Today was a difficult day for me, and I rarely have difficult days. Today, my Mom, my Aunt, and I had to make the decision to put our 17 year old dog, Snow, to sleep. She was my first dog, and she taught me how much I love dogs and what to do (and not to do) when taking care of pets. She made me realize how much work, care, and love has to go into having an animal companion, and I have to thank my Aunt especially for taking care of her through all the years that I haven’t, due to me moving out on my own. We had another dog, Pepper, who was younger than Snow by over a year, but he had grown up with many health problems, and it was my Aunt, almost around this exact time last year, who had to bring him in to the vet on her own to have him put to sleep. He was the goofball, Snow was the boss, but together, they were the small pack that brought many joyous memories to my family. I can’t imagine what my Aunt must be feeling, having to experience this all over again just a year later. Thank you, Tita Debbie.
My last moments with Snow were spent teary-eyed. I fed her some last treats as she lay on the exam room floor, head up, sniffing around. I had to keep her from licking her bed sore a few times, but she was stubborn to the end, as she always was, to get try and get her way. I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered, but good (human) training is a hard habit to break. I held her greying face close, and thanked her for everything that she brought to my life. I took some last photos — we all did, three phone cameras worth — and went back to giving her head massages through her soft fur, something she enjoyed more and more as she grew older. After what seemed like eternity, but also too short of a time, I made the call and asked Mom to call in the doctor.
She explained to us everything that she was going to do and all of the possible reactions that Snow might have, in order to prepare us. I could barely hear her through my own sobs, and really just wanted her to get on with it. Preparing us for it only seemed to make it worse, but it was helpful to know what would happen while the procedure took place. She explained that it would be like going under an anaesthetic, but this would be an overdose. Literally, it was going to put Snow to sleep.
She invited us all to the floor to hold Snow during her last breaths. She shaved off a part of her hind leg and began to administer the anaesthetic. Mom and I held her head, and continued to pet her as she started to fall asleep, both us saying goodbye, and thanking her, and telling her “I love you”. And with Snow’s head heavy in our hands, the doctor listened through her stethoscope to her last heart beats.
“She’s gone. She’s gone. She’s gone.”
I collapsed in tears, already on the floor, one hand at my face, the other still holding onto Snow. I could hear my Aunt sob and my Mom sniffle away her tears. I bent over and placed my head on Snow’s. I kissed her and said goodbye and thanked her again and just rested there with her one last time. Eventually, Mom and Tita Debbie moved her to the blanket on the floor and tucked her in. She looked so peaceful. More sobs from all of us as we said our last goodbyes before exiting the exam room. Mom and Aunt both gave Snow their last hugs. One last time I kissed her head.
“Goodbye, Snow. I love you. Thank you.”
As we left the animal hospital, and as we got into our separate cars, the rural scenery around me caught my attention. Snow-covered hills and trees with a snow-white sky. Snow. We first got Snow in a setting much like this, up near Allison. It snowed that day. We named her Snow because of that and because of the little white patch of fur on her chest that stood out from her completely black puppy coat. In the present, stood there in the parking lot, breathing in the scenery for a few moments before leaving. It was a perfect bookend to the life I had with Snow. The landscape, her last goodbye.
Goodbye, Snow. I love you. Thank you.