Giving the Gift of a Good Death to a Good Friend.

Today I had the honor to stand by the deathbed of a dear and loyal friend.  Today I had the privilege of being with him to ease him out of this life.  And today I also had the responsibility of deciding that it was time for that life to end.
Today we put our dog to sleep. Over 20 years of pet owning, two dogs and eight (at least) cats, and I’ve never had to do this before.  We’ve lost cats, but they’ve had a way of just disappearing.  By the time we realized they were never coming back, we had grown at least somewhat used to their absence.  We’ve never known in advance that today would be the day we would say good-bye forever. Anyone can tell you that I’m no animal lover.  But I loved OUR dog.
Balthazar
We got Balthazar from the pound almost 12 years ago, when he was about eight months old, because Jake begged for a dog.  We named him for the first Sholly to come to the New World.  We thought he was part German Shepherd, part Shiba Inu, maybe part Collie.
It was a good mix, whatever it was.  He was strong and gentle, smart and stubborn, protective and loyal. Once I had him tied up on the porch while some men were cutting trees in his yard.  When they were done I heard them knocking on the side of the house, because he was so threatening that they were afraid to come to the door so I could pay them.  Half an hour later, I heard him whimpering.  I came out to find this vicious beast crying as he patiently allowed our three-year-old to pull on his ears.
He loved to run away so much that we designed an “airlock” on our fence to prevent it, but he always came back.  He loved chicken so deeply that he jumped a three-foot-high baby gate to steal some once. But last night he lay in front of an open door and would not get up to go out.  And this morning he turned his head away from the piece of rotisserie chicken I offered him.
We always said that we never wanted our dogs to suffer, that we would never put them through anything just to keep them alive because we would miss them, that we would let them go when it was time. It was time. They could try to stabilize him, the doctor said.  They could try a transfusion.  But after it was over he told us he was so glad we didn’t try to save him, that we had done the right thing.
Lorelei and William came with me.  John is out of town, Emily was working, Jake was too upset.  They were brave.  We hugged him and petted him, and William patted me.  Lorelei told him he was going to a better place. It was peaceful.  It was easy.  It was quick.  His suffering was over as ours was beginning.  Lorelei sobbed all the way home.
Dogs are naturally good, Lorelei said later.  They must go to some kind of Heaven, maybe not the same one we go to.  I’ve never been one to assert that all dogs go to Heaven, but now I find my theology is uncertain where MY dog is concerned.
RIP Balthazar
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35 thoughts on “Giving the Gift of a Good Death to a Good Friend.

  1. tara1998

    I am so very sorry for your loss.
    My heart goes out to you & Your family. I am a true animal lover from childhood & an animal advocate and rescuer too. I know I will have a lot of company in heaven. My priest tells me our pets will be in heaven & I do believe that. Dog is God spelled backwards. My condolences to all.

  2. Shelley Conway

    I loved this post Leslie, I’m  crying at the airport  waiting for my flight home. That was such a difficult decision to make when it was my sweet Boo Bear’S time, but I knew it was the right one too. So hard to let them go once they’ve  worked their way into our hearts. Hugs
    Shelley Conway Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Tablet

  3. phyllis kramer

    leslie and family – I share your pain, as someone who has had pets and grieved for them. I have no doubt that we will all somehow be reunited. You were a wonderful person to have loved Balthazar so much that you helped ease his suffering at the end. He was so lucky to have had you as his person.

  4. As a fellow dog and cat owner for many many years, I can tell you that loving them that hard always comes with the knowledge that one day that love will be pain…and then an ache for them. But I know for myself I can’t stop myself from loving them every minute that I have with them because I know someday it will end.
    You did the best thing you could, you gave him a good home, and a life where he was showered with love every minute. You gave him a doggie heaven on earth and that is an amazing and beautiful thing.
    I’m so sorry for your loss! I wanna give you the biggest hug because I know how hard it is to say goodbye.

  5. My husband and I don’t own pets at this time because we simply travel too much and it would not be fair. But we love our granddogs and one day I will have a dog again. I know that it is hard to see them go, as it is with any family member or friend. This is a beautiful story about that time when we must let go and sometimes when we have to actually make that decision. Thanks for sharing. It reminds me of the pets I have loved and lots. Feeling very warm and fuzzy just remembering them. Blessings. Visiting you from Theocentric Thursdays.

  6. That must of been really tough! I work with a couple who has a really old dog and they nurse him along with steroid shots and other REALLY expensive medicine and I wonder about the dog’s quality of life. You made the tough decision but it was likely for the best.

  7. Aww Leslie I am so sorry. This is so tough. I have had to say goodbye to my dog before too and it was so sad. But sounds like your dog was very loved and lived a full life❤️

  8. Leslie, I am so sorry. Putting down my own dog was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. You were right to not make him suffer. I know that doesn’t make it any easier. Sending hugs! Michele

  9. Elizabeth

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad you are sharing your memories as it is an important part of grieving. His time with you was such a blessing for both of you. God Bless!

  10. That is a beautiful post and I hope you and your family are finding peace in the fact that you did the right thing. Peace as you go ahead richer for the experience of living with and loving Balthazar.
    Kathleen
    Fridays Blog Booster Party #17

  11. I am so sorry for your loss. Your words and memories are beautiful and what better way to commemorate then what you have done. I hope you and your family find some peace at this time.

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  13. I’m so sorry for your loss. Having suffered the same loss earlier this year, I know how difficult and painful it is. You have made him immortal through your words, thanks, Leslie! I’m so glad that you wrote this!
    Even I have written several posts for Moti, my dog.
    Do read my post for my lovely dog: http://www.expressinglife.in/2014/12/he-was-my-best-friend.html
    Also, my post for this month on #1000Speak: http://www.expressinglife.in/2015/08/the-art-of-listening.html
    Would love to know your views on the same! 🙂

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