I have never had to put a dog down before. I've had to give up a dog, and I've had dogs die while I was away. But I've never had to be there when the life goes out of them. Until yesterday.
Back in college Mom called to say Brandy (our cocker) was at the end. The vet told her it was time but she couldn't bring herself to go in. I told my brother I was on my way home and as soon as got there we'd take him in. Brandy died in Brian's arms before I could complete the 40 minute drive.
In 2009, my dog Kirby went outside and laid down in the yard and refused to get back up. We were away, visiting friends in Seattle and discussing our impending move.
I called my brother and he ran over to the house. He called me later to tell me that he had carried Kirby inside with a blanket and was sitting with him until the vet opened. Later when it was discovered that his spleen had ruptured and he was bleeding into his abdomen, Brian assured me he would be there with him. Brian saw him off. Told him is papa loved him and wanted to be there.
He did that for me.
Since then Brian has put down two Danes of his own. Maya and Logan. Great Danes are called the heartbreak breed because they only live to be around 9 years old.
Kingston made it to eight. His back quarter was weak and he had trouble standing. He had lost control of his bowel. Chronic IBS gave him flare ups that made him not want to eat and he was rail thin. He was wasting away. Despite his mind being happy, his body was failing him. So we decided it was time and had the vet come out. We all gathered around him in the living room (not some unfamiliar cold vet's office) and we laid with him and kissed his head and told him to go run. I heard his last breaths. I felt him let go.
I can't believe that my brother did this for me twice. That he did so without complaint, apologizing to ME both times. I can't believe he was more concerned about my broken heart than his own.
Kingston wasn't my dog. I loved him but my attachment wasn't a quarter of Brian, Regean or Miranda's. And yesterday shattered me.
He was the most sweet, gentle creature. He hardly ever barked and when he did all he could muster was a soft chirp. He watched his little girl like a hawk ever since she came into the house. He would pace and nudge us when she was cried as a baby. He sat next to her swing as she rocked, and even when his legs refused to carry him properly, he followed her around a campsite, never letting her get far out of sight.
Don't be sad for us though. The math works out. The joy and companionship that dog gave us is so much greater than the short grief we must work through now. It's more than worth it. Every time.
Dogs. Jesus. They give us everything and the one duty we have, the only real thing we owe them beyond our love and caring, is to see them off in the end.
But good grief is it hard.