life without sadie
on sunday, february 20, 2011, my husband and i put our sweet old beagle to sleep. we were blessed to be able to have our vet come to our house, so sadie passed away in the comfort of her own living room, surrounded by her family: myself, jason, and our other dog, molly.
poor sadie was 14 (give or take a few years; we never knew because she was a rescue) and had lived through a lot of crappy medical issues. in chronological order: chronic urinary tract infections–that had to be managed over the course of her life with expensive prescription food and antibiotics when she got stressed out—she must’ve had at least 40 over her little lifetime; she had a malignant mammary tumor that required two surgeries; she had cataracts; rocky mountain spotted fever; she was basically deaf and blind; she had a stroke that preceded a year of canine dementia, aka pacing all night long and getting stuck under chairs and in cabinets; a malignant melanoma on her eyelid; and old lady bumps that weren’t healing. and—oh yeah—she had been incontinent for about 5 years. most recently, she was going to the bathroom inside right in front of us, meaning we couldn’t walk safely through our house without checking for bombs and puddles. she was taking a very strong opiate paint killer twice a day and she was maxed out on prednisone. in other words, we were out of reasonable interventions.
when she started having trouble lying down, sometimes whimpering in pain or confusion, we decided it was time. as anyone who’s ever contemplated euthanasia will know, this was not a decision we came to easily. for anyone who’s struggling with an older dog, i highly recommend the book good old dog: expert advice for keeping your aging dog happy, healthy, and comfortable, edited by nicholas dodman with lawrence lindner, written with input from faculty of the vet school at tufts university. the advice we got from the book helped us eke out three more months with our little lady.
you don’t always get to choose when, where, and how your dog will go, but we knew things were headed downhill, so we were able to give sadie a great last weekend. lots of chicken–something she normally couldn’t have–pancakes for breakfast, and lots and lots of treats.
the letters that follow are my way of dealing with what has surprised me as a heartbreaking loss. i really thought i was more psychologically prepared, as we had already started to grieve her loss before we made our end of life decision. but as it turns out, all the crying in the world couldn’t save me from even more crying. my eyes have never been so puffy and raw.