Yesterday we said goodbye to a beloved 13-year member of our family. Our dog, Aravis (appropriately named after a Narnia character), had to be put to sleep. She had suffered for the past year from a few different illnesses but also weakened bone structure. She simply couldn’t move anymore. It was a hard day for the Berry family!
I thought I was going to be stronger than I was. I had even ruled out writing anything about it on here. I dismissed it as “just a dog!” No one gets all up in arms about a dog, do they? For crying out loud! I wasn’t going to (and still won’t) post anything about it on Facebook or Twitter (this post being the exception). Yesterday morning began with me cleaning up a massive pool of her urine because she could not control herself. Doing that at 5 am left me wanting a syringe right then and there so I could end it.
I carried that same stoic countenance to the vet’s office. I was focused, I was driven. “This had to be done,” I reasoned in my mind. Ice in my veins, or so I thought! Then I opened the side door of our van and looked at my 13-year companion looking back at me. She had never left our side once. She was the best dog a family could ask for. Never an accident in the house, even as a puppy (the exception being recently), never a vicious reaction to strangers or guests in our home, never anything destroyed or torn up (even as a puppy). She was simply the best of the best.
But yesterday, she wouldn’t budge from her place in our van. I eventually had to pull her out. My wife told me to carry her but in that moment, I couldn’t. I knew we had to go through with this, but I just wanted to sit down next to my pup and cry. I was reminded, even with a dog, how hard eternal goodbyes are.
The veterinarian staff invited us into a room with a comfy sofa, low light, a candle burning, and a pillow for our dog to rest on. It was nice and they were extremely compassionate and kind. We were grateful for that. I knelt down next to my dog, as she sat on the pillow, wrapped my arms around her neck, nestled my face next to hers, and whispered to her, through tears, “I love you, you’ve been the best dog ever, I’m sorry for any time I ever got frustrated with you, I’m going to miss you.” Then I stood up, wiped tears, patted her on the head, and we walked out. The end.
Later on in the day, I reflected on that moment. The strong emotion had gone and I was able to think clearly. I realized that I said exactly what I needed to, and wanted to, say before the end arrived. I know it was a dog, but that was the first time in my life I had been in a situation where the end was there and I was present to say final words. Wow! What an experience. Even with a family dog.
If I could translate that to family life (again, a bit awkward to derive this from losing a family pet), I would say 2 things:
First, you have no idea what powerful connections exist within your family until the end arrives (yes, even with a family pet!). I was reminded yesterday to cherish every moment, every day, and every second that I have with my family. I blow this nearly every week. There is such a deep-seeded connection within families. Never underestimate that. I rolled up to that vet’s office as if it were business as usual. It wasn’t. It was overwhelming. The love in me overtook the stoic resolve I had come to and spilled over like a tidal.
Second, say what you need to say every chance you have to say it. It wasn’t that I said awful things to my dog or that I say awful things to my wife or kids (I’m not perfect, but I really try not to), but yesterday was a reminder to always speak love. All I wanted to do was let my beloved companion know how much I loved her. I want my children and my wife to know that too, everyday!
That precious mutt did more than just keep us company. She occupied a place in our hearts. And, if nothing else, she reminded me to love my family and pour all I’ve got into them. I’m eternally grateful to her for that. It was still a hard day. But one I learned a lot from.
Question: Had an experience similar to ours? What did you learn? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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