They’ve been on my mind a lot lately. I had to put my sweet dog, Parker, to sleep almost five years ago. Damn dog made me fall in love with her then broke my heart when she died.
It seems like she’s been gone longer. I still grieve for her, and it drives me crazy. I feel like I should be over the grief already – geez, she was a dog.
I got Parker when she was eight weeks old. I didn’t mean to get her. I went into a pet store with my friend, fell head over heels in love, and paid a lot of money to walk out with her.
But adopt, don’t shop!
I do not advocate buying, but I didn’t know then what I know now. And I can’t regret my Parker or the time I had with her.
On with my story…I knew nothing about dogs.
Again, don’t do this! I am a bad example! Do not buy a dog without research and careful consideration!
But this is my story about Parker. I left the store and took my tiny puppy to a pet store to get a crate, a dog bowl, dog toys, dog food. I walked around while she trembled in my arms. I hurried because I didn’t like her trembling.
I put her down at home and she immediately peed on my carpet.
See, I told you I didn’t know anything about dogs!
I scooped her up and carried her outside where she peed again. She was so tiny that the grass which needed to be mowed looked like a jungle around her. It was so cute.
And this is how they get you!
I spent the first three months reminding myself that I had adopted her, that I had chosen her, and I could not, absolutely could not, take her back. But it was hard in the middle of the night when she was crying or licking my face or running around on my bed – and I only wanted to sleep! I would get up early and walk her for 15 minutes and come home at night and play with her for hours inside and outside, running around with her, and she still wouldn’t let me sleep.
As we both settled into a routine, she became my constant companion. I couldn’t imagine my life without her. Sometimes she drove me crazy, especially when I felt guilty because I wasn’t home enough due to work responsibilities. That was the hardest part – the guilt I felt.
But I did my best. I tried to spend weekends with her and take her for long walks or to the dog park or on a hike. I trained her to lay down and roll over. She loved her puzzle food toy and hiding her bones all over the house. I often put my hand under my pillow at night only to encounter a gooey bone. What I wouldn’t give to have that happen again.
As she got older and needed less playtime, we did less together. The last year of her life, I had to travel a lot for my job and was working a lot of hours. And she mostly slept.
The week before she died, I was out of town.
I came home on a Friday night, and she was wheezing. I thought she had a cold. I was so happy to see her and was monitoring her breathing. I figured I would take her to the doctor on Monday if she was still sick. Sunday evening, I got in the shower and, when I got out, she was sitting on the couch visibly struggling to take breaths. It clicked that something was terribly wrong, and, I swear, my heart stopped.
I dressed as fast as I could, wrapped her in a blanket, and rushed her to the emergency vet. They took her back quickly, and I called my dad. He arrived about 10 minutes before they called me back.
Thank goodness my dad was there. They told me she was very sick. Her liver was enlarged and pushing on her lungs which was why she was struggling to breathe. They didn’t recommend any further tests which would be invasive to find a cause because any of the causes had limited treatment options. And she was in pain.
They recommended she be put to sleep.
I was in complete denial. Tears were streaming down my face, and I kept trying to control them so I didn’t just break down and sob at the vet. I opted to take her home, heavily medicated, and take her to my vet in the morning. In my heart, I thought they would have another option for me. I stayed awake with her all night, crying and talking to her as she dozed off and on.
As soon as my vet opened, I took her in. Parker and I both looked exhausted. My eyes were red and swollen. She was starting to wheeze again. I couldn’t stand it.
My entire family met me there.
After a terrible 30 minutes of listening to options which were non-options because they all caused further suffering on her part, I watched them give her a shot and I hugged her as she went to sleep for the last time.
My best friend and selfless companion of almost 13 years was gone.
And I am still heartbroken.
How is that even possible? She was a dog.
But there is something so pure and so trusting about a dog. It is a huge responsibility because they are dependent upon you for the quality of their lives. I didn’t fully consider that until she was gone, and now I can only hope that I did a good enough job.
I don’t always think I did, especially the last year of her life. I was working too much and travelling. And that haunts me. But I can only learn from it and do better if I ever have the courage to love another dog again.