“Where do you think we should bury her?”
This was not the question I was expecting to ask Chase two weeks ago, when we drove Honey home from the emergency vet’s office. She was still alive and breathing in the back seat, but just barely, and the writing was on the wall of the decision that faced us. We could have already decided to call her life quits back at the vet, but neither of us could stomach her last moments taking place in a vet’s office, where she was most likely confused, panicked, and wanting nothing more than to go home. So we drove her home, tears streaming down our face. Chase and I sat on the floor, petting Honey while she took a nap, and Henry called our regular vet to make an appointment for that afternoon.
Henry left, letting us know that the appointment was 2 hours away. Chase and I lay on either side of our beloved friend, petting her softly while she slept. We cried and held each other’s hands, and then 2 hours later we lifted her, dog bed and all, and carried her to the car. Honey slept peacefully while we drove. Chase parked the car in a sunny spot at the vet’s parking lot, and I sat with her while he let them know we were here. I had insisted that she not be brought inside the vet’s office, since it would only cause her to panic, and so they agreed to come out to the car. When I saw our vet, a kind and gentle man, begin to walk toward the car, my heart filled with a panic I have never known in my life, and continued while he tried to find a vein in her dehydrated, depleted body. This man was going to kill my dog, my friend, and it seemed inconceivable that my job was to simply sit by and watch it happen. For the benefit of her state of mind, I managed to keep it together and reassured Honey with a constant chant of, “Good girl, good dog,” until he had checked her heart and told me she was gone. The memories are vague from there, but I know that I wailed and cried like I cannot ever remember doing, and I hope that it is a long time, forever even, before I see my husband in the state he was in for the next few days. People told me it would be hard, but in the moment I felt wholly unprepared for the loss of our dog.
We both knew we wanted to bury her near our pond, which she loved to swim in every summer day. The ground was just thawed enough to allow us to bury her that day. The next day, our first real snow came, and everything in our world was different, both in feeling and in the visual.
It is hard to fully express the pain of losing a dog. When people visited our home, Honey might bark a loud greeting, but the rest of the time she spent sleeping on the floor or wandering outside, a minimal intrusion on their time spent with us. No one else saw the first two years of college when she slept in my bed, or the nights I spent home alone and felt safe with her by my side. They didn’t see when Chase and I wrestled with her on the floor, or when she ran along side us on hikes. Outsiders see your dog as a background fixture, and not the center of so much love and joy in your daily life, so the void feels impossible to adequately describe.
I was sent a poem by a friend the day after Honey died, and while it did nothing to stem the flow of tears, it did ease the doubt and suffering in my heart. If you are going through something similar, I hope it helps.
The Last Battle
If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they’ll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We’ve been so close — we two — these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.
Thanks for reading. xoxo