Last night we said farewell to one of our beloved pets. Sidney joined us in the winter of 2001. I went into PetSmart one day to buy cat litter and came out with a dog. She was six years old at the time, and her owner had recently died. I knew in one instant that she wasn’t your average rescue dog, and that a creature that sweet did not belong in the shelter.
Sid was a true mutt. The best guess is that she was half husky, half Australian shepherd, or maybe border collie. She was always great with the kids, though the cat did not necessarily appreciate Sid’s herding instincts! As far as dogs go, Sid has to be the easiest I’ve had the pleasure of including in my family.
Over the last few months, Sidney had really slowed down and gotten a lot stiffer in the legs. The vet had assured us it was just old age (fifteen is impressive for a dog her size). We kept her warm and comfortable, but began preparing ourselves and our kids for the inevitable end. That’s the problem with dogs…sooner or later they will break your heart. At least with Sid it was later.
Yesterday while I was making breakfast she tripped over her own feet and fell. She screamed, and the sound she made was unlike anything I had ever heard from a dog. It was awful. She could not get back up. I knew right away that it was bad, and I called Hubby on his way into work to have him come home. We took her to the vet, and he said there didn’t appear to be anything catastrophically wrong with her. Her heart and lungs were fine, there was no sign of stroke, and her muscle tone was good. He pointed out that she was “a 57 Chevy with 400,00 miles on it” and gave her a shot of vitamins and hormones to give her a boost. He sent us back home with some beef flavored pain pills, and he assured us that she would be fine, and we knew that though he meant well, he was wrong.
Last night when she appeared to be in more pain and was still unable to stand, we took her to a local animal hospital. The doctor there examined poor Sidney, and then explained that he thought she had a type of cancerous tumor in her leg bone that had caused the leg to break, but that a quick X-ray would confirm. I didn’t need a medical degree to read the X-ray–the two fractures were clear, as was the fact that the bone was seriously deteriorated. The cancer was quite advanced. We talked about treatment, which would involve amputating the leg, but her other rear leg was not strong enough to hold her. She would never walk again. Also, it was highly likely that the cancer had spread to other parts of her body, so the amputation was just the beginning. The doctor suggested gently that given her age, it was reasonable for us to decide against treatment. I am very grateful for how kind and honest he was.
We decided that the kindest thing to do was to let her go. After a decade of loyalty and love, she deserved to be with her family in her final moments rather than scared and alone with strangers, so we stayed with her until the end. I snuck her a handful of treats when they brought her in to us (might as well go happy), and my Hubby kissed her on the head. I held her until the end, telling her over and over that she was a good dog and that I loved her.
The kids did not come to the hospital with us, and they took the news very hard. There was a lot of good, healthy crying all around. We stayed up a little late with them going through old pictures of Sid and talking about our happiest memories of her.
I don’t know if there’s another dog in our immediate future, though the kids are already asking. We still have a young, energetic lab who is more than a handful by herself, as well as a cat and two aquariums. Someday, though, there will be another dog, because as painful as saying goodbye is, it’s worth the many years of companionship that precede it. Sidney was a pleasure to live with, and I would rather miss her now than have never known the goodness of life shared with her.