A few weeks ago we had to put down our lovable dog Rocky. We had Rocky for 8 years. He was a great dog.
Rocky started losing weight pretty rapidly. Our first visit to the vet revealed that he was having heart issues. I took Rocky home and began a wet food diet to get him to eat, which worked. After a few days, he started to swell up like a balloon. His sides were huge. Apparently, this is due to the heart not working properly and causing certain liquids to not leave the body.
My wife and I knew that Rocky was nearing his end and so we started talking to Claire about it. Claire, I believe, has a certain understanding about death. I don’t think she fully grasps the totality of it, but she knows its a going away of sorts. We had several conversations with Claire to prepare her for the inevitable. Claire seemed to get it. There were a few moments of sadness and one time where she cried a little.
I took Rocky to the SPCA for one last checkup and the vet confirmed it was time. Rocky would not get better and the combination of his age and condition did not justify the cost of treatment that would give us a few more months with him. I scheduled Rocky’s appointment to euthanize him and went home. It was one of those weird moments that you never expect to have to do. “What time is best to kill your dog?” “Hows Tuesday?”—It was weird.
When I got home I told my wife the news and she was very upset. Jess has grown up with animals all her life so losing one has always been difficult. We spoke with Claire and told her that she had a few more days with Rocky and then she would not see him again. I’m not really sure what went through Claire’s head, but you could tell there were conflicting ideas. In some sense, she wanted to spend time with Rocky, but she also wanted to go and play—her normal thing. On the last day, we had Rocky, Claire had to go to school so I had her go say goodbye to him. Claire hugged Rocky and gave him one final treat. Then we went to school. Claire wasn’t upset at all.
After dropping Claire off at school I took Rocky to the SPCA. For the most part, I was fine, but once I walked into the room and we laid him on the tabletop where they would administer the meds I got choked up. The vet was really great about explaining everything and making sure I was ok with every step. The vet asked me if I wanted a few minutes with Rocky and I said, “no I’m ready.” I placed my hand on Rocky’s head and stroked it. “He’s in a better place now”, said the vet as he checked for a heartbeat.
It was over.
I left the SPCA sad, but once I got into the car I realized this was necessary. Rocky had been miserable the last few days. I went home trying to guess how Claire would react once she got home and didn’t see Rocky there. Would she cry? Be angry? Possible responses to her questions ran through my mind.
I picked Claire up from school and told her Rocky was gone. Claire was sad but she was ok. Surprisingly, Claire was totally fine as the days went by. I figured Claire would be ok after a while, but I never expected it to be this fast. My wife and I were definitely more emotional than Claire. As we prepared for the inevitable loss of Rocky in our mind all we kept thinking about was Claire and here she was moving on with ease. I am always amazed at how resilient kids are. Thank God for that.
I’m so sorry for your loss. Grief is an unpredictable thing. My first experience with death was the death of my paternal grandmother in fifth grade. I understood what happened and for a long time couldn’t process the emotional part. One day a few weeks later I forgot to take my watch off before taking a bath and was inconsolable at the loss. I knew my emotional reaction was unreasonable and out of proportion to the event. My dad helped me to understand more about grief. I suspect that Claire may show her grief in an unexpected way some time down the road. Praying for your abilities to see it and guide her heart. Peace. Lauren McAdams