are to have experienced the unconditional friendship of an animal who loves you so much.
I’m going to be okay. If you’re in the same boat… you’re going to be okay. Just keep the love going full throttle until then. An old dog’s love (or cat’s, hamster’s, lizard’s…whatever) is like pure gold for the soul. It’s priceless. Embrace it and know how thankful your pet is for you. On their last breath their life with YOU will flash before their eyes, and it’ll be a life they loved. Big hugs to all the fur baby parents out there.
We’re going to be okay. <3
Any thoughts on this tough topic? Please share!