bella the beagle
Bella died on Friday night. She started having terrible seizures during the day which intensified in the evening, due to the cancer spreading through her little body. It was agonizing to watch her have the seizures, but I held her and talked her through them. I could give her that. She wasn't walking, eating, drinking...she wasn't even sleeping really. Just waiting or suffering...whichever it was we knew we could help her. We went to the Animal ER where they gave us the best care we could have asked for. I knew we were in good hands the moment we entered the dying room (my name for it) and they turned on some lamps and turned off the too-bright overhead lights. I had thought to bring Bella in her bed and I am so thankful for it. She seemed very comfortable and I hope the smell of her bed outweighed all the other strange smells. We sat in the room for a long (or a short, depending on how you look at it) time. Finally the paperwork was done, the bill paid, the questions asked and answered and it was time to tell Bella goodbye. I don't know what you say to a pet who is going to die. I don't know what words to say to a dog who has lived with you for ten years, who has trusted you, loved you, obeyed you, defied you, wagged their tail every time they saw you. I don't know. There probably aren't any. We prayed - prayed that the Holy Spirit would be heavy in the room as we ushered our dog from life to death. I prayed Jesus would meet her and take her home and that she would tell him hello and the same to my grandma and grandpa. It is a strange thing to tell someone "okay" and have them inject a heart-stopping something into a pet you cared for since a puppy and loved with your whole heart. At first I had to stop him...not yet. I had to say one more goodbye before it was over. I stroked her head and kissed her ears and smelled her smell...just like when she was a puppy and all my maternal feelings were coming alive. We said "okay" and in went the stuff to free her from pain. I talked to her the whole time, petting her, and saying, "Good girl, Bella, good girl." I knew she understood "good girl" and I wanted her to know that's exactly what she was. She didn't fight, didn't move, just surrendered to death and she was gone. Forever. We were left with her little body, so still and quiet. Death. And the relief that had come from knowing it was the right decision, to being strong enough to hold her while she died, was soon replaced with a heartbreaking sadness and grief. Our dog, our good dog, was dead. And our home, our lives will never be the same.
How do you mourn a dog? I don't know. But I do know I hear her, I go to let her out or check on her, and I miss all the little things. I miss her trying to get her tummy scratched on my feet (even when I exercised which drove me crazy). I miss her following me upstairs. I miss her scratching on her kennel when we had forgotten to let her out. I miss hearing her prancing through the kitchen - her nails click-clacking on the floor, tail-wagging and happy. (I hadn't seen that dog for a while - I really miss how she was before.) I miss having a dog around. Bella has been with me for ten years and I am used to a life lived with her. Not this life, with her not in it. And I hate death and sickness and grieving. I hate everything death stands for and everything it takes. And I want to cry and cry for my sweet dog, for her living such a good life with us, and for being such a good girl. I hope she knows how much I loved her and how hard it was for me to say goodbye. I hope she wanted to go, to be at peace, to be free of cancer and seizures and pain. I hope she can understand our decision to say "okay," for choosing to stop her heart. I hope she is in heaven. And I hope beyond hope that I will see her again.