Tuesday we put our dog Sarah to sleep.
Sarah was 16 and a half years old. Most of those years she spent with us. I’m not going to pretend I loved Sarah with my whole heart. Most of the time my affection level for her hovered between tolerance and mild annoyance. She was a sibling, not a pet. Her mom, Sofie, was one of the greatest dogs we ever owned, and she had three litters of puppies. All of Sofie’s line lived extremely long lives including Sarah and Chloe, who my father still mourns years later. She really was family.
We’ve known it was time for awhile now, and my father finally admitted it. She was fragile, senile, tired, and in pain. My heart broke for her everyday until I stepped in a puddle of pee or a pile of crap, She didn’t know where she was well enough to go outside often. (Besides, I can’t see anyone motivated to go outside to pee at 116) Well, honestly she didn’t move much for anything. It was cruel to keep her around when her life was a fog of misery and lonely cluelessness. I think her live had to be a special Hell, and we were being kind and taking care of family.
That thought sustained me through calling vets to find out who could take care of her that day. I was fine while Mom was gathering her up and holding her in the truck ride and while mom held her while I dealt with the paper work. She was terrified and started barking and whining for the first time in weeks. I reached over to pet her and I started to tell her everything was going to be okay. My voice caught as I realized what I was saying. Logically, I knew I was right, but my heart hurt.
I was killing my dad’s dog. I was killing a family member.
When my dad came in after work, I told him. He asked us not to tell him when we were going to take her, He knew it was going to happen; he just didn’t know when. He started to cry. We will be in mourning for a bit.
Once when I was a teenager, I asked my dad “If we were on a sinking boat with Chloe and Sarah, who would you save? Me or the dogs?”
My father, who I idolized, looked me dead in the eye and very seriously answered,”Girl, that is why I taught you how to swim.”
She was a good dog in her way. She took care of my father. She was fierce. Before she lost her mind, she would knock the crap out of Dad’s boy dogs. The things that annoyed me about her were my failings and not hers. And, truly she was more like a sibling.
I still feel like randomly and awkwardly blurting out “I killed my dad’s dog.” It feels like penance, but it gets me strange looks.
Dad has two boy dogs to help him through. I only have a picture of one:
I might not be firm on what I believe happens when we die, but I know if there is Heaven, dogs go there, because if dogs aren’t good enough to get in, no human stands a chance.