Submitted Date 07/11/2019

Today I helped you die. It was a day like any other day—busy, bodies moving fast and never slowing. Cautious snickers shared amongst coworkers whose legs couldn't spare a second to stand still. Our minds were weary with exhaustion, but we had to keep smiles on our faces. We must look cheery and bright-eyes for our clients.


When I heard your owner's story from the receptionist's ruby lips, I already felt sorrow and pity for you. You couldn't get up. You were feeling ok ("yeah right" I remember thinking) according to your monotonous owner, whose pain I never heard. You were eating, but they had to put the bowl close enough for your eager mouth to reach. You were soiling yourself in the tired spot you lay, and your owners didn't know what they could do to fix you. Just by those stories, though, I was already sure your time had come.


You see, when you meet so many animal faces, see so many different problems, watch so many painful struggles, you learn a painful, imperative lesson: some animals need to die. You watch the fight leave their eyes as they stop eating and drinking, you watch them suffer as they attempt to walk on arthritic joints, you witness their agony that some owners are blind to. You see beautiful, innocent beasts endure so much, that it should be a crime to prevent putting them to rest.


I was sure that now was that time for you; a time when your pain was greater than the pleasure you took in living. A time when your owners have to make a decision that no owner ever wants to make. This time is never happy. We explain to owners that you'll be so much better off; you'll be at peace, and it's true. That doesn't mean we don't feel the monstrous, engulfing torment of choosing that time for you.


It's never easy. Every reaction you can think of has walked through those doors. Each one hurts in a little different way. Each pet who walks in our doors but doesn't go home is a new, throbbing laceration in our fragile, empathetic hearts. Even when it's your time.


The comfort in knowing your pain will end helps. It doesn't suture the wound closed, but it gives enough padding to stop the bleeding. We know you are better off. We see and feel your pain. And most pets show us in their stupor demeanor.


Not you, though. They told me you were in room three. We were buzzing around with an armful of tasks that it wasn't until lunchtime that I saw you. I was rushing down the hallway with my keys in hand to snatch a bite to eat for our tired little team when I saw a clipboard hanging on your door. I had forgotten you were in there, and poked my head in to check on you. You greeted me with bright, golden eyes and a wagging tail. You lay where you were, but your uncertain, eager and twitching body told me you wanted to greet me.


I could feel the dull ache of knowing today should be your last. My heart fought against my brain, argued with her as she saw your happy, golden eyes. Not yet, she cried. She's not ready! But you couldn't even stand up to approach me. Your back legs weren't working. You weighed 60 pounds and you could no longer move on your own. Still, I ached knowing the reality. I filled your bone-dry bowl with water. You must have been thirsty. I quickly closed the door behind me and sped to my car.


Today flew by, and there wasn't a single penny of time to preoccupy with emotion or thought. Just keep moving. Just keep smiling. Just keep it together for a little longer. I didn't think of you much. I had to focus or the circus might fall to pieces.


Finally, after hours of scaling and polishing sharp little teeth, we stepped out of our surgery suite. I noticed your door was open, and you were halfway out into the hallway. I didn't think much of it at first; perhaps someone was working with you.


When I walked past you, though, I saw nobody with you, and a pile of urine and feces that you were half lying in. You'd managed to scoot away from the blanket your owners brought with you. I gave you a tender smile. You still wagged your joyful tail. I patted your head and cooed to you as I wrapped you in a towel to support your weight and move you away. You were such a good girl.


We cleaned you up as best as we could, and then phone calls had to be made. The doctor spoke with your owner and gave her the news that I hoped broke her heart for her sweet, lovely dog. She couldn't even speak, she begged him to discuss it with her husband.


After a few minutes, I heard his stoic voice ask for your mercy; the answer we all wistfully hope for. It stings a little less—like a razor instead of a knife, but the pain still wreaks within our souls.


The decision had been made, but we still didn't have time for you yet. You waited quietly in the kennel we moved you to, and you watched as we bustled past with a cheerful look about you.


The doctor liked you as much as I did. It's not every day one comes upon a pet as special as you. With a gleam of mischief in his eyes, he handed me a small candy bar and instructed me to give it to you. Laughing, then looking at him incredulously I reasoned he couldn't be serious. He insisted he was. "In fact," he said, and ran down the hallway, returning shortly with a plain bagel in hand, "give her this," and plopped it into my hand.


After a few moments of hesitation from me, he snatched the donut back and called, "Here, see?" As he charged forward to your kennel. He stuffed the stale pastry under a hole in your gate, and your keen nose quickly discovered it. We watched in humored astonishment as you proceeded to swallow the entire thing in a few half-hearted chews. This earned you surprised chortles from both of us. I shoved my fingers through the gate and fed you the bite of candy bar. You looked so pleased that my heart swelled until it cracked along the surface, too full of emotion to sustain.


At long last, the day had come to an end, as they always do. The doctor had given you an injection some time ago that swept you into a deep sleep. You looked so peaceful and sweet; your tongue was peeking out of your mouth, causing a bittersweet smile upon my lips.


Your time had finally come. I remember whispering sweet nothings to you, even though you were deaf to them. I hoped they carried alongside you anyway. I pet your sweet head as the doctor shaved your leg and spritzed it with cold alcohol. I knew your tired body wouldn't flinch. I clutched your soft brown fur as he gave you the final injection. The one that would end your suffering permanently. I watched you take in your last breath.


It hurt—it always does, but even worse with you. The pain was so child like; losing such a beautiful soul, it didn't seem fair.


You had lived a long life. And you lived it so happily. You reminded me of my own baby, who I had lost not so long ago.


The pain will always be there; this is the sacrifice we give for the honor of bonding with our pets. We learn to love them and their personalities; we forget how to live without them. We don't anticipate the day they must leave us, but it's been waiting there all along.


Sometimes we must choose that day for them. It's a frightening decision, but a decision that must be made with our beloved companions in mind. Living does not mean enjoying. We must realize when the joy is overcome by suffering. It's not always apparent, like with you and your cheery golden eyes. But my heart must remember that there is more than meets the blind eye to be considered. I helped you die today, and it's still aching in my bones, but your complacent, wagging tail still brings a timid smile to my lips.


Thank you for being a good girl.


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  • Ceara 1 year, 3 months ago

    So poignant and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing.

    • Natalie 1 year, 3 months ago

      Thank you for reading :)

  • Rick Doble 1 year ago

    We get so close to our pets that it is hard to accept they don't live as long.