Tuesday, July 12, 2011
My dog Toby passed away last week at the age of 15 years and 5 months.
He became violently ill at 5:30 a.m., awakening us. That was followed by an hour of taking care of him and then a 30-mile drive to the only emergency clinic open to see if anything could be done.
I knew in my heart there could not be but one doesn’t love an animal for 15 years and then not do what they can to save them.
He had surgery to remove skin growths two days before but had been fine since then.
The vet on call was not sure what was going on but mentioned internal bleeding and talked about cancer or a stroke. He laid out his recommended treatment options and left the room for us to decide.
His options left a tiny little window of hope to me that I desperately wanted to grab but looking into my husband’s eyes with tears streaming down my face, I knew there really was no hope.
We had spent the past three hours listening to and comforting a dog in severe pain.
But Toby is my heart. I have told him that often over the years.
He was “my dog” and I was “his mom,” and anyone who has ever had the honor of having a dog choose them as their human, the one they will love unconditionally and follow anywhere, knows it is a special relationship.
Toby stayed in Aiken when I moved here. At his age, I was afraid the move would be detrimental to his health. But we still had our weekends together.
Toby was a rescue like our other dogs.
We convinced someone to sell him to us because we couldn’t stand to see a little puppy chained in the backyard in all weather conditions.
He was the only dog we ever had that was a pure breed. They often have a lot of health problems bred in and he was no exception. He was deaf, and almost blind. He had epilepsy since birth, and a thyroid condition developed in old age.
But he was a fighter. He was the smallest of our four dogs but he made it clear to the others that he was the dominant one.
He truly would scrap to the death rather than let one of them win. Luckily, they just bowed and let him take his place at the head of the pack.
Toby had taken up swimming in the pool this year for the first time in his 15 years. I think he fell in enough that he decided he liked it and he took to swimming occasionally when it was hot.
But most of all we had Toby time. He followed me from room to room and when I would sit he would come to me and I would look into his eyes and pet him and talk to him.
I’m not sure if he could hear me but he heard the message.
He was special and his mom loved him more than anything.
If he took a nap and woke and I had left the room, he frantically ran from room to room looking for me, until I was found and in his sight once more.
Standing in the emergency clinic in the early morning hours of Saturday, the tears flowed as I contemplated life without Toby.
Anyone who has lost a pet knows that it is heartbreaking. Time will heal that pain, but it will be a while before that happens.
But Toby did the only thing he could do to ease my burden that day. As we stood there, I looked into his eyes and cried and talked to him as we tried to decide what to do, and then he took a deep breath and simply passed away.
He took the decision out of our hands and made it for us. It was his final loving gesture to a family who had loved him as part of them for so long.
And in the end, what more can any of us hope for but to have been loved unconditionally, and to pass peacefully from this life to the next surrounded and comforted by those who loved us most?