What Happens When a Pet Dies?

Last night our world was shattered as we watched you take your last breath. I hugged your dad and felt him hugging me. I could feel that he needed to be hugged. It’s not a feeling I often feel. You hug someone and you enjoy the comfort of their arms wrapped around you, allowing you to feel safe, protected, and loved; but you don’t often feel that they also need that hug. He cried last night, it’s probably only the third time I’ve seen him cry in our 12 years together. He loved you. We all did. He called you his little puppy and asked you not to die on his birthday, which was just the day before. So loyal to the end, you even waited til the next day.

I could tell you were having a bad day towards the afternoon. There were times during the last few weeks where we would physically have to help you get up, as your back legs weakened. Then there were several days in a row where you would get around on your own just fine, wagging your tail, as happy as ever.

We took you to the vet a few weeks ago. You hadn’t really eaten in a couple days and I was scared you were dying. Your stomach seemed upset and we figured it was the new vitamins we started you on for your arthritis. You ate a little the day we took you to the vet, but decided to still go anyway. They gave you some medicine for your upset stomach and the veterinarian said she felt a mass while palpating your abdomen. She wasn’t sure of the exact location and said it would require more testing. The testing would have been unpleasant and with your advanced age, there was no sense in putting you through that. We wanted you to live out the rest of your days the way you always have, with the people you love, feeling as best as you could.

I am glad we had some time to prepare. I was already sad about the days where you seemed lethargic and didn’t come get me at dinner time to feed you. Or how you usually come over to wherever I am a bunch of times, just so I can pet you.

You were the best dog. You never barked, and greeted anyone who came over. You have such a big heart. From day one, you let your sister climb all over you. She loved you too. She would greet you every morning and made sure we didn’t pass by without saying hello or goodbye to you, even if we wouldn’t be gone that long.

She would run to my room and say excitedly: “Mom, Strobehn’s in his new bed!” That new bed wasn’t cheap, but you rarely laid in it. You preferred the comfort of your old pillow, even though it wasn’t as padded, you loved it. Whenever you laid in your bed, I would get so excited and snap a photo. You laid in that bed the last two days, almost as if to let me know you were thankful for the love we have shown you. Trying to give us joy until the end.

You followed me everywhere, daddy called you my shadow. Even when your arthritis got bad and we tried to keep you from coming up the stairs, you would knock over the barrier, because you needed to be with your people. The morning you passed you even laid outside my shower door, wanting to be as close as you could. I couldn’t even get you to move when it was time to come out. Your hearing had gotten bad towards the end. I tried to nudge you with the door, but you still didn’t budge. I had to call daddy up to get you to move. I knew you loved me.

Later that afternoon while your sister and daddy went to the park, I laid with you on the floor. We talked and I told you it was okay to go. That we would be okay, I didn’t want you to be in pain anymore. That you lived a good long life and gave us so much joy. I told you I loved you.

A little while later, you would get up and move spots. You did this several times, even though it was physically difficult. You would be short of breath and your legs would give out, but you kept moving. I had always heard about dogs knowing when it’s their time to go, that they sort of look for a place to die. Is that what you were doing?

Your final resting place was upstairs in our room. Watching you die was the hardest experience. I saw your legs flicker and went over to you, I saw your tongue touching the ground and wondered if you had a stroke. Your breathing was slow and deep. I called your daddy up and we hugged and cried as you took your last breaths. It’s not often your daddy needs something, but he needed to be able to comfort me and be comforted at the same time. You were such a good boy.

Your sister saw us crying. I don’t think she truly understands death or that we will never see you again. She asked if you would be dead forever. She instinctually put out both her arms as she saw me crying so that she could hug me as long as I needed. She is such a good sister. She would argue with her friends that you were her brother, despite the fact you were not human. You were the best brother.

Daddy had to call to have your body picked up, they didn’t even offer their condolences. Don’t they realize that losing you has caused so much heartache? We had to wrap you up and carry you downstairs to be kept in a cool place. I hated that you had to be kept in the garage. It felt cruel even though you were no longer alive. You deserved better than that.

This morning I got up after a night of not sleeping and having a severe headache. I saw your empty water bowl and broke into tears. There was no need to fill it up anymore. I had to go into the garage to get my lunch and I saw your lifeless body wrapped in a sheet and cried again.

I’ll never be able to pet you again. I won’t be able to kiss your head, scratch your ears, or dry you off when you come in out of the rain. I won’t be greeted by you when I come home from work, or know when it’s 5pm because you’ve come put your head on my lap, letting me know it’s dinner time.

I wish I could tell you how much joy you brought to our family. I hope you knew how loved you were. There will never be a dog as wonderful as you. You were the perfect family dog. You made friends with everyone. Your sister and I used to joke about this woman in the neighborhood who would walk around our cul de sac every day on her evening walk. We would be outside enjoying the outdoors and whenever she walked by you would go over to her so she could pet you. When we would see her coming we would say, “Strobehn, your friend is here.”

You had such a gentle personality, it’s funny to think anyone could be afraid of you because of your size and color. Your eyes revealed your gentle spirit. I’m going to miss scratching your belly and having you put your paw on my arm because you didn’t want me to stop.

Sometimes I think I hear the sound of you plopping on the ground, but I know it can’t be you. How I wish it were. I am glad you didn’t have to suffer long and went quickly. I hope it wasn’t painful. I am thankful that we could be with you for your final moments. You weren’t alone. You gave us a lifetime full of joy and I am so thankful that you don’t have to experience the pain of losing your loved ones. I hope you have a big bed in heaven. Probably just like the one I got you. I imagine you laying in it every night just so I know how much you appreciated it.

Despite all these words I’ve written, I still can’t find the ones to tell you goodbye… It’s not goodbye. You are alive in our hearts and our minds, and that’s where you will always live. As silly as all the pictures I would make you take are, I am so glad we have them. We love you Strobey, you will always be our precious boy.

Your sister is so pure. She said she asked God for mommy and daddy to not be sad anymore. My whole heart.

Categories: Living

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