We let the old corgi go to cross the Rainbow Bridge yesterday. It was time and her condition was deteriorating. I was having to help her up every time she was down - which was often. She was falling a lot and was unable to get up. She was losing her appetite. It was time.
I think that I have a very good relationship with death, if that doesn't sound too terribly odd. It is just a part of life and we all must go through it, and partake in losses of our loved ones at some point. It is just a part of being a carbon-based life form on this planet. I have seen a lot of deaths, been around a lot of animals at the end, and I know what it is to have a good death and to have a bad one too. I don't ever want my animals to suffer through a bad death, if it can be helped. Quincy was my first horse, my first true love, and my first view of a gruesome death - his colic was far and away the most violent and horrible thing I've ever witnessed, and I hope to never see anything like it again. Even other horrible deaths I've been a part of - like the mare who broke her neck and then rubbed her eyeball out of her head while thrashing - somehow don't compare to that first one. It is so permanently, so horribly burned into my mind that I don't think I will ever escape it. I remember all the fine details. I remember the dust settling onto his eyeballs. I remember spending far, far too long around his bloated and stiff body, and those memories override a lot of the joyful ones I had of him while he was still alive. He suffered - really, really suffered - at the end, and even though I was just a dumb kid with a lot of naive hope, I regret all of my decisions that day. I regret trying to save a horse that was almost dead on his feet. I regret not being able to even have the vet euthanize him - he died right in front of my eyes before the vet could even get back to the farm. I never want any of my animals to ever have to go through that, ever again.
Death is a natural part of life, and we all will have to go through it. We all deserve to die with dignity and peace. Not everyone will get to have that, but as such, it is my solomn promise to all of my animals that I will do my best to give that gift to them, and I will be there for them until the very end. And I hope they can all walk with with relative comfort and dignity to their graves.
Twiggy was very, very old. She was the first pet that I had to put down because of really, really old age. Her body was just failing her in every direction, and there was nothing else to be done. That is just how life is, and it is something we all will have to go through if we ever reach that kind of age. She aged slowly, the process marked by small changes in her ability to do things. She used to be able to ride with me in the truck all day long as I worked, but her arthritis started to slow her down about two years ago, and she could only do half days before she would get tired and lame. Then she wasn't able to do even half days anymore, so we relegated her to walking a few miles a couple times a week. That slowly declined to only a half a mile twice a week, to a quarter of a mile ever couple weeks, to nothing at all. At the end, she was still able to get around the yard slowly, but that was about it, and she seemed satisfied to sit and bark at the running dogs without feeling the need to join in. But it was time.
We chose yesterday so that we could both be there with her. She had mac'n cheese and eggs for breakfast, then napped and got petted for the rest of the morning. In the early afternoon, we took her to McDonalds and got an ice cream cone and an entire box of chicken nuggets for her, then went and sat at our favorite old park. She was a little nervous in the vet's office, but a small dose of sedation calmed her down (I can't recommend this enough, seriously - it helps so much with the human ability to process). She dozed off under her dose of sedation, then slipped away immediately once the actual deed was performed. It was quiet, and peaceful, and good. Unlike with when my greyhound died, the vets did not pressure us, ask us questions, try to get us to do something more, and guilt trip us. (All those things happened with poor Ti - she was dying of kidney failure and the emergency vet tried to convince us to jump through enormous expensive hoops to save her, even though she was clearly suffering and dying and had been going through this process for some time. Then she made us feel like we were too cheap to save our dog and that we didn't love her enough. It was horrible and I've never been back to that vet since.) They just patted our backs, told us how sorry they were, and let us grieve quietly. It was very hard, but it was peaceful, and it was good.
I firmly believe that euthanasia is a gift. It is the last kind act we can do for a suffering or dying animal, instead of letting them waste away in unimaginable pain until their bodies finally give out on them. I remember last year finding the neighbor's ancient old heeler dead out in the pasture - he dragged his pathetic carcass out there and expired, and I found him with buzzards picking his innards apart. I never, ever will let that happen to any of my animals. I don't believe it is right or fair to keep a crippled, sick, feeble, ancient, or otherwise incurable animal alive just because we can. Managing a chronic condition is something we of course can do, and should do if we can, until we can't anymore - and then we have to make that choice. When the animal has rounded the bend, or is not getting better, or is suffering - make that choice for them. Give them that last gift. Let them be at peace and out of pain. And give them a good last day if you can.
It was a hard day. A sad day. A day I won't ever forget. But it was a beautiful day, a fun day, a day full of good food and love and happiness. It was a good day to die.