How do You Say Farewell to a Great Friend?

I watch him shuffle around the house and push back the sadness.  He doesn’t have much time.  There’s nothing left to do.  Simon’s 13 years-old and in constant pain.  His back legs are bent and twisted.  He’s almost blind and deaf.  Still, I look at this dog and hate what I have to do.

My son Patrick helps me bring him to the vet.  In the old days Simon could jump into the back of my SUV.  He loved coming along when I dropped the kids off at school.  Now he needs to be lifted onto the back seat.

My sons were 14 and 11 when this dog came into our lives.  Simon taught them love, patience and kindness.  He also taught them bravery.  He approached each person who came into our home without hesitation, determining if they were friend or foe. I grew to trust his judgment.

Today we arrive at the vet.  Patrick lets Simon walk around outside on the grass a few moments.  I tell myself the dog doesn’t know what’s happening.  We do, but he doesn’t.  He thinks he’s enjoying the sun and sweet air on a late July afternoon.

We bring him inside and the vet and his assistant are ready.  It’s the end of the day and the office is quiet.

In the examining room, Patrick and I sit on the floor with Simon.  He’s given a tranquilizer.  We pat him and tell him we love him.  We tell him what a great dog he’s been.  Gradually we feel him relax.  He pants softly.  If he realizes what’s happening, he seems quiet and accepting.

I watch this dog and think how there’s been too much death lately. My Dad passed away only weeks before.  And although an animal’s demise is different than a beloved parent’s, it’s still a loss.

Simon was my friend. From the first day I adopted him, he followed me everywhere in the house.  He’d lie in our dining room, one eye always trained on me as I puttered around the kitchen.

He loved his treats and 4:00 p.m. dinner hour.  He loved our cat Rocky who he’d touch noses with each day in greeting.  He loved to run.  He loved our family.  He loved walking outside on a cold Connecticut morning, sniffing the air.  He loved barking at deer always tantalizingly out of reach.

Before the doctor gives the final injection Simon looks at me and I swear gives a smile.  Its like he’s saying its okay. I think of the first time we gazed at each other.  He was 3 years old and stood in a cage at the pound. He was one of the quirkier mutts in the line-up — coarse fur, short legs, odd markings.  But there was something in those eyes.  I saw sweetness.

After the shot Simon’s eyes begin to close.  I tell myself I gave him ten good years.  He was one of the lucky ones.  Patrick and I continue to pat him, both sniffling. I always loved Simon’s velvety ears and can’t believe this is my last time touching them.

Minutes pass and the dog grows still.  The vet listens for a heartbeat, looks at us, and shakes his head.

Even though he’s an animal, everyone grows hushed at the sight of death.  How can something be alive one moment and gone the next?  The vet’s assistant asks if we want his cremation remains and we say no. That’s not how I want to remember Simon. We stay a few more minutes and then drive home.

A week’s passed since that afternoon, but I still find myself listening for Simon’s steps, ready to throw him a treat or give him dinner at 4:00 p.m.   I saw a deer in our yard this morning and thought of him.  I still expect to see him coming toward me when I open the door, all smiles and body wiggling from excitement.

I want to believe somewhere he and my Dad are together.  They always liked each other.  Maybe they take walks by the ocean or in a meadow. “Good boy,” my father says, giving Simon a pat.   “I’ll take care of you now.”

Simon wags his tail and smiles.

 

Do have a beloved pet you lost recently?  Comments are always welcome and if you like, please share.  Thank you.

34 Comments

  1. So sad. I've always said that a dog/cat has a way to let you know when it's time. And I believe they get to go to heaven too. Why wouldn't they? So for sure be comforted knowing your dad is enjoying Simon's company.

  2. It sounds like Simon had the best family and life. Taking a pet, a part of the family, in to the vet for a visit like that is the hardest thing to do. You write about it beautifully.

  3. Heartbreaking! I’m so sorry for your losses. The utter devotion dogs show us is unique to their species I think and to lose them is agony. We have a little nearly 15-year-old ‘puppy’ and I’m already dreading that inevitable day when she is no longer with us. It’s so sad to watch them struggle as age slows them down. Here’s to the beautiful memories Simon gave you, and to your Dad who shared your love of him.

    • Laurie Stone

      Thank you, Tamuria. I love the idea of your 15 year old “puppy.” Dogs seem to stay young forever till the very end.

    • Laurie Stone

      Thanks so much, Rica. Its been a year since Simon has died, but still miss him so much. They leave their mark.

  4. My daughter said a beautiful thing to me when I woke to the day we’d have to put our fourteen-year-old dog down. I was on the phone, weeping, “I don’t think I can,” and in a voice like I have used myself with her, she said, “She loved us, and now she needs you to love her by helping her go. So you have to do that.”

    It was wrenching, but I felt I was setting her free, as you did for Simon. XO

    • Laurie Stone

      Wow, what a wise daughter, Susan. That’s how I felt with Simon. It was his time. We knew it and he did too. Thank you for reading.

  5. So sorry for your loss. I’ve never had a dog but I know from my friends that they are definitely like a family member so I’m sure it is so difficult to lose a pet. Sending healing hugs as you take time to grieve.

    • Laurie Stone

      Thanks so much, Judy. Simon was a special member of the family. If you’re ever on the fence, I’d highly recommend a dog.

  6. Dear Laurie, I am so very sorry for the loss of your Simon. I believe that first time coming home and not having them greet you at the door is one of the hardest “firsts” in a whole list of firsts without them. Today is the six week anniversary of our saying goodbye to our beloved Micah. I still can’t seem to catch my breath. He was my ESA without the vest.

    Thank you for asking about our loved ones. Again, I am so sorry for your loss. Be gentle and kind to you.

  7. Laurie,
    Oh I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you were going through this. My heart is with you and your family. Simon knows he was well loved by you all.

  8. Bridget Harrington

    I cried reading this. I lost a cat this past winter. He was a year and a half old and had a heart murmur. What I didn’t know was that he had a congenital defect common to cats (my vet did a necropsy). He passed in his sleep, but that didn’t make it easier. I rest easy knowing that I gave him The Life. I have another cat that mothered him. He slept with us in the bed, had tons of treats, a sunlit house to roam and play in, and more love than a heaven full of angels. Far cry from the dirty, cold garage that he was born in. Sometimes, the most compassionate thing we can do for our pets is exactly what you did.

    • Laurie Stone

      So true, Bridget. As hard as it is, letting a pet suffer is worse than the inevitable. Sounds like you give your animals a wonderful, loving, fun home. What creature could want more than that? Thanks for reading.

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