Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.
Today my mind is on a different sort of free flying. This isn’t the kind that requires airline miles, boarding passes, security screenings, and seat assignments. This is the kind that allows an old soul to leave a broken and worn out body and once again fly free.
So please, if you are just cruising for the “deal of the day”, feel free to skip this post.
Several months ago I talked about the tough decision we were facing as my beloved old husky suffered some pretty significant mobility impairments right before we were set to leave on a trip. As a 14+ year old medium to large breed dog, she had been in steady decline for a while, but at that point she pretty suddenly stopped being able to easily get up and walk forward. We had a vet come to the house, and I thought the chances of them being able to help her at that time were slim to none. I prepared myself for the worst.
To my surprise, it turns out with some pills and injections she was able to regain some of her mobility, and we went on our trip while the dog (very, very slowly) walked the two blocks over to my parents house where she would stay while we were out of town. After our trip we maintained those twice weekly house calls and injections for several months, and then shortly before my second daughter was born over the summer we decided to stop the shots. For one, we could no longer really afford them with my husband between jobs at the time, but it also was just time to stop medical interventions at that point. She didn’t need to be poked and prodded any more.
During those spring and summer months she no longer was even able to comfortably walk the two blocks to my parents house to be watched while we went out of town. As luck would have it we didn’t go out of town much during those months since we were either expecting a newborn or caring for one, but when we were unavailable someone would have to come to our house every few hours around the clock to let the dog out. Thankfully we had my parents available for that undesirable duty, but if we didn’t, we would have had to hire an in-home pet-sitter for our elderly dog as no other caregiving arrangement would have been feasible.
During those months every week or so I would notice a change in my furry friend. She had long since stopped running, jumping, or going upstairs, but I saw her become slower, more isolated, more tired. Just when I would think it was time she would have a day where she would do a small jump, explore around the yard ears perked with curiosity, and be just enough of who she was to keep on going.
I didn’t want to selfishly keep my friend with me longer than I should, but I didn’t want to prematurely extinguish her light before she was ready. I had to know she was ready. I didn’t want to time such a major and emotional decision around a trip, a new baby, visitors, etc…though given how intense the workload was caring for an elderly inside dog I wouldn’t judge anyone who did make the call for some more pragmatic reasons, but I wanted the decision to be based 100% on her.
So, we kept going. I not-so-secretly hoped she would decide on her own time to go, but she was too tough for that. She had been with me through college, first jobs, big moves, boyfriends, getting married, starting a family, and expanding that family. Her mind and her body may have been failing her, but her spirit was going to hold on as long as possible. Longer than anyone thought possible. She had been a fighter since I adopted her from a shelter many, many years ago, and she would be a fighter until her last day.
Yesterday after feeding the baby around 4AM I went downstairs to let Kayla out as I had for years. As had become typical, I had to say her name many times and nudge her along gently to get her to go out, but she ultimately went without complaint. She never complained. It was a nice cool early morning with the first birds starting to stir, so I decided to let her stay outside while I went back to bed. This wasn’t our normal routine, but the weather was nice, and she was having so many accidents in the house at this point I was happy to hopefully avoid one by having her stay out a couple of extra hours.
After we started our normal day, I saw her laying out in the yard in a way that looked like more of a collapse than a peaceful nap. The thought entered my mind that this was the day. I had some “false starts” before where I made the appointment and canceled, but this was different. She wasn’t actively dying from what I could tell, but she was done living.
I called the vet and said the words in as normal a way as I could muster. They told me that had an opening tomorrow and I said that was no good. We, or I, couldn’t handle a countdown clock. It had to be today, and it was.
They prescribed pills to make her very, very sleepy in advance of the actual appointment. She wasn’t moving much anyway, but we wanted to be sure there was no fear and no struggle. The pills were hand fed mid-afternoon in a McDonalds hamburger courtesy of some added peanut butter spread to make sure they didn’t fall out. She was given some cool water from a bowl to wash it down as she lay in the shade in the grass. She had lost interest in pretty much everything else in the world, except food. Food was still the highlight of her day.
About two hours later the vet and vet tech arrived. The pills had done their job and Kayla lay in the same spot in the shade where she had been since enjoying her hamburger. She didn’t move, didn’t struggle, and hopefully didn’t hurt.
The vet did her thing and then Kayla was free. She was free to again run, leap, play, howl, and prance. Boy could she prance.
As for me, well, I miss my friend. Most of her had been gone for a long time, but I find myself missing her spirit and her presence which had remained until the end. For better or worse the demands of life with a newborn prevent me from being able to really comprehend the order of magnitude of the change and the significance of the conclusion this chapter all at once.
I will notice the change as the downstairs is empty when I finish a 4AM feeding. As the order of dog food I placed online last week (to earn miles) arrives today. I will notice her absence as I go to refill a water bowl that isn’t there. As I sit outside and look at an empty yard. As I hear a noise and it isn’t the dog walking around the house.
We will get another dog. This time it will be one that is there as a companion to my daughters as much, or more, than it is to me. But, it won’t be another Kayla. Kayla was my dog, my companion, my first responsibility.
That same responsibility that allowed me to select her out of the line-up of hundreds at the shelter required me to make the final call yesterday. I hope it was the right one. I think it was the right one. I know it was the right one. But, that doesn’t make it an easy one.
Fly free furry friend, fly free.