When To Say Goodbye
I have been an animal lover my entire life. My cat and dogs would climb onto my bed at night, and I would sleep happily surrounded by my best friends.
I was devastated when my first cat died. I was 13, and I spent her final days nursing her, spooning broth into her tired body, not ready to say goodbye. She took her final breath in my arms, and I cried for days.
Now I'm all grown up, and I still love animals, but I have so many other obligations. Our aging dog is having more and more problems, none of which are his fault, but all of which make me wonder if the aging process is supposed to make the caretakers so exhausted that when death finally comes it's a relief. It's hard to not get frustrated with the sudden onset of accidents, cleaning dog pee out of every surface. Ruined shoes, stained carpets. "It's not his fault," I think as I clean up another puddle. "It's not his fault," as I was my son's bedding, again. Finally got him past the stage of wetting his bed, and the dog takes over. He seems confused. He has forgotten all his years of training. He steals food at every opportunity, despite having never done it before.
It is so hard to watch him deteriorate and wonder when the end will come. How the end will come. If being the caretaker for a slowly deteriorating animal will ruin my desire to have pets, ever again.
When is the right time to say goodbye?
When he no longer enjoys a good belly rub.
When he stops wanting to play.
When he's in too much pain to enjoy life.
When he stops eating or drinking.
Now is not that time. No matter how many carpets he stains or how many times a night he needs to go out. No matter how many sandwiches I turn around to find missing.
We will all grow old someday. It's not his fault.
He still enjoys basking in the spring sunshine. He still enjoys a good bone. He may not want to run and fetch, but he's always up for following a good scent trail.
When that day comes, it will be hard to finally say goodbye and let him go. It will be hard to want to open our hearts and home to another animal. But we will.