Friday, July 30, 2010

The Worst Day of My Life

8.5 years ago I adopted a skinny German shepherd dog from the Humane Society. He was about a year old, had been living on the streets and was very weak. But, despite having a difficult start to life, he had the greatest disposition and made friends every where we went. This week I said goodbye to him.

Chale has always had medical problems but I was always able to manage them so that he had a pretty normal life. Because of all of his medical problems and his large size (max 116 lbs) I knew that 10 years was probably his expected life span so it was not surprise when he started slowing down over the past few months.

I am happy to say that he didn't suffer. He started acting sick Saturday. By Tuesday he didn't want to eat at all and couldn't stand up or support his own weight. It was sudden but that made our decision much easier to make. If we had seen a glimmer of the silly, attention-loving boy during those last 2 days we might have considered surgery or some other aggressive treatment. But his spirit was gone. He was miserable.

In the past, when Chale was sick, he would still want to go for a swim in the pool and would never turn down a meal or a treat. When we put him in the pool the last time he drank water constantly and "paced" around the perimeter of the pool. No desire to fetch sticks or bark at his sister while she ran along the edge of the pool. Then no desire to eat his dinner despite only eating a couple bites from his breakfast and us putting all sorts of stinky goodies in this food. My husband and I looked at each other and knew it was time.

We carried him to the car on the comforter from his bed, fed him leftover bacon on the drive to the vet and then let him go. The only thing I can compare the pain to is the loss of my father 12 years ago. My father was sick my entire life so I had accepted that I was going to lose him years before it actually happened. But something happens when you get that call from the hospital or you look into your dog's eyes and realize that it's time. In that moment you feel all the love that you've shared with him during your time together combined with the pain of knowing there will be no new memories.

I know that we made the right decision for him. I know that it was his time. But I still feel guilty for making him share me with a new dog for the last two months of his life. I feel bad for thinking about what the new dog that we will adopt to be a companion for our other dog will be like. I feel bad for not missing the expense of acupuncture treatments, hydrotherapy, prescription and holistic medicine and all of the other expenses that kept Chale going.

The truth is, that managing Chale consumed me when he was at his worst and that there will be a big hole in both my daily schedule and my bank book where I had reserved so much space for him. The ease of getting up and just walking out the door with a young, healthy dog is something that I haven't known for a very long time. My days are easier than they have been in a long time and there is almost a sense of relief from the burden of Chale's needs being lifted from my shoulders. It is this guilt that fills my head at night keeps me from getting any sleep. Granted, I've been an insomniac for my whole life but I am currently experience a level of sleeplessness that I know is unhealthy.

I suspect that we will be a one dog household for no more than a month. Our 3 year old shepherd is nervous and needs the guidance of a confident dog in her life. She has made great strides during the 2.5 months that we have had her and I know that is because of the excellent example that Chale set for her during the short time that they spent together. Plus the joy of saving another animal's life and watching him/her blossom under your care is something that cannot be matched.


  1. OMG Denise, I am so sorry. You have done the right thing though and you know it. Hug your other dog for me and know I am thinking of you all.

  2. Thanks TC. Definitely feeling better and remembering all the happy times we had together.