The loss of our dog, a member of our family for 13 years
Earlier this week, I returned home after a trip overseas with my sister. I’d intended to write something about that trip in this blog post. But circumstances have intervened and other things are on my mind.
When I arrived home, my husband met me at the airport with one of our two dogs. My heart sank when I saw our older dog, Cecil, wasn’t with him. I knew what I didn’t want to know. Earlier that day, my husband had to put him down.
Over the past few months, Cecil’s health and pain issues became progressively worse. He’d lost control of his back legs. Pain medication seemed to bring relief at times, but we both suspected he was nearing the end of his life. Severe episodes while I was away let my husband know it was time.
Cecil was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who joined our family in July 2000, when he was 8 months old. The breeder had originally planned to keep and show him, but decided his shoulders were too narrow to show. My daughter was twelve at the time and had been lobbying for a dog since she was two. We claimed we weren’t home enough. It wouldn’t be fair to the dog. When my husband’s career changed and he opened a home-based business, my daughter finally got her wish.
Cecil was a gentle, laid-back dog. As a younger dog, he loved nothing better than sitting on your lap. He liked to be with people. He was intelligent and sometimes stubborn. He liked walks, although walks with Cecil could be a challenge. This otherwise quiet dog barked at all other animals, especially dogs. He barked at dogs on television, even cartoon ones. Watching 101 Dalmations with Cecil in the room was next to impossible.
As he grew old, he stopped sitting on laps. When we had more than a handful of people over, he retreated to a quiet corner. He became frightened of loud noises and fire. But he still barked at anything that moved.
He instinctively knew when you were hurting or ill and stayed by your side. For several years, when he was younger, he went weekly with my husband and daughter to a long-term medical care centre, where he visited patients as part of a pet therapy program. He loved that job. You could see pride and a sense of duty in his face each time they attached his id badge to his collar as they headed out to “work”. The patients loved him.
I didn’t grow up with a dog in the household and wasn’t initially as comfortable with all things dog-related as my husband and daughter. But that changed over time. Cecil became part of the family. It is hard now to imagine the house without him.
Watching your dog suffer is hard. Making a decision about putting a dog down is difficult. When is it kinder to stop the suffering? And even after the decision, there may be lingering doubts. Could we have done something else? I am reluctant to support human euthanasia, yet accept it for pets, albeit with discomfort. Is that hypocritical?
When Cecil was two, we got a second Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Cecil was less than impressed with the small puppy, beanie-baby-sized at the time. He sulked for a couple of weeks. Then the two became friends and looked after each other, letting us know when the other needed something we hadn’t noticed. She has been lost, anxious, and sad over the last few days, mourning her life-long companion, and didn’t eat for two days. She is slowly coming back to life and her regular routine. Like us, she will eventually adjust to life without Cecil.
Cecil, we miss you.