I have one dog tonight.
Tonight I'm going to bed with one dog. But tonight I'm not going to bed with Jordan the same dog I've gone to bed with for the last 15 years. This is incredibly difficult to say. Since 2004 I've had Jordan in my life. I've had him before I knew anything about training dogs. His chocolate coffee eyes captured my heart.
It's so hard to lose one, a dog that you've loved and cherished and learned with for over a decade. He was robust and healthy (until the end). I knew I didn't want him to suffer by pain or worry or stress. I wanted to give him a really good and low stress end to the joyful years he spent with me. I've been sitting with this decision for months and I firmly believe the pre-grief is much worse than what I'm experiencing now. We woke up, shared a bowl of oatmeal and shared treats until my veterinarian arrived. Then came the fresh cooked sausages. We doted on him, let him clean out my treat pouch (a favorite activity). We gave him sausages until the sedation took over. We whispered sweet goodbyes and great thanks for the joyous times. He was absolutely the best boy. We told him how much we love him. I'm certain he knew how much, at least in sausages.
Over the last two weeks he didn't want to be near us much anymore, he spent time circling and staring, fleeting moments of certain Cognitive Canine Dysfunction. Something I tried to hide to my friends and family was the amount of stress on me caring for my elderly dog. Perhaps the only person who understood is my saint of a Veterinarian. Things I felt I needed to control (including other people) I couldn't control, leaving me feeling guilty for leaving him alone. His care was never so complex, but my dedication to him left me with a constant state of worry. A year or so ago he began not sleeping through the night. Sometimes waking me up 5-8 times for bathroom breaks and phantom barking. We began meds for that a few months ago. I understand that he was seeking some need to be met, and it was important to me to protect him.
What my pre-greving didn't prepare me for is this sense of relief I have. Tonight I don't have to manage his medications, or make sure he doesn't get stepped on, or crate and rotate between him and my other dog. My bed feels empty, despite my 90lb chewing shadow monster Beauceron being next to me. My gut feels hollow, empty and guilty that I don't have such a constant worry to keep up with. I feel almost a bit of betrayal for feeling a liberty to be able to step away from that constant connection. If you have an older pet, or perhaps you are caring for an animal with more demanding behavior or medical needs, be sure to connect with your support network, talk with your vet and be open about your feelings. And whatever you do, keep loving your heart out, especially for our old dogs.