Anyone who has ever owned a pet and has had to say goodbye to them knows what it feels like to think about never getting to experience their love or make anymore memories with them. Having had so many animals over the years, it’s easy to recall the emotions from the many times my family and I have had to hold a beloved pet in their final moments. Individual emotions are hard to describe and incomparable to any other experience.
You can find many articles that will tell you how to cope with the loss of your pet or making the decision to end their suffering but nothing will really prepare you for the moment it happens. The first family pet that we lost was our Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Max. I may have mentioned his story before but he was the first “child” for my parents and they got him a little while after they got married. According to my mom, he was the “clearance dog” since he was the runt of his litter, lacked a tail, and had abnormally long fur. But he was a typical puppy and we have pictures of him holding onto the leg of my dad’s pants as he walked around the house.
He did have a lot of health issues though, including allergies, back, and neck problems, and on more than one occasion he ended up at emergency or specialty vets all throughout Southern California. As a result, we got to know our regular vet quite well and she has even treated our other non-dog/cat animals including the class rat and Eva, my hamster. Well, around late-2005 to mid-2006, we noticed a lump beginning to grow on one of his back legs. Max was taken to the vet and after x-rays and several tests, it was confirmed that he had a form of malignant bone cancer.
We were presented with various options with the most ideal being a $2,000 amputation surgery that could potentially extend and improve his life or euthanasia. Eventually, they decided to go with the surgery and the procedure was undertaken within a few weeks (an exact timeline is unknown as most of the details are based on memories). Despite the success of the surgery, his quality of life only marginally improved despite our best efforts to help him. I remember that even though I was only 7 or 8 years old, every morning I would help to mix his wet food with water before pouring it into his bowl set atop an IKEA stool.
Gradually his condition worsened and eventually it was discovered that the cancer had returned and spread to the fluid around his lungs. My parents decided it would be best to end his suffering and we said goodbye on his last good night November 28, 2006. The next morning, November 29, 2006 my mom took him to our family vet to be euthanized.
We had Max cremated and his ashes were placed into a small wooden box with his nickname and date of birth and death engraved on the small metal plate. We couldn’t bear to bury him in the backyard so his ashes remain next to his worn blue collar and several pictures of him as both a puppy and adult. Now he watches over the house from his spot on the shelf, reminding us everyday that life’s just not the same without him running around, chasing his invisible tail.