It was time. 16 years is a good long life. She was ready.
That’s what I’ve been repeating to myself since last night when we said goodbye to Lucky. She was a happy dog, with an unwavering smile and desire for affection. Even in the vet’s exam room yesterday, she paced slowly from person to person, nudging us and the vet for petting. “She’s trying,” the vet said, “she’s trying.” I can’t remember if that was before or after he said she had, at most, two weeks left to live. Lucky was an incredible companion for the last 15 years but as the vet listed off the many things working against her last night, we knew our time with her was up.
My brother, sister and I sat on the floor around her as the vet slipped the needle into her leg. We stroked her and rubbed her ears, telling her it’s ok, you’re a good girl, it’s ok, we love you. I was crying too much to say it as loud as our half-deaf dog probably needed. I wasn’t able to be as brave as she was, smiling at us one by one before she slowly laid her head down. A few moments later, the vet leaned in with his stethoscope then said softly, “She’s gone.”
I don’t know how long I kept stroking her before I realized her chest was no longer gently rising and falling. The three of us stopped petting her to hug each other. My sister said she thought Lucky was trying to tell us with her smile that it was ok, she was ready to go. Then she suggested that we share one thing we loved about Lucky before we left.
“She was always happy,” I said.
“She had pluck,” my sister said with a smile.
“She had purpose,” my brother offered, chuckling.
Sitting in my mom’s kitchen after it was all done, we laughed about the first time we met Lucky. She came to us from a free-to-good-home classified ad, a boisterous 1-year-old Lab mix who had been adopted as a puppy from the shelter but knocked the family toddler to the floor more and more as she grew. When we first saw her, standing between her family and us, the hair on her back stood up as she bared her teeth and growled. “She’s not normally like this,” the owner said. “She’s usually sweet and gentle,” he added as my mom worried about bringing a ferocious dog into a home with her kids (I was barely 13 at the time, with 2 younger siblings). We laughed last night about how wrong we were to be nervous and how much love she gave us.
We laughed and shared the many reasons why we loved her so. How her protective nature worked in our favor, and how many unfortunate air conditioning repairmen had to hear from her that they better not step foot in her yard. How spunky and happy she always was, even as her adopted brother became a grumpy old man. How wonderfully patient she was when, at 14, she became an adopted mama dog to puppy Nala. And how she smiled right up to the end of her good long life. 16 years is a long time for a Lab, yet it flew by in the blink of an eye.
That’s the thing I absolutely, without a doubt, hate about dogs. Their lives are too damn short.
Lucky Dog, thank you for giving us so much for so long. The last time I looked into your living eyes, you smiled at me. Thank you for that gift and so many others. I love you.
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