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Thursday, February 9, 2012
I received a second punch on my invisible punch card. There are no reward points or "Free" car washes when I fill it. In fact, I hope I NEVER fill it. Once you are a member of this exclusive club, there is no "opting-out". Like The Eagles song goes "once you check-in, you can never check-out". There are no secret meetings held in dark, waxy cold basements, no fees, no cards issued. Every group member desperately wishes they could bargain their way out, to no avail. No invitation to join, we are all unwillingly initiated, and it is painful. Searingly agonizing. As if a Solingen steel, serrated edge sharp folding knife were plunged into your soul and surgically carved out a slice of it.
The paradoxical question being - why would anyone want to experience such paralyzing, suffocating pain ever again? One punch hole in your heart should be lesson enough. Lesson being to never, ever, ever go through this living hell again. Yet the answer to the question is - for the love of a four-legged creature. In my case, for the love of a dog.
Our personal experience with the death of our pets has not been a storybook ending. Neither one died in his sleep or had to be put down for terminal illness. Disneyesque bluebirds whistling simple tunes didn't hover around and cover them with caramel-hued blankets when they passed. Both times the grotesque decision of euthanasia was vague and wrenchingly painful. Nobody tells you this part of owning a pet. Nobody warns you of the end. Nobody shares their intimate, raw emotions of the experience. Probably because we all want to blot out the stain of guilt, shame, anger, desperation and bottomless grief as quickly as possible. But I AM going to impart our emotional journey to the hell of euthanasia so that others may be better prepared than we. Here goes:
Your vet will not tell you when it's time unless it is an emergency situation. Both our dogs could not walk or get up on their own much, but no vet ever TOLD us it was time, we had to ask.
The day you put your dog down, you will feel like shit. You spend the rest of that day wanting to TAKE IT BACK. Nothing will make you feel better, no matter how numb you want to become. So I stayed sober, the kind of sober only death can bring. The soberest I've been since February 10th, 2011 (when Annie died).
You walk out of the vet's office in a zombie-like haze. I don't even know how we got home. I just know I walked in with a dog and left with an empty leash and collar white-knuckled to my left hand.
You have the choice of staying and holding your dog till he's dead, or leaving him there...alone...with strangers. Both times we stayed and assured our old boys that killing them was the most loving action we could do for them. Yeah, right. You will never believe that one either. For as long as you live. Be prepared for the guilt of killing your pet, nobody tells you this part.
Our way of coping with the rest of that good-for-nothing day was to come home and clean his bowls, crate and toys. We separated what we could donate to a rescue group, including all his meds, and placed the rest in the attic with the dim outlook that someday we may have another doggie in our lives. We even cleaned the house, not to wipe out Shea's memory but to give us closure. I recommend you take the day off as your brain won't be thinking coherently.
The memory of your pet dying in your arms after a lethal injection of the most vibrant lavender pink poison, will be hot-branded in your conscious memory forever. You will not be equipped to handle this, it will haunt you. Know that choosing to stay and do the right thing, will also cause you extreme remorse and sorrow. Euthanasia is final, there is no going back. This seems like an obvious point, but my husband seemed stunned when it happened. Taking your pet's life strips away the protective layers of your emotional soul. It is now a raw, large open wound that will take months to heal and form a scab. And that slice that was cut out, will never return. You also discover what you are capable of and what your limits are.
Someday, you will have to forgive yourself for what you've done. When, I don't know. Forgiving and forgetting are two distinct paths. I still haven't forgotten the last one back in 1996, but I eventually realized his death was inevitable. The only way to fully receive forgiveness, is to fully forget that day. Which would require amnesia or a partial lobotomy. Making peace with ourselves and accepting our actions is a step towards forgiveness. Keep focusing on the joyful times you enjoyed together whenever that dark euthanasia moment skulks into your mind. Find a way to aid other pets, whether it's volunteering or donating money to your local rescue group . They are amazing organizations. And that vast ability you possess to love and care for another, needs to be shared again. Consider adopting another pet in the future, for the love of dogs.