We put our dog to sleep today.
This is my eulogy to a shepherd/retriever mix named Mahogany (so named for practically no reason at all, since she wasn’t mahogany colored—we literally couldn’t think of a name for her and this was the first one that was suggested by my sister after a marathon naming session that didn’t make any of us retch). She was getting on in years, had lost much of her hearing and was the second dog in a row that we owned that had Cushing’s Syndrome. But she was in our lives since I was fifteen, which is about half of my life, and she meant a lot to me.
When she was younger, she was a terror. We got her at about eight weeks, the day after Christmas of 1994, and she was adorable and fuzzy and couldn’t go the whole night without having to go out and pee. Somebody had to sleep with her in the back room of our house so that we could take her outside when she needed to. She was terribly submissive, and had a knack for peeing all over the floor when somebody new came into the house. And if somebody showed up in our driveway, she would go crazy, but not because she wanted to hurt them. It was more of a “OMIGOD THERE ARE PEOPLE THIS IS GREAT I LOVE NEW PEOPLE I WONDER IF THEY WILL PLAY WITH ME” kind of thing. Funny that nobody else but us saw it that way, though.
Since then, she was kind of a fixture in my life. I’d come back to my parents’ house for a weekend and she’d be there at the door, as excited to see me as if I had simply gone away for the day and was getting home.
Even as she got older—and her age really started to show—she would still have puppy moments. Though the fur under her chin started turning gray at the young age of two or three, she still loved to go outside and run like there was no tomorrow. And she loved playing in the snow, right up until the end. Somehow, she never really grasped the concept of how large she was. It was always funny to see a sixty-five pound dog try to climb into somebody’s lap while they sat in a recliner. And God save you if she ever climbed on a bed while you were laying on it: your face was inevitably doomed to a quite literal tongue-lashing from the dog, which would only let up once you had capitulated that she was, indeed, the winner.
My mother told me earlier this week that she was going to be put down. I’m thankful that my job affords me the ability to work from any location, because I decided quite fast that I would drive up so I could see her again and say goodbye. And this morning, at nine o’clock, we made the trip to the vet’s to put her to rest.
The entire process took only about two minutes. It’s not the first time I’d seen a family member die—no, this was in fact the third time I’d had the privilege. The vet pushed what seemed to be an absurd amount of anesthetic through a syringe, and quite soon, the pup’s breathing slowed and stopped.
She died with her eyes open. I had thought she would drift off to sleep, but I guess it happened too quickly for even that.
In a way, getting to say goodbye to my dog makes me feel a little better about not being able to say goodbye to my grandmother. The frustration of having one family member pass on so fast is tempered a little bit by the ability to show the other one how much I loved them both. It’s a small consolation, but it is one, at least.
My parents say they probably won’t get another dog for a while. The last time we had to put a dog down, it was about six months before we all decided it was time. Now that there isn’t a whole house full of kids to help take care of it, I wonder if it might not be a little while longer, if at all, before they get another. But this family has always had a dog in it, and I can’t imagine it without one in the house to help keep the cats company.
I just hope that if they do get a new one, it’s not something small. I wouldn’t want to accidentally step on it.
October 23, 1994 — February 20, 2009
You were loved and you will be missed by all—even by those who thought you were trying to eat them.