My Dog Is Teaching Me A Final Lesson

Darla Louise on a recent afternoon

Darla Louise on a recent afternoon “walk,” where she plops down on the grass and lets the various smells waft her way, instead of chasing them down. Smart dog.

My dog is getting me ready.

She knows what’s coming in the way dogs know before we do.
About a dangerous stranger, earthquakes, or bacon.

She’s gently letting me know it will soon be time for her to go.

It’s one of an infinite number of brilliant conversations I’ve had with my best friend.
The friend who has never uttered a word in our more than 15 years together, but has taught me so much.

“She’s not going anywhere,” Husband tries to soothe and reassure me.
I appreciate this man who is wise in so many things. I also know he doesn’t speak Dog.

She’s letting me know in the way she’s eased me back from three, to two, to one walk a day, like weaning a toddler from multiple naps.

The way her back legs get a little weaker every day.

The way she’s had a few accidents.

Hers is not a straight decline.

Darly Walk

She’s had some senior moments followed by some almost puppy like days, well, moments actually, if I’m being honest.

More than anything, it’s the look in her eyes. The look that says, “You’ve done so much for me these last 15 years, but you’re going to have to do one more. I didn’t sign up to be here as long as you did. You’re going to have to let me go.”

I know she’s not the dog who will want heroic measures.
The folks down the street are paying huge vet bills to give their dog chemo. I get it.
I’ve had that pet.
My first 3-legged cat was that way. A trip to the vet was an excuse to go for a ride in the car and get cuddles from the vet techs. He was up for every treatment to keep him here 20 years.

Not this dog. She has hated the vet since her first puppy shots. Any trip there has always been agony.
Even my wonderful vet reminded me of this when I called him a couple weeks ago when Darla was having a bad day.
“I’m happy to look at her,” he said. “But if you’re clear she won’t want anything done, why are you bringing her in?”
Thank God for a vet who turns away a chance to make a buck, who helps save Darla from my selfish wish to keep her here forever.

I know there’s a chance, you understand, Dear Reader.
That you’ve had to say, “Goodbye” to your best friend, too.

If you’ve done it before, like I did with Tripod, you can see signs you denied the last time.

Now, I can listen.
The master teacher is giving one last lesson.

Make her comfortable.
Enjoy every single walk, snuggle, and slurpy kiss.
It could be our last.

I look deep into her cloudy chocolate brown eyes, pools of love and wisdom, for the strength to give her the gift she’s earned a million times over the last 15 years.

The strength to let her go when it’s her time.

Find more stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Comments

comments

5 comments

  • Tami

    Dak, my sweet Ringsey is now up in Kitty Heaven with your sweet Tripod. We had to put her to sleep this weekend, at the age of 21. She had been “telling me,” too, that the time was coming. So hard to lose our beloved four-legged (and three-legged) friends. Tripod was a wonderful kitty. 🙁

  • Tony Alba

    Daryn,

    I doubt you’ll remember my name from the Fiesta Bowl, but I remember you and Gil Tyree and the rest of the team very well.

    Thank you for this wonderful piece. I had to put my beautiful Rottie down about 6 weeks ago. It was the first time I ever had to make that painful decision. But, it was the right thing to do.

    I miss Harley every day, but am comforted knowing he is now pain free.

    Thank you for your words.

    Tony Alba

  • Ken Kuykendall

    Daryn….. A lot of people need to read this! I am making a copy to give to my sister who is in a similar situation. I think people can be selfish wanting to keep an animal alive who is in pain, very sick, etc. Pops

  • Bill Roberts

    Daryn,

    Your column about your dog’s final days was quite emotional for all of us who have been through a senior dog’s twilight. Our 15 year old little Maltese passed one year ago and I still get a tear in my eye remembering the end of his golden years. Your column painted the correct picture that dogs do know when their time is coming to an end.

    I have reread your column several times and I have it saved in my personal files. Any time I have a little memory of our Maltese’s final days, I know that I can reread your column to put the memory
    in the proper perspective.

    Thanks for your charming and delightful words about the many ways that our pets have enriched our lives and enchanted our hearts. Memories of our faithful friends can be cherished a long time.

    Bill Roberts

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My Dog Is Teaching Me A Final Lesson

by DarynKagan time to read: 2 min
5