Disclaimer, this is kind of long! However I have come to the conclusion after listening to a fellow author, that I need to just state that I am writing for me. It is my therapy. If someone reads it great, if no one does great, If someone relates to me great, if they critique the heck out of me great. It is first and foremost for me. If you continue on enjoy and I hope that if you relate in some way it helps you get through something in your life. As woman we tend to feel we have to portray this persona where we have it all put together, we can carry the weight of the world on our shoulders not only for us but everyone else and look good doing it! Girlfriend, I am here to tell you we all have a lot of the same struggles and insecurities and a little support from our equally hot mess friends can go a long way! Our life didn’t come with an instruction manual so get out there and be you. Share your experiences and put others minds at ease with what self-talk is going on in their head.
I have been struggling for the last 3 weeks on whether our almost 13 year old dog Chopper should be put to sleep at the Vet. He was diagnosed with cancer over 3 years ago now. I lost a golden retriever to cancer when I was growing up and so I never really thought our Chopper would live for 3 years. I knew someday would be the day or the time that we would have to make these decisions but never really knew when. This is the dog Steve and I got the year after we were married, our first official "being" that we were responsible for together in our adult lives. It was something that had many emotions attached to it. Chopper was a trooper! He had been through a lot of stuff! He has always been a happy dog! No matter what he seemed to always look at you with a smile on his face. Even when you scolded him, when he ate our leather couch after a Superbowl party one time - I swear someone spilled something on it, Steve begged to differ and just said he was bored. At any rate, he got in trouble and was still happy. The time Steve went out of town for a weekend, Paxton was probably only 1-2 years old. There was one of his stuffed animals on mine and Steve’s bed and Chopper picked it up and started playing with it. This didn't sit with Tracker so well and he attacked him. Long story short he actually bit off part of his ear. I doctored it up, but I will tell you if the people who bought our house ever looked with a black light at the walls in our hallway... not sure what they would think, I scrubbed walls for 2 days. Still missing a piece of ear to me equals pain... result happy looking dog! We moved into our new home over 4 years ago and were not here too long when the horse Jasper we inherited with the house was not all to happy when our herding Catahoula nipped at his heels and decided kicking would show him. Oh yes poor Chopper' s side was skinned wide open. I bandaged and doctored that thing for weeks... never once did he seem like he was hurting... happy dog. About the time the thing totally healed (and for those of you who ever incur a pet injury of this magnitude, organic raw honey and melaluca (tea tree oil) works wonders bandaged with an ace bandage to keep the dirt out)- his scar was barely noticeable. To our detriment, Steve shut one of the fence gates not realizing Chopper was coming out with him and skinned open his side again... yep, same side different location! I couldn't make his stuff up. No problem, happy dog! Looking back on it I wish that I was able to handle pain and life as carefree and lackadaisical as this dog! How unfair.
Even the last 3 weeks of his life where he had his up and down days- the awful day where he slid around the tile and fell on his face a few time, I was near ready to take him to the Vet and Steve and Paxton begged me not to. We had our difference in opinion on whether we were killing the dog or we were doing what God entrusted us to do which is have dominion over the decisions of our animals. I clearly saw he was in pain and the boys clearly saw he was still eating, getting up on his own (most of the time) and hanging in the kitchen for treats. Even the day he died he walked around our whole yard, laid down by the horses for a bit, sat next to the chicken coop, even messed with the tortoise through the fence a little. Even though he slept most of the day, often need help getting up and when he couldn't on his own and we weren't around unable to control going to the bathroom just wherever he was lying. He became super skinny, completely picky on what he ate and sometimes laid in the same spot for hours upon hours. Still having the happy smile on his face, begging for treats as he always did at the pantry door. It was so hard to decide if I was making the right decision based off of what I thought of his pain level and whether or not his quality of life was worth ending or if he still had some life in him.
We went back and forth as a family on what to do this was the hardest decision I had to make as an adult caregiver in my whole life. How do you decide to end a pet’s life? Rewind a few years, we did have to make the decision to have a horse put to sleep- it was Paxton's amazing horse Lady, and she had Colic all night and by the time we discovered her in the morning it was too late, she had rolled all night with that upset stomach. For those of you who are not familiar with horses, they don't lie down for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, their stomach are too long and big, they don’t sit right for their size and things get bunched up inside. When they lay and roll they end up twisting their stomach and it doesn't bounce back to its normal shape. Horses actually sleep standing up. We couldn't get her to get up or stay up and the Vet who came out highly suggested we put her down because she was at the point of no return to health, but who knows how a long painful death that you could clearly see, this was an emergency situation and the best decision we all felt for her. It is hard to ignore 1000 lb helpless animal lying in the middle of my yard.
With Chopper and his ups and downs in a few weeks’ time, I confess I prayed every night over him when I went to bed that he just wouldn’t be awake when I woke up! Morbid sounding I am sure, however I truly felt that I somehow wanted to communicate to him that although he didn’t act like he was suffering because he always seemed like a happy dog, that we loved him and he had given our family everything it needed in the long season he was here and it was ok to move on to a better place and be free. He didn’t ever look too sad or sick. Maybe that was his way of protecting us from any deep hurt of seeing him struggle more than he was letting on. I want to say I will never know if I made the right decision hanging onto him for those last 3 weeks before he died which I thought seemed peacefully on his own, in our home. But I am glad that my boys talked me out of the decision to end Chopper’s life sooner than he did. I wanted to fix it, I wanted him to be free, I wanted him to struggle no more. The few weeks he was here made us appreciate him more and what he has contributed to our lives. My son says he was the glue of the family. He made everyone happy; he comforted him when he was sad. I remember when my mom died he laid in the room she was in every day for weeks.
I think pets do go to Heaven, especially ones like Chopper, who love unconditionally, embrace their environment and never let anything including pain and struggles wipe the smile from their face. They were born to live this life, to be a friend, a companion, a listener, they don’t argue with us, they are a pick me up when we are down and here to celebrate with us when we are happy! As a friend told me “dogs are sent here to show us the love of Jesus, they forgive and wipe the slate clean never looking back, and they listen and are there in times of despair and in time of rejoicing. They don’t live long because they are pure and don’t need to learn the lessons that we as broken humans do”… thanks Katie.
I am not sure everyone thinks pets go to Heaven, in fact some theologian’s will argue they do not, but I believe that whether they do or do not it is a good form of practice to just believe that they do. It gives us a sense of encouragement that they’re here while they need to be and we will see them again in the future. Friends can come and go, relationships can change, and people can be in your life for short periods of time. Today I am forever grateful for Chopper. I am grateful for his undeniable happiness in this life, for his demeanor which could turn the crappiest of days into a lighter moment just by his dopy smile. Happy Dog he was and I truly believe he has helped form the person I have become in his happy dog way.
If you are struggling with the decision with having your pet put to sleep I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. I think it is individual decision and what is right for your family and your pet’s situation. Be strong and go forward as you need, not second guessing or regretting what you choose. God gave us dominion over animals in Genesis 1. I believe this includes making the right decisions for their care.
Rest in Peace my dear Chopper… I look forward to playing tug of war with you again someday.