One Sunday, my family had to make the all time most difficult decision we had even made together. We decided to put our ailing dog, Smiley, to sleep. We all knew the time was coming but hoped that she would pass away on her own. I had a whole plan that it would be beautiful for her to pass away on a warm spring day laying out under her favorite tree in the back yard. The warm sun would be on her face and a cool breeze would gently blow her fur.
The reality is that she quit eating regularly this past fall. Just after the new year, she stopped eating almost entirely. After a few days of working incredibly hard to get her to eat, I took her to her vet. He gave her a shot to help boost her appetite in hopes that she would rally. She didn’t and in two days she had almost completely stopped drinking as well. Let me stop here to say that she had no illnesses, bad teeth, etc. She was turning 17 and had never had any health problems. I took her back to our vet. Sadly, there was nothing else he could do. There were no health problems to treat. He had done his best. Still, I was sure that it would be several more days if not a week. On Saturday morning, she ate some food and drank lots of water from a puddle in the yard. She was looking better and moved around the house a little. By lunch though, she had pooped all over herself and hadn’t seemed to notice and then started to throw up. Still, she was in good spirits and seemed to be resting pleasantly. I talked with Ben and each of the kids and we knew that we would have to put her down very soon. We agreed to do it on Tuesday (Monday was Timmy’s birthday).
Emily and Andrew stayed home from church that night to take care of her. Emily was terribly worried that Smiley might poop on herself again and there would be no one here to clean her up. Sunday morning Smiley refused food and drink and didn’t pee when I carried her out. The younger two boys and I stayed home from church to take care of her and keep watch. Emily and Andrew both serve at our Sunday church so they needed to go. Smiley seemed fine when they left but as the morning wore on, she started to have the dry heaves. I talked to Ben when they got home and told him I didn’t think Smiley was going to be able to wait much longer. She had started throwing up bile. At first it was watery but as the early afternoon went on, it was darker and thicker. She was starting to be agitated. She couldn’t leave her head down and she kept looking at me like she wanted something but I didn’t know what it could be. I offered her water, moved her, even took her out to try to potty.
I called a friend around one that I hoped could get me in touch with our vet. She did and a wonderful lady that used to work with our vet was able to come to our home to put Smiley down. Once we had made the decision that we were doing it then, Andrew needed time and went out to dig his beloved dog a perfect resting place. Eventually, Emily went out with him. I watched them from the house until the lady said she was on her way. Then I went out to let the kids know it was almost time.
She was so incredibly patient and kind. She explained everything that she was going to do and what would happen and how long it would all take. Then she told us to let her know when we were ready. We all took a few minutes then asked her to go ahead. Sammy ran up the stairs. I thought maybe he was upset. After a couple of minutes he poked his head back down and asked if Smiley had had her shots. Once she’d had both shots, he came running back down. Then I remembered how much he hates to see needles! After the first shot she rested so peacefully I wished we could just keep her like that. I wished she didn’t have to die. Emily and Andrew were crying and petting her and, after Smiley passed away, the vet didn’t tell the kids she was gone, she just moved aside to let us all sit with our dog. We all petted her and said our goodbyes. The vet told me she was going to go and I walked her out. She was so kind and compassionate.
I went back inside and we all finished our goodbyes. Then Ben wrapped her in the soft blanket she was laying on and went to pick her up. We noticed she had begun to leak bodily fluids so we quickly threw paper towels on it and then Ben asked Emily to get a trash bag. She was horrified. She thought he was going to put her dog in a trash bag. I assured her that he was just putting her lower half into the bag and he was talking to Smiley too, explaining what he was doing.
We all went outside to the grave Emily and Andrew had dug for Smiley and Ben gently placed her inside. We said a prayer and we each took a turn saying how much we loved her and appreciated everything she had done for us through the years. Then it was time to pour the dirt in. That was really hard and Emily and Andrew did a lot of it in the beginning. When they couldn’t do it anymore I took a shovel and started to help. Ben and I helped them finish. Emily made sure not to cover Smiley’s face until she had to. I cried as I watched my daughter bury her very best friend (next to Andrew) and she carefully placed the dirt away from the dog’s face. It broke my heart.
When we had finally finished, we had to place a large wooden pallet over the grave. The kids wanted to plant flowers on in in the spring.
The hardest part for me was yet to come though. I held my children a they mourned, but I wasn’t prepared for my own grief. As night fell and it got colder, I realized that Smiley would have to stay outside alone in the dark and the cold. In all of her years with us, I had never left her out in the cold or all night. She had spent summer nights out in the tent with the kids but never alone. It was horrible for me to think about her out there alone. I worried each night for weeks that an animal would bother her grave. I worried that she would know that we had abandoned her. I know that in reality, she couldn’t feel anything or think but I felt like I was abandoning her. It had always been my job make sure the pets were in before I went to sleep each night and now I had to go to bed knowing that Smiley was out there alone and worse than that, it was cold and she was in the Secret Garden, outside of the protection of the fence.
Smiley was a part of our family for 14 years and had taken very good care of us. She made us feel safe and loved. She taught my children empathy, sympathy, responsibility and how to love someone other than yourself. She gave them courage to do new things and made sure that they never spent too much time playing with video games.