All dogs go to heaven


The advantage and responsibility of the written word is its ability to endure.

Long after the writer's body has been returned to the earth, her words remain to inspire, to entertain, to sadden, to create controversy.

So, forgive me as I use this space to immortalize the life that was in my power to take that I chose to take.

When I was young we had a dog. Some of my favorite stories are about how she would sleep when I slept, in a cozy curl and under my bed, and would run into my parents' room pacing and whining and barking when I would wake crying.

But the stories are just that stories.

I have no memory of my protector and playmate.

Nor, I think, will Katie.

She will not retain thoughts of curling up on the dog's stomach as they both slept. She will not remember the dog that looked at her adoringly as she ate, knowing scraps were coming her way. How the dog took bits from Katie's hand as gently as a butterfly landing. Katie will not know the dog did not run when she saw Katie coming.

You see, last Friday I made the decision to have our dog put to sleep.

For the last three years, the dog has been 15 years old. That's the number stuck in our heads, so it is the number we reply with when asked. In truth, she was probably nearing 17 and her body was starting to notice.

Walking up and down the three steps that led to the yard had become a chore and bladder control became nearly non-existent. I couldn't sleep some nights listening to her heavy, labored breathing.

She still bore the scars, both mentally and physically, of an ill-planned jump from the back of a moving pick up. Her recovery was nothing short of miraculous, but every now and then her hips remembered.

It was time.

I think.

I made the appointment stoutly and watched the clock ticking down.

Does an executioner count the minutes until he will take the motions to end a life?

There was a TIME. I had picked a time that my 17-year companion would die and I picked it to not conflict with deadlines or appointments.

My selfishness diminished me.

I had three stops. I went to the store and bought a package of hot dogs. Not the cheap kind Oscar Meyer.

It had been years since my dog had eaten people food from my hand because of some intestinal function that turned it from something edible to something noxious.

Now, it didn't even matter.

My second stop was to pick up my step-mother. I had planned to do it alone, and thought myself strong enough, capable enough. But, at the last minute I picked up the phone and called her. I don't know why.

I told her I didn't know if I wanted her to come. I wasn't sure I had the strength to say I needed someone needed her to be there.

In an emotional crisis there are few people who give stronger support than Stacey. No one else know who hugs so tight you feel it go straight to your heart.

She came.

I went home to pick up the dog. She sleeps all day so that she has the energy to greet me at the door and when I asked if she was ready for a ride, she danced and jumped like she was a puppy again.

The ride down the highway was bliss for her, agony for me. She rode with her head out the window and her long, soft, spaniel ears flapping in the wind.

She had life in her yet.

She didn't have to prove it to me.

When we arrived at the veterinary clinic, the receptionist asked me why and all the words lodged in my throat.

"She's very old," I managed to mutter.

But was that good enough?

Who was I to deny her a peaceful death in her sleep?

"Who was I to prolong her agony?" a little voice replied.

I signed the permission form and sat down to wait.

I fed my re-energized dog half the package of hot dogs and she nearly choked on the spot from her excitement and begged for more, but I wanted some to distract her, when ...

Finally, it was our turn.

As I showed the veterinarian the bumps on her back, the golf-ball sized tumor on her thigh, I mentally pleaded with him to say the words that would absolve me "She was old" or "She would have died soon anyway" or "She was in pain."

I needed someone to tell me I had made the right decision. That when the choice between life and death was in my hands, I chose correctly.

He didn't, but he did look at me with dark and compassionate eyes and he was gentle.

He didn't absolve, but neither did he accuse.

As he injected the needle in her forleg, I fed her hotdogs. When he pulled out the needle, she looked down and then lay down. And died.

I still had three hotdogs left.

And all I could think was I failed in helping her final to splurge.

It was so fast.

It was so peaceful.

It was one of the hardest things I've ever done and I didn't know how to leave when it was done.

The dog came to us when she was about two years old. She was owned by a family who used her to breed springer spaniels, but couldn't not keep her for that function because she was too affectionate and became too attached to her puppies.

She came with a name I was too embarrassed to tell people. Too embarrassed to write. She has always been "the dog."

But she was so much more than that and the affection that made her a bad breeder made her the most loving, most gentle pet.

I had no fear for my children ever, when they played with her.

Those children, who loved her as much as we came to, took one look at her red-rimmed eyes and named her Pinky.

We loved her and I will not let her die.

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