Don’t let the TV news fool you – there are a lot of good people out there! Nothing brings the compassion out of people quite like a cute animal – or the loss of one. If you have reached adulthood, chances are good you have either lost a beloved pet, grieved for a loved one who has, or know that there will be a time when you do. It is a universal hurt that transcends age, gender, race, religion, intellect, and income bracket.
In our animal world, the only thing worse than losing a pet is having to make the decision of when that will be. Please forgive my use of a crass expression here, but it seems to sum the situation up concisely: It. Just. Sucks.
But, oh, what a lovely opportunity to see the best in people.
As our beautiful 13-year-old Carolina Dog’s legs betrayed her more frequently and the tumor growing inside her impeded her lung capacity, we prayed for natural causes to swoop down and take the decision away from us. Our vet had already warned us things didn’t work that way. But what did she know? With my vast experience of having this one and only dog for 13 years, I thought (okay – desperately hoped) she was wrong. She wasn’t.
So, as we prepared for Bondy to take this walk to a Rainbow Bridge that we kept hearing about, we wanted to celebrate this doe-eyed dog that had just shown up at our house thirteen years ago demanding a good home. We tried to find her one. After several failed attempts, we had to face the fact that we had a dog and now needed a fence. Is that an ungracious way to accept a gift, or what?!
So, back to the celebration. We assisted Bondy in creating and executing a bucket list, posting the progress on Facebook. She had a ball riding in a convertible, having a whole ice cream cone to herself, and being allowed to watch TV while sitting on my precious green leather couch, among other things. We enjoyed it just as much. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t quite “all in” on the couch bit – I cheated and put a towel on it first. She – and my husband – had the last chuckle with that one. I didn’t notice until I saw the picture later that her tush was definitely off the towel and on my couch.
With all items successfully checked off on her bucket list, it was decision time. We made the phone call. We were fortunate that our vet was willing to come to our home. However, because of a convention she attended, the appointment was a week out. A long week filled with many ‘lasts’ – the last romp in the snow, the last play-date with Jenny (her Boston Terrier buddy), the last night she would be with us, the last morning she would bark us awake while rolling around in scratch-my-tummy mode.
I will never forget the abundance of kindness poured out on us those last couple of days. Offers of condolence, encouraging words, many prayers, and sympathetic notes both from those who knew us well and many who knew our hurt more than they knew us.
And on that final day, a dear friend called to let us know she was coming over with soup. Soup?? What kind of person brings soup and (as it turns out) banana cream pudding for a dog-passing day?? Apparently, the kind of person that is hurting so bad for you that they think of you all day long while they make hot soup and something light because they know it won’t occur to you to fix something to eat that day. The kind of person who packs up some crispy chips and shredded cheese to toss in the soup. The kind of person who, fresh from their own personal losses, drives over to unpack the bounty, say their own good-byes, and cry with you. Oh, that we could all be blessed with a soup-maker in our lives!
This is our first day without Bondy, so the hurt is still quite raw and the house is quite empty. We head to bed misty-eyed as we realize again she’s not there to have her 10:30 run before the goodnight snack. We agree again that we did the right thing. We chatter more about some of the special times with her until we can make each other smile. We agree that despite all the hurt involved in the final days, the joy of the rest of our time with her was absolutely worth it. And we agree that she was the best gift we almost refused to receive.