In terms of pet loss, though, there is sometimes another emotion entwined within that: guilt. Not all pet owners choose this path, but it is very common for you to be given the responsibility of deciding when your love will leave this world. This is an immense responsibility and burden to place upon anyone at any time. My husband and I were given this choice on Friday night. We were told Buffy had cancer, did not have long to live and would not survive any chemo. Add to this that our last dog, Chewy died unexpectedly at home without either of us there (it was the day I was rushed to the emergency room and admitted due to what would finally be diagnosed as Intracranial Hypertension), we were set on not having Buffy suffer in any way.
By Saturday night, my husband and I were already discussing (through tears) what signs we would look for to decide when the time was "right" recognizing that many of the signs were already being shown. As our girl spent the entire night throwing up, having accidents and not sleeping at all, by morning the decision was made. It still took hours for me to make "the phone call." Finally, at 2pm I called the vet and made the appointment for 4pm. I was devastated and frantically searched the Internet for a prayer for putting a dog to sleep. I needed something... what I found was so impossibly perfect, that I feel like it was sent by angels themselves. Here is the poem I found on, of all places, the Garden Web:
I ran to my husband, who was lying with Buffy on our bed and I read it to him. It was beautiful, consoling, and perfect. It gave us the courage to love Buffy when she needed it most. It gave us the courage to do what was right for her even though it would hurt us so dramatically.
IF IT SHOULD BE
If it should be that I grow weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle cannot be won.
You will be sad, I understand.
Don't let your grief then stay your hand.
For this day, more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the test.
We've had so many happy years.
What is to come can hold no fears.
You'd not want me to suffer so;
The time has come -- please let me go.
Take me where my need they'll tend,
And please stay with me till the end.
Hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time that you will see
The kindness that you did for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I've been saved.
Please do not grieve -- it must be you
Who had this painful thing to do.
We've been so close, we two, these years;
Don't let your heart hold back its tears.
--- Anonymous ---
The fact is, watching her go to sleep was a great relief. Her pain was over. (Mine was just beginning, I knew.) She finally was able to sleep without being wakened by the pain and sickness inside of her. My beautiful baby could finally rest... and once she had a good night's sleep, I knew she would go find Chewy, on The Rainbow Bridge.
My husband and I learned about The Rainbow Bridge when Chewy died. When we went to pick up her ashes, we were given a card with its story inside. Ever since, we've been big believers in it and know that that is where Buffy is right now. If you have not heard of it yet, here is the story of The Rainbow Bridge:
The Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal who has been especially close to someone dies, that pet goes to the Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food and water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
Animals who were ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them from days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one thing: they miss someone very special to them; the person they left behind.
All of the animals run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to break away from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. Happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…This is how I'm getting through today. Knowing I did what was right with the support of my husband. Knowing Buffy is in a better place. And knowing that yesterday, before we went to the vet, we gave our Buffy the greatest last day ever with laying in the grass, hanging out in our bed with us and the cherry on top: a private (no Champ-the-ShihTzu allowed) walk through the park where she met so many children and people, chased ducks and geese and was actually allowed to eat whatever crazy scraps of food she found on the ground! I'm so grateful for yesterday's perfection.
But even more than that, I am forever grateful for the dog I was blessed with for over twleve years of my life.