It's been a week since we put our dog Sasha to sleep. After almost 15 years together it is hard at times to remember she isn't here. One morning during her morning chores Caitlyn yelled that we needed to get Sasha some more dog food, and it took a couple of tries to remind her that we didn't have a Sasha anymore. Elijah went in the garage and emerged with two treats, saying one was for "Ze-Zeke" and one for "Satcha." When he remembers he looks sadly at me and says sadly, "Die." For me it happens at times when I feel the need to take care of her - hearing footsteps and thinking she needs to go out, clearing the toys from the floor so she'll have a clear path, seeing the cream cheese in which we hid her medicine, or thinking I need to put her on the deck if we're going out for a while. Letting go was hard, and I imagine it's an ongoing process.
The actual decision to put her to sleep was difficult. For a couple of years I had been saying that she would die at any time, then she would pull through. At Christmas we took her on our whirlwind trip since she needed such constant care. The trip was stressful for her, and we did not think she would make it. But when we came back home she pranced around the yard and perked up. Every time my heart would tell me that it was time, something would happen to convince me otherwise.
Of course I knew she was past her prime. She no longer did tricks, unless you count trying to catch popcorn in her mouth. Rather than "speaking" and "whispering" on command she would only whimper in the direst of circumstances. Her hearing and vision had been fading, and she spent most of her days sleeping. But the finality of the decision weighed heavily on my soul. You see, I fervently believe in the hope of heaven, but I am not all together convinced that "all dogs go to heaven." I do know that God's eye is on the sparrow, and if animals do have an afterlife then Sasha is a shoe-in for a good one.
In order to minimize my sadness after Sasha's death I took care of destroying her medicene the night before and combining her dog food with Ezekiel's. I made sure we completed Caitlyn's math assignment graphing pets the day before so we wouldn't have to deal with that. But wouldn't you know it, one of her reading sentences the next day was, "I hope my pet lives a long time." The night before the appointment I slept upstairs to be available any time she woke up and needed anything. At 3 am I cooked her a chicken breast for a last meal. When I dropped the kids off at my friend's house they said goodbye to Sasha, and my intuitive daughter voiced the thoughts hidden in my heart. She gave Sasha one last hug and asked, "Don't you wish they could fix Sasha and make her one year old again?" I choked out the reply, "Yes baby, that's exactly what I wish."
I held it together fairly well at the vet, taking Sasha for one last walk around to sniff the grass and only falling into sobs when we first arrived and when I was leaving. I knew that a sense of calm was the final gift I could give the sweet dog who had seen me through so many tough times in my own life. Sasha miraculously allowed them to insert the catheter that would deliver the drugs to her system, and I was able to hold her snuggled in my lap on the floor as she gently passed into peaceful slumber. In the end it was as it began, the two of us alone against the world, embracing against whatever life threw our way.