LETTING GO—Saying Goodbye to a Dog
By Robert James Taylor
Several weeks ago I had to make that painful decision, that many of us have to make, one that we dread, and yet a decision we have to face in the name of compassion: putting your beloved dog to sleep. My companion of five years was tragically overcome by a sudden neurological disorder, one that so quickly consumed him. It was the final battle he could not win, and, when the pain and suffering was too much to bear, I could not get the vet here fast enough to end his agony.
This has to be one of the most difficult and devastating moments we, as humans, have to face, sometimes several times in our lifetimes. The final moment when you look into his or her eyes that are imploring you to help them in that cry for mercy. My boy was scarcely seven years old. We found him, abandoned, with bleeding paws, five years ago and it took time for him to learn to trust us, and in time, we enjoyed a remarkable loving kinship. A year ago he lost the use of his left hind leg, but he coped with it, still played with me, and perhaps that is why this divine creature meant so much to me. His short life had been a challenge, but he knew of some blessed Hope, of which I was unaware.
Afterwards, the torrent of raw emotions: the guilt, the denial, the emptiness, even anger as to why he was taken so early, and I knew the grieving process was going to be a painful journey. We grieve so much more, at times, at the loss of an animal, held dear, than we do of friends or relatives. That is because they have such fidelity, and without judgement, their acceptance, their trustworthiness, respect, forgiveness, dependability, love: how does this stack up with humans we know. Man’s best friend has always held a valuable place in our hearts, and as Anatole France once said “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Mark Twain knew the virtues of a dog when he said “Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”
Even though I knew I made the right decision, the act of making it is shrouded with guilt and I still have sleepless nights thinking about the day he left me. I found great solace in the following poem, that should be required reading for all of us who have to experience this most difficult heartache.
IF IT SHOULD BE
If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain does keep me from my sleep
Then you will do what must be done
For this- last battle- can’t be won.
You will be sad I understand
But don’t let grief then stay your hand
For on this day, more than the rest
Your love and friendship must stand the test..
We have had so many happy years
You wouldn’t want me to suffer so
When the time comes, please let me go.
I know that in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me
Although my tail its last has wagged
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don’t grieve that it must now be you
Who has to decide this thing to do
We’ve been so close- we two- these years
Don’t let your heart hold any tears,
“Everyone can master a grief but he that has it.” —Shakespeare