Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Bed Empty and Full

This morning at 4:30 A.M., all five of us crawled into the big kingsize bed and stared sightlessly into the depths of the darkness. We shifted, and cuddled, and sniffled, and wept. We had just returned from putting down our beloved 14-year-old Ridgeback, Chewie, who earlier had started seizing uncontrollably. 

Chewie, the world's most tolerant dog, on S's birthday

We knew that Chewie's time was coming, as she was extremely old for her breed and had suffered from arthritis with increasing discomfort. But when she suddenly became wracked with tremors and afterward started pacing the floors without pause, it came as an unwelcomed, if not unexpected, shock. And when she fought her second seizure two hours later, we knew what our only option was.

At 2:30 we roused the kids, loaded everyone into the car amidst sounds of anguish, and solemnly made our way to the emergency vet's office. The kids were remarkably strong while being remarkably sad. They said their goodbyes but chose not to be present during the euthanasia. Chewie looked serene and calm, as if she was thankful for our bringing her to this place where relief was imminent. H remarked that her face was so peaceful that "it's almost like she knows." I believe that she did and that she was grateful.

S said, "If she's ready, then I'm ready." The children moved to the waiting room, and Chewie looked at us with one last gaze of final peace, and immediately began seizing with her third and mercifully last episode.

We knew we had made the right decision.

Chewie with G on S's birthday

We could have left the children at home and they never would have known that we'd left. We could have opted to wait until the morning to tell them of their beloved dog's death. But we chose to make the only choice for us ... to have our family face our difficulties together. As G says, "it was better to be able to say goodbye than to have her taken away when our backs were turned." To me, that would have been untrustworthy. We had only one choice: to treat our children with respect and allow them to grieve along with us.

The kids have never known a life without Chewie or our other dogs and cat. We inherited her, after she had been shuffled among three previous families, and she bonded to us with ferocity. Just after she joined our family, we found out we were pregnant with G. Life would never again be the same ... not then, and not now.

So this early, dark morning, we clung to each other, not sleeping, not talking. Crying softly (and petting the cat as she purred in our faces). Our bed was full with people, a cat, and many memories. But empty in our guts, missing our beautiful Chewie.


  1. Grief is hard hard hard. Specially for kids. Specially with something like euthnasia. Have you read them "Fall of Freddie the Leaf?" Lovely book about the cycle of life (explaining death without using God, if that's something you'd like). With time, you'll all feel less sad, and start to focus more on the fun memories.

  2. Oh, I am so so sorry. How sad for all of you.

  3. I am so sorry for your loss. I'm glad you have so many happy memories with your cherished friend.

  4. Awwwww ... that's rough. Y'all should get the audiobook called "Marley: A Dog LIke No Other." It's been one of our favorites for the whole fam, with giggles aplenty, and eventually some tears when they endure an experience like you all just had. So sorry!

  5. Oh, how sad. But yet, so perfect and deeply right. I'm grateful for the choice you made. Death should be shared and accepted. Chewey gave y'all so much in life and in death. He'll always be a part of your family. I wish you all much peace of heart and mind.