All This For A Dog

It was a week ago today.

On Tuesday September 19th at 9:07am, with her family around her praying and comforting her, with our hands on her warm little body and her head resting on Ana’s arm, Ellie’s precious heart stopped beating.

Her sister asked to lie beside her. Bella knew, and it was beautiful to see her there, comforting the sister she had always protected and taken care of.

We all said our goodbyes, kissed Ellie gently, and it was time. I looked at the doctor, his eyes just as sad as mine, and softly said ok. As the drugs entered her bloodstream, her body relaxed, her heartbeat slowed and finally stopped.

At 9:07 am Ellie’s time with us ended.

Without me saying a word, Bella got up and wanted to leave. She knew the very moment Ellie’s spirit had left her body. Bella had never known a day of her life without Ellie in it until that moment. She didn’t make a noise, but I could see the sadness in her eyes.

The doctor was incredibly gentle, patient, and comforting. He took it upon himself to take x-rays and do bloodwork to be certain and explained in whispers to Ana and me so we would know this was the right choice and the right time for Ellie. Her body wasn’t able to fight any longer and she was in a lot of pain. Her lungs were filling with fluids, and she was drowning. She could live another day perhaps but most likely she would pass within hours, but suffer tremendously if we didn’t do the merciful thing now.

Part of me wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening, but it was my responsibility and honor to do this final merciful thing for our precious little girl that we love so much. It happened quickly, quietly, and it was over. As we filed out of the treatment room, leaving Ellie behind, the kids began to cry.  The drive home was empty, deeply painful, and profoundly sad.

I started sharing Ellie stories with Ana as we drove, through tears and laughter.

In December of this year, Bella and Ellie would be 11 years old. They were only four months when we got them, the last two dogs in the litter. The leftovers. Ana wanted a dog, but I had told her no. We were travelling for work almost constantly and it wasn’t practical. She had a solution for every problem I brought up and finally I put my foot down and insisted that we would not be getting a dog. She was so heartbroken she wept like a broken-hearted little girl.

So the next day we drove to Bakersfield, California. We arrived at the home of a nice Mexican lady who summarily interrogated us until she was sufficiently convinced that we had good character and intentions. Only then did she take us to meet her puppies. Bella had the most personality and was full of kisses while Ellie was more reserved and shy. But there was an older dog there from another litter that was bullying Ellie. I told Ana we weren’t taking one of these dogs home; we were taking them both. She laughed at that one and hasn’t stopped teasing me about it in eleven years. Bella and Ellie snuggled each other and slept the entire way home.

We had crates for both dogs and Ana being a very knowledgeable dog trainer, walked me through the training protocol for the girls. That first night they both cried, but Bella finally figured it out and went to sleep. Ellie, however was more persistent and wouldn’t settle down.

It took some time, but eventually both dogs fell asleep…on our bed snuggled next to us. I caved in telling Ana it would only be for one night. She said there is no such thing as just one night once you give in. She was right. We eventually sold the unused crates to someone that possessed more backbone than me.

Bella and Ellie went everywhere with us. They were our children. We had birthday parties for them, took them to restaurants, dog beaches, and only stayed in hotels that allowed dogs. Ana researched their nutritional needs and prepared their meals each day from scratch. They ate as well and as healthy as we did.

When we became parents of human children, we made sure Bella and Ellie never felt left out or insignificant. They actually helped our kids get past many of their hurts and obstacles and played a huge role in their development.

Both dogs belong to us, but Ellie favored Ana, and Bella, chose me. Ana’s heart is shattered. Time will make this easier but for now all I can do is hold her when it becomes all too much and she weeps inconsolably. I hung in there pretty well for the most part, until this morning. Ana and the kids were out and I was home with Bella. I sat in our bedroom where the two dogs used to sleep and it all came pouring out.

Bella is suffering the most. She doesn’t want to eat or drink and sleeps alone in our room. Yet she still tries to comfort Ana and me when we check on her. She has visibly lost weight, along with interest in anything but sleep. She is deeply depressed.

All this for a dog.

Yes, but a dog that loved us unconditionally and with a depth well beyond the capacity of most humans. A dog with endless gratitude for every morsel of food, drop of water and kind gesture. A dog that howled when being left at home but celebrated wildly upon our return whether we were gone for an hour, or half a day. She was a dog that while suffering with bone cancer, drowning in her own blood and fluids, and unable to get off the bed on her own, cared more about comforting Bella, Ana and me than herself.

We lost a loved family member that meant the world to us. She left a massive void and for that reason I don’t want to be consoled right now, and I don’t want the hurt to go away. I want to mourn and miss and cry over that sweet little girl that filled our lives with so much love and joy.

Yes, all this, and so much more, for a dog.

The Last Goodbye


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