The worst part about having a dog is losing them. No matter how old and decrepit a dog is, making the decision to say goodbye is painful.
Gracie came to us as a foster dog ten years ago. When she came to live with us, she had been turned into an animal shelter by her “owners” who were using her as a breeding dog in a puppy mill. (Please adopt your pets – hopefully you’ll agree when this story is over.)
Unbeknownst to us, Gracie was very skittish. She’d been abused and neglected, as is often the case with breeder dogs. She was scared senseless of people and even more so of other dogs. If you tried to touch her, she would bite you. She was our very first foster dog and I didn’t know what to do.
I called the rescue group I worked with and they told me that we could not place a dog like that for adoption, so I needed to have her “put down”. This was seriously my FIRST foster dog and I needed to have her euthanized? No way. We had to keep her.
I started working with Gracie using positive reinforcement dog training – no punishments, only praise and rewards. I wanted to build her confidence in herself and trust in others. We worked together religiously and every day she got better and better.
If you were to meet Gracie today, you would have no idea that she was termed the “psycho dog” ten years ago. Today, she is the sweetest girl around. She will rub her face on your leg so you’ll pet her and she will politely nudge your elbow when you’re eating so you’ll drop some food her way. Most impressively, she is patient with Oliver when he rams a truck into her leg. She is gentle and dainty and so, so sweet. I am so proud of everything she has overcome and the type of dog she has become.
Gracie’s age is an estimate because, of course, we don’t actually know when she was born. But, whatever the actual number, she is old. Especially for a big dog. She can hardly stand up, she can no longer wag her tail, and she doesn’t want to go for walks.
Recently, Gracie has developed incontinence, which is an extremely unpleasant problem, especially with two other dogs and two small kids in the house. We have tried several different medications, retraining, chiropractic, acupuncture, even doggie diapers. But nothing is working. We believe she has spinal cord damage which is not reparable.
Tomorrow we are taking Gracie to the vet again. I know what the outcome will be and it is a reality that I have been secretly crying about for weeks. We have run out of options and I know it is time to say goodbye.
She has had a good life with us. I wish we could make it last forever.
This week we have had more time to bond than usual. Tonight we got to go for a hike without the other dogs. It was a sloooow hike – she didn’t even bother to run, and I was carrying two babies. (My how times have changed.)
I sure do love this girl and I am going to miss her like crazy. She taught me more than I ever wanted to know about patience, humanity and communication. I hope her road to heaven is paved with peanut butter and chicken liver.
Thanks in advance for your prayers,