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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Letting Go

Tuesday morning was a tough morning.  Our dog, Dora,  had been sick since Sunday and spent all of Monday drinking and throwing up.  I spent a good part of the day watching over her, speaking with several vets & techs, praying and worrying.  There was a plan put in place for the next 12 hours and we made an appointment for 8 am on Tuesday.  Twelve hours.  I sat on the step and Dora came to me.  I took her head in my hands and with my eyes inches from hers, looked into them and said, "Don't you do this to us.  Don't you leave us, please."  She wagged her tail and her whole back end began to sway with an ounce of that excitement she was always so full of.  There's my girl!  I kissed her on her head was hopeful. Twelve hours.  You can do this...

Jim set up a cot in the sun room so he could stay with her and I went to bed. I wanted to watch something on television to distract me.  Something that I would most likely never watch again so that I wouldn't associate that program with this awful night.  I was hoping to fall asleep knowing that if I didn't rest, I would be a mess the next day.  At 4:30 a.m., I was still awake.  Jim came in to use the bathroom and told me Dora was moving around and he was looking forward to 6 a.m., when we could give her something to see if she could hold it down.  I was relieved.  I woke up a bit after 6 a.m., threw on my robe and grabbed her meds.  I stood in the doorway of the sun room.  Jim was asleep on the cot and our faithful pup was laying by his side. I called to her.  She didn't move.  I called out to Jim and he quickly got down on his knees by her side. I remember saying, "No! No! No! No!"  I knew then.  She was gone. I watched as Jim lay his head down on her.  I went to both of them.  I wanted to fall apart and soak her coat in my tears.  I wanted to love her back to life.  But I knew I had to keep it together.  I knew what I had to do next.  Tell the kids...

I decided to go to Ethan first.  I knew that, of the three, he would have the most outward reaction.  I figured he could go to Dora and do what he needed.  I also knew that he would lovingly step aside when it was Emily's turn.  Because, that is who he is.  He has THE biggest heart I have ever known.  For some reason, he was asleep on the floor of his room.  I got down on my knees and kissed his cheek.  In that moment, I had a flashback.  I recalled the day he ran out to the car and excitedly opened the back hatch to greet Bailey (one of the best dogs, ever.) after Jim and I we returned from the vet.  Except she wasn't there.  Only her collar and bandanna lay back there.  Bailey had given us 13 precious puppy years.

I broke.  I broke the "stay strong in front of your children", rule.  I broke because my heart was breaking.  Ethan quickly got on his knees and took my face in his hands.  All I could get out was, "I am so sorry".  "What's wrong mama?  Did you fall (again, I was on my body rarely allows me this position)?  What happened?  Is it Dora?  Did she die?"  I nodded and he crumbled into my arms and we cried.  All I could get out was, "I'm sorry."  Over and over again.  He let go of me and ran to her side.  I followed and found him collapsed over her, sobbing.  I am so sorry...

After a moment, I pulled myself together again and went to Emily's room.  Dora was her dog.  Bought for her, alone, when Emily was two, by her Granddad.  I took a deep breath and went to her bedside.  I got down on my knees (BTW, God, thank you for allowing my body to function so I could be at my children's sides the way I needed to be).  I kissed her cheek.  She nuzzled in to me.  I softly called her name and she opened her eyes.  She gave me a puzzled look.  I whispered to her.  Again, all I could get out, "I'm so sorry, Em."  Her little mouth turned down and I heard her let out a gentle sob as she pulled me into her arms.  Shortly after, her father walked in and she reached out to him.  I was so warmed by this.  I left the room to tell Alec.

Alec was asleep in our room.  He must have snuck into bed with me in those couple of hours where I allowed myself to sleep. I don't know if it was numbness on my part, at this point, or just his age, but he was the easiest to break the news to. I gave him a hug and a kiss and returned to Emily.

Emily was still in her room.  I asked if she wanted to go to Dora.  She shook her head no.  She had stopped crying.  I wasn't surprised.  Emily has always held everything in.  She is the one I am most worried about.  But I know that it will come out in bits and pieces in the quietest moments in the days, weeks and months ahead.

This morning, was heartbreaking.  Last night, Jim announced that everyone was going to sleep in our room.  He and Ethan called the floor, while Emily, Alec and I would sleep in the bed.  I woke this morning to find that Ethan went to sleep clutching Bailey's collar and bandanna.  He usually keeps these on his bedpost.  Ugh.  Later, when I was on my way out the door, I walked past Emily's room and found her back in bed.  Moments before, I had asked her to go downstairs for something and I was upset that she hadn't.  I yelled for her to get up.  She did and started to cry.  I asked her what was wrong.  "I don't want to go downstairs." she said, tearfully.  I asked her why.  "Because Dora isn't down there anymore."  Double, triple UGH!

I am terribly guilty of trying to absorb things so others don't have to.  I don't know why, maybe I do.  That's a lie.  I totally know why.  Life experiences.  It is my gift.  Regardless, it is part of who I am .   I am willing to do this for family, friends and sometimes people I don't know very well.  I hate when people hurt, are uncomfortable, sad, troubled.  I just want to make it better.  When it comes to my children and their is a big struggle for me.

I know that as parents, we are supposed to let our children experience life to it's fullest.  We are supposed to protect them ,but at the same time, let them experience some pain, heartache and some of the errors we, as humans make.  It is supposed to prepare them for the future.  We aren't supposed to coddle. Life is full of death and disappointment.  And so much more that is so much better. I am so proud of my children.  Each of them are dealing with this tender loss in their own way.  And as much as I want to talk to Emily about how she is doing, I have to be patient and wait for her to come to me.  Watch and listen for her to silently call to me.  Ethan, on the other hand, is an open book.  He is easy to help heal.  He will tell you anything and most likely, in the end, will somehow end up consoling you or making you laugh.  I am sure Alec will just work his worry and concerns in to our every day conversation. He is most like Emily, but easier to crack, if needed.

As for me...I am heartbroken and bearing tremendous guilt.  I will, for the rest of my life, wonder if we did the right thing by Dora.  A few weeks ago, we seriously were considering finding her a new home.  She suddenly became aggressive towards our other dog and after years of trying to make it work, I feared for the safety of our other pets and the affect potential traumatising event would have on everyone.  We just couldn't give up on her.  It wasn't fair that, after 10 years, she would have to endure the stress of adjusting to another home and life.  A life that wouldn't include us, especially after all she had given us.  We went to plan Y.  Drugs.  We will never know what happened that made Dora suddenly so ill.  We do know that she lost 8 pounds over the past couple weeks since her last vet visit.  Maybe she was sick and we just didn't know.  It is what I have to hope for.  I can still see her eyes, looking up at me and wonder if she was begging me for help and I just didn't read her right.  Where in the hell was my "gift"  of perspective then?

I am thankful for the joy that Dora brought to us.  I would often refer to her as our, "Wild Child".  She was FULL of energy and fun.  I hope that when she took her last breath, she knew she was loved...and would be missed so terribly.  I have also wondered if somehow she knew the internal struggle I had been having with wondering if we were doing the right thing by keeping her...and decided to let go so I wouldn't have to.


  1. oh Rachel I'm so so sorry. You gave her a beautiful home and I know she'll be waiting at St Peter's gate patiently wagging her tail waiting for when you'll be reunited. I hope it gives you comfort to know in her last hours she was close to you, where you know she would want to be <3

  2. Thank you, Lara. This is a precious thought and very heartwarming. She was the baby of the first three dogs we had together. We lost one six years ago and the second three years ago. The kids talk about them all being together again <3 Thanks, again xo