Life AND Death — A Beautiful Death
Sigh. Always the beginning and always the end. Taking that last breath, releasing the spirit of life, it’s all the same for every living thing.
As you know, I helped a friend through his death (although not there for his magic moment since he was bedridden a few hundred miles away from my home and, you know, with a person, you can’t really predict when that time will come) and I just got to experience another death of my beloved, almost 17 year old doggie, Skippy.
A planned death. A beautiful one. One that I knew would happen the moment we met and fell in love with each other 15 ½ years ago. My dear Skippy. I would always tell him, “You know, Skippy, there will be a day that we won’t be together anymore, and that day will make me very sad.” It’s something that can even be uttered to everyone you love, which reflects reality and is not attached to any kind of depression.
It was his time. Over the years, he had gradually lost his vision, like so many elderly pets do, and I had to place his treats directly under his snout for him to realize there was a goodie for him below his funny little nose. But he sure didn’t have a hard time finding his well-filled doggie bowl where I added extra gravy in his last days. His legs were now frequently wobbly and getting up and down stairs proved to be more challenging with each passing day. And, like any elderly living thing, he was sleeping a lot, too. He was eating and drinking, peeing and pooping just fine, which made the decision to let him go a little more difficult but we both knew it was his time.
Letting him go had to be done in the comfort of his home, our home, the first and only one we’ve lived in here since I moved here 15 ½ years ago. He moved in with me the first day I moved in and he’s been my tolerant roommate ever since, not minding the dishes in the sink, my clothes strewn about, the temperature of the place. He never complained as long as his favorite kibble was in the bowl at feeding time. Skippy was the best roommate I could ever ask for.
I second guessed myself for a moment before I called the vet in the morning to make the appointment for later that afternoon to put him down. But no. We both knew it was his time.
A 9:30 phone call confirmed that the magic moment would take place at 1pm that day. I sighed when I hung up, knowing that our time together had been defined so I wanted to spend the last hours with my beloved doggie the same way we lived. In happiness and gratitude.
After putting on his collar and leash, I carried him out to the car and together we ventured to his longtime groomer, who cried when I told her why we were there. Skippy was one of her favorites, too, who never misbehaved and would always wait to pee outside after I picked him up, all shiny and clean. She took a picture of me holding my little old dog with his weary eyes closed and me with a smile I could only conjure up through the inevitable sadness.
The next visit was the last journey to the local dog park where we spent so many hours, days, and years playing “stop, drop, and roll” when I would toss the ball to the top of the gravel hill, he would chase it down, stop a few feet below, and release it to only have it roll down the hill so I could do it all over again. For hours, days, and years. Only this time, he was content to gently walk around the lower part of the park, sniffing every little scent and yes, still peeing and pooping.
Then it was time to come home.
I carried him in my arms to my house and felt the undeniable urge to lay down and snuggle with my cherished pet for all the time we had left together. It was noon and I knew his time was almost here.
I cradled him next to me while he laid his head against my shoulder, listening to his mommy telling him how much I loved him and all the wonderful adventures we had. I told him how much I want him to guide my next doggie to me and how I will know it will be him to do so, just like he magically came to me years before. I told him to look for my Dad, who would always call him “Hey Little Dog” and how my Mom never met him but would surely embrace him as soon as he was bounding over. I told him to see all of his buddies who knew him, both the four legged ones and my friends who had always said what a perfect match we were. I know his spirit will be with me for the rest of my life when we can reunite over that Rainbow Bridge. I took many pictures lying in bed, of him trusting me for his last moments, like he had done for his days that were so full of life.
It was 1pm. The vets arrived on time and as I got up from my bed, Skippy laid there motionless, knowing that yes, again, his time had come. I greeted them at my driveway and walked to the back of my house to have the beauty of nature surround us for that special moment.
I went back to my bedroom to get my pup only to find that he was still sound asleep, perhaps already venturing into the next life. I gently scooped him up into my arms, holding him tight with his peaceful face a few inches from mine. His curved spine fit perfectly in the crook of my arm as I began letting him know it was time to let him go.
The vets, in their compassion and grace, petted him on the head and Skippy was receptive and calm as I am sure he knew he was being loved. He got the first shot of morphine without any flinching, peacefully accepting his final fate. He started getting sleepy a few minutes later as I was telling him how much I’d miss him and how everything would be okay.
The vet gently booped him on his nose, ran her finger by his lips, and knew he was sedated enough for the final shot. She gently shaved his back leg to get to a vein and shaved a tuft of hair, which was saved in a satiny bag as my final keepsake of my furry friend.
It was time. The morphine slipped into his system as I held him close and thanked him for all the time we spent together, the adventures we had and all the places we had been, all the times at the dog park and the times we had just being with each other.
And then he was gone. I held him and let go of the tears I had which were gentle tears as he and I had both prepared for this moment over the many years we shared together.
The vets wrapped him up in a soft, doggie paw print blanket, allowing his head with closed eyes be mine for these last moments together. The vets and I walked down the driveway for one last time and I kissed Skippy on the head to say my final goodbye.
It was a beautiful and peaceful death and we should all be so lucky to be blessed with one ourselves.
Life will go on for me and Skippy will live on with me in heart and spirit.
And there will be another doggie in my life soon, after I do my dishes and pick up my clothes.
I promise, Skippy, I really do.
The end, but probably not….