“Magic Legs”

Last night my husband and I had to put down our dog Rosie.  I’ve known this day has been coming for a long time, ever since the moment we adopted her two years ago when my daughter found her abandoned in a field.  This day has always lurked in the back of my mind and has at times kept me awake at night, filling me with dread at the idea of it.  She was at least 13 when we brought her into our family and she had been badly injured, causing her to struggle when she walked.  Her front left leg was strangely curved, probably the result of being broken and healing badly and she had no feeling in her backside, for her legs seemed as if they had minds of their own, sometimes going in strange directions as she walked. To top that off, she was infested with fleas, about 20 pounds underweight and in rough shape when we brought her home.

I remember the first week we had her and I was doing work in the yard.  Rosie had been staying in the garage for a few days while we cleaned the fleas off her and acclimated her to our other dog.  She was quiet and lethargic that first week, seeming unresponsive to the hugs and kisses we were giving her, turning her head from us and avoiding eye contact.  She seemed depressed, resigned to the fact that she was living in a garage and unwilling to make a connection with any of us.  But that day I was out in the yard, I had opened the garage door and called to her, inviting her out with me; she ignored me and laid on the blanket and went back to sleep.  After a few minutes, however, I heard a panting behind me and when I turned around, Rosie was walking after me and she followed me around the yard all morning long.  Though she struggled and had to lay down after walking just a few feet, she insisted on being near me at all times, a constant theme that played out over the next two years.  That was the moment I fell in love with her and was the moment I knew my time with her was limited.  I vowed then and there that I would make her time with us the best as I could and I wanted her to know what it was like to be loved and part of a family.  She deserved at least that after all she had suffered.

Fast forward two years and it’s the morning after we had to make the painful decision to let her go and I miss her more than I would ever imagine.  She had been having accidents in the house for a couple of weeks; barely noticeable at first, but getting progressively worse.  Finally this week we had to leave her in the kitchen at night, causing her to cry and whine like a baby at the thought of not laying on the floor in our room, next to our bed, which was her sleeping spot.  It killed me to listen to her, but it was necessary, since the last two mornings I had gone downstairs to find her covered with her own urine and huge puddles all over the kitchen.  The vet had given us medicine to try to help her but they weren’t sure what was going on with her.  Kidney infection?  Bladder infection?  Though I dutifully gave her the medication each morning, I knew in the back of my mind it was in vain.  I knew we had to make a decision and I knew we had to do it soon.  I didn’t want her to suffer; this sweet and loving dog did not deserve that.

When I came home from school yesterday afternoon, my daughter was upset since she had stayed home sick and was with Rosie all day.  Ella had tried to let her outside several times and Rosie wouldn’t go.  She hadn’t eaten or had any water all day and seemed lethargic and sick.  When I tried to let her out, calling her name as cheerfully as I could, she ignored me and lay her head down on her paws.  I walked over to her and lay down on the floor with her; she was shaking.  I knew.  A few years ago I was struggling with the decision to put down my cat and I remember running into a teacher at our school who teaches the Animal Management Program.  I told her how sick my cat was but I was struggling with making that final decision.  She asked me point blank if I loved my cat.  I remember staring at her in disbelief and saying, “Of course I love my cat.”  She told me, “Then make that decision for him.  It’s an act of love.”  That conversation was going through my head as I sat with Rosie on the kitchen floor.  I loved her and I was making the decision for her. It was an act of love.

I called the vet, and they told me to bring her in as soon as my husband got home and they would wait for us and stay open since they usually close earlier on Fridays.  The woman on the phone said, “What’s more important?  Your dog or going home?”  Thank you, Clareann.  There are good people out there.

When my husband Kent got home, he could tell from my look that it was time.  We lifted Rosie into the car and I rode in the back with her and talked to her on the ride to the office; she had gotten a little spurt of energy and seemed to be listening to what I was saying.  She was able to walk into the office and they brought her to a room right away.  When the vet came in, a very kind man, he examined Rosie and began rattling off the list of medicines to help with incontinence, to help with infection, etc.  Kent just shook his head “no” and I said quietly and through tears, “I don’t want her to suffer”.  The doctor immediately changed his tone and told me all of these meds would just prolong the inevitable and he told us he just had to put his own dog down on Sunday night.  Then he asked if that was what we wanted to do.  My husband and I both nodded our heads “yes” and I noticed the vet assistant immediately well up with tears.  I remember thinking what a difficult job this would be to deal with this on a daily basis and now I have a newfound respect for vets and their assistants; they are heroes in my eyes.

As they prepped Rosie and gave her the sedative to help her relax, I laid with her on the floor and talked to her.  I told her she would have “magic legs” in heaven (a joke we always made about her, a’la “Lieutenant Dan”) and she would chase all the kitty cats and tennis balls she wanted to (she always got in trouble for chasing our poor cat and loved to steal tennis balls from our other dog, Molly).  I told her how much I loved her and I kissed her head a hundred times as the doctor put the needle in her back leg.  The medicine was quick; she breathed heavily a few times and then fell silent.  The vet allowed us to stay with her for a few minutes and we kissed her a few more times, then said goodbye one last time and quietly left the room.

As we were driving home, a rainbow peeked out through the clouds.  Kent turned to me and told me that was Rosie telling us she was okay.  I know she’s okay.  Now she has “magic legs”.  Rosie, I hope you are running through fields as fast as you can, chasing after kitty cats and tennis balls.  Thank you for being part of our family; know that you are dearly loved and we will miss you more than you’ll ever know.Image