Your Pet Loss Stories'I Can't Get Over Losing Him.....'
by Barbara Haag
10 years ago I spotted an ad in the local paper from a young woman who was looking for a home for her Dalmatian.
I thought it was a long shot, because the paper was already 3 days old, but I thought "What the heck" - and called the phone number given in the ad. This was supposed to be a surprise for my husband, who had owned Dalmatians when he was growing up, and had often said how much he'd like to have another one.
To make a long story short, the young woman and I played phone tag for 3 days, until we finally spoke in person. It turns out, the young woman was moving, and the building she was moving to did not allow dogs. Rather than sell her dog (which was purebred, with an impressive pedigree, and had cost her quite a bit of money), she opted to answer all of the ad responses and arranged to interview all of the people she spoke with. When she found the person she felt was going to give her pet the best home, she would give him to the lucky person.
She interviewed me and my husband one evening, and after 45 minutes, she said she didn't think she needed to interview anyone else - she'd found the best home for her pet. She brought in a beautiful 18 month old liver-spotted male who had the most perfect markings, and the happiest disposition we had ever seen. "Jack" became an instant member of our family, and although he had been intended as a surprise for my husband, he bonded to me and became my second shadow everywhere I went - even sleeping alongside my legs on the bed at night.
It was funny to watch him climb up into my lap (all 85 lbs of him) and turn himself around to sit with all 4 legs stretched out in front of him! He'd lay his head on my shoulder, and if I sat there long enough, he'd go to sleep! He obviously thought he was a 5 lb lap dog! - but I wouldn't have had him any other way. The 10 years we were lucky enough to have him, he had never snarled, growled, snapped, bitten or even bared his teeth (except to give his famous "smile" when I'd come home from work).
Last March, Jack had a stroke - he laid on the living room floor and couldn't move except to lift his head. It was a Sunday morning - I wasn't going to be paid until the end of the week, and it was next to impossible to find a vet who would see him without full payment. But we finally contacted an animal hospital 40 minutes away who agreed to see him. They kept Jack for 3 days, gave him IV fluids, steroids and antibiotics, and finally let us take him home. He had weakness on his left side, and kept turning his left front paw under when he walked, so someone had to walk with him and use the toe of their shoe to straighten his front paw out when he'd walk. He stumbled and fell quite a bit his first few weeks at home, but eventually we got him back about 95%.
On August 1st, after 2 days of sluggish behavior from Jack, I realized something just wasn't right with him. He laid on the floor and quivered when he breathed, threw up a couple of times, and just wasn't acting like himself. The vet had us bring him back out - again on a Sunday - and after x-rays and blood work, the vet told us Jack was in kidney failure. His lab levels were very high, and he was so very sick from all the toxins in his system that his kidneys were not filtering.
When we asked about treatment, the news was not good. They could try to flood him with IV fluids again to try to get his kidneys working to flush out the poisons in his body, but it would most likely be a short-term fix, and would happen again. It was also very expensive, and I was on medical leave from my work at the time, and money was tight. I asked the vet what he would do if it was his pet - and he commented on Jack's age (11), the fact that he'd recently experienced a stroke, and how hard it was on his system to suffer the way he was. He said he would not put his pet through all that - especially when it was unlikely to be a permanent cure.
He said if Jack was 6 or 7 years old he'd say "go for it - give it a try", but that wasn't the case. That's when the realization hit that he was telling me it was time to let my buddy go. I broke down and cried like a baby - I still do when I think of him. I sat on the floor with him and rocked and cried until I thought my heart was going to break through my chest. My husband had to sign the papers - I couldn't even see them through the tears. They left us alone with him for a while - could have been 5 minutes - could have been 25 - I was numb.
They asked if we wanted to be with him when they gave him the shot, and my gut reaction was "NO!" - I could not be there to watch them give a shot that I knew was going to kill my baby. They put a leash on him, and when we started to leave, he tried to follow us out of the room. The tech pulled him back, and I turned around and got down on my knees and hugged and kissed him and told him "it'll be all right" - then I turned my back on him and walked away. The look on his face when I left him there is the image that has stayed in my mind, and is the reason I cannot get over my grief.
I left my faithful, beloved buddy there to die with strangers. I should have stayed to hold him so he would feel loved right up to the end. But I couldn't, and the guilt and sorrow is making me so heartsick I can't bear it. I don't think my grief will ever end.
I miss him so much it's unbelieveable. We still have our little female Dal at home, and I have tried to give her the love and attention that Jack is no longer here to get, but it's not the same. She's a "daddy's girl", and I don't have the bond with her I had with Jack. I can only try to take some comfort in the fact that he's not sick or suffering anymore - and believe that we will be together again one day.