Reprinted from the KBTF Newsletter "What's New"
As a child you learn to say good bye when someone leaves and the first fears in your young life are that they will never come back. It is only with the loving arms of those around us that we learn that saying good bye is only for a short time.
As we grow up we learn the pain of those good-byes from our friends who move away or for the family pet that was there in the house when we went to school in the morning and was gone when we came home. Our parents would tell us that "Tina" had to go away to be with a family who could give her more room to run, had more family time since everyone in our family worked or went to school or whatever the reason of that day was.As we continued to age, and we got past the point in our lives where we believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny we also began to learn the truth about death.
For each of us, there are lots of definitions for the term "death," and that when it comes to our pets it comes with a finality that whether we loved them for just a few days or many years, we have to qualify what it is or was that we lost or are about to lose. Was this a pet that was just a household member, or was it a soul mate that knew what we were thinking or feeling at all times?
We have watched science for year's showing us how gorillas learn sign language to speak. Wouldn't it be nice if dogs had opposable thumbs so they also could learn how to talk to us? We could share stories and feelings and know if they want to do the things that we want them to do with us. They could tell us when they didn't feel good, when they wanted to go to the park, even when they wanted to curl up on the couch and watch a movie.
As pet owners we become masters or try to be, at body language. We watch to make sure the dogs are drinking enough, are eating enough, if they are going to the bath- room. We watch the playing and napping of our pets during the day to make sure everything balances out.
As our friends get older we understand when they begin to slow down, and we chalk it up to maturity when they no longer want to chase the squirrels up the tree or chase the tennis ball and play fetch hour after hour.
At what point do we begin to think about having to say goodbye? What will it take for us to come to the conclusion that we will have to make the decision, rather than letting nature run its course?
I have experience as the director of health and genetics for the Kerry foundation, as a breeder of almost 30 years, as a pet owner for 40 years, and as one who has gone through nursing school and worked in emergency trauma in the military.
I have had schooling, mentoring, hands on experience, and teaching both in the medical field and the religious field, and I still don't know the answer to the two questions.
Who makes the decision, and when is the right time to decide the decision?
On October 11, 2008, I was told that one of my breeding bitches had mammary cancer and the prognosis was poor. With the removal of the one gland and surrounding tissue, it was decided that to do more would cause the cancer cells to proliferate at an alarming rate and we would only have her another three months.
It was decided to do nothing and we were assured as much as we could be that she would have another six months.
As you know Terriers are tenacious, if nothing else. For several years now I have told everyone that she is in end-stage terminal cancer, but she just doesn't accept it. Recently one of my younger bitches came into the room and appeared to smell what I can only consider would be the odor cancer cells emit.
One of Brandy's tumors on her abdomen had broken open and was now leaking/draining. In the blink of an eye this young bitch attacked my nine-year old. After separating the two I called the vet and asked him if it could be the cancer that set off the younger Kerry. His answer was yes, that when a dog is old, injured, or diseased, a younger dog will try to take on the older dog's alpha position.
When I took Brandy to the vet to have her evaluated, he told me it was time to make the decision, that the time had come, with her quality of life at an end. Even though Terriers very seldom show pain, upon examination he knew she was in a great deal of discomfort and a lessor dog would probably have bitten him.
As my husband was working and I was alone and no one had a chance to say "Good-Bye," I got a prescription for pain medications and made the appointment to bring her back in two weeks on a specific date after everyone had had a chance to say their own good-byes.
I know I may have to take her in before that date but I am being selfish and praying that the Lord will give me these last two weeks to have some quiet time and share my important times with her just once more. To share those stories of laughter, bonding and her younger days, but mostly to give me a few more days to take pictures and make memories as she sees the last litter of Kerrie's open their eyes to her and give her a chance to bond with them as the Matriarch of the Blue Mountain Kennel.
You see, Brandy isn't a Kerry, but an Airedale who has been in the whelping room for every litter born in the last 8 years. She has either helped raise the Kerry's or for the orphaned litters she has taken over the raising of them to the extent that she has even produced milk for some of the litters.
How do I know this is the time to say Good-Bye? Brandy still has that quirk of a head tilt (as Terriers do), she still thumps her tail when she thinks
she is getting away with something (like that piece of chicken off the plate), but most of all she still has that self-important look in her eyes that
tells me she is in command.
Yes, I will make the decision to say Good-Bye, but it will be in her timing and with her will.
I would hope someone does that for me at that time in my life if I am unable to tell my choice. My eyes will say "Good-Bye" as my own Rainbow Bridge rises up to meet me. I will look for those who crossed before me and if the dogs are just waiting for me before going through the gates of Heaven, then they will have to wait no more.
Good-Bye Brandy, my friend, my teacher in all things dogs, and one of the special soul mates that God has graced me with in my life to be a better person.