Our beloved dog died this week at the old age of 14 1/2 (101 in dog years). It’s not our first pet to die but it was a profound loss. Coco was a sweet, sweet puppy and she had earned her place as a respected elder member of our family.
We knew Coco was winding down for the past few weeks. She had already slowed down and was having trouble going up the stairs since her cancer surgery last summer. Then about two weeks ago she started vomiting occasionally. She wasn’t so interested in eating and she seemed more disoriented than usual. We let the kids know that she might go soon. My son who is 24 was most distressed by the news. My 8 and 9 year old daughters seemed to take the news in stride. It prompted an interesting conversation about heaven and hell, I reminded my daughters that those realms exist right here on earth and that the miserable people we see around us are the ones in hell They don’t realize they can choose not to be in hell and so they are stuck, but of course Coco would never be in that state I assured her She was a happy dog.
My son came and stayed at our house to be with Coco while we were at work and to make her gourmet meals of ground beef with melted cheese on top to get her to eat. After a few days of not seeming better we took her to the vet to run some tests to see if there was something that could be done or if she was really at the end of her life. The vet confirmed that her cancer had metastasized and that she should be put down. My son wasn’t ready for that message so we opted to keep her in the vet hospital one night to hydrate her by IV and treat her symptoms with medication and then we brought her home Friday evening for what we knew might be her last weekend with us.
It was the weekend of my son’s birthday and none of us wanted the dog to die on his birthday or even right before so we held vigil over her and hoped for the best. She wouldn’t eat. My son went to the local burger place and got her favorite, cheeseburger and fries. She did eat that! It was a small victory and as it turns out, would be her last meal. As we hung out with her and had friends over for my sons birthday dinner Sunday night everyone pet her and said their sad good byes. It was such an interesting time. She slept a lot. It was a time of watching her pass and also of being mindful that she was being expected in another realm. In some ways it felt like waiting for childbirth. Like on our end it was expected that she would go and for us it was somewhat mournful but somewhere else it was also expected that she was coming and that there was similar anticipation only with joy and hope.
Tuesday morning my son called me at work and said, “mom she needs to go now, she is having trouble breathing.” With that, I called my mom to drive to my house to be with my son and I called the mobile vet to get to our house to euthanize her. Which he did. She died peacefully at home with my son and mom by her side. 20 miles away at work, I knew the moment it happened – I felt relief and a lightness came over me. Then I texted my mom and she confirmed that the wait was over. She was gone. I tuned in to a joy that was taking place somewhere else in the universe at her arrival and I hoped her arrival had gone well, or at least as well as a long childbirth with a healthy baby and exhausted mamma could go.
My son took a nap that afternoon and Coco was in his dream. She was young and healthy and they were in our old house, where my son grew up and where Coco first joined our family as a puppy.
After school on the drive home, I told my girls that Coco had passed. My daughter wondered out loud if Coco would come back in her next life as a dog again and she wondered if she would recognize Coco as another dog if she reincarnated during my daughter’s lifetime. We all speculated that might be possible which satisfied her.
We will be placing a picture of Coco and perhaps her dog collar too on our Day of the Dead alters this week. There will be one at our Waldorf School for Spanish language class and one at Throop Unitarian Church too. Perfect timing Coco. I hope your soul is close and that you can smell the marigolds.