Tuesday, January 3, 2012 |


     When do you know it's time? How can you make that decision that changes your life forever? When do you stop being selfish and really think about the welfare of your beloved child/dog? Unlike real children you know that at some point you will out live your family pet who isn't just a pet, but a true member of your family. At least to me, my pet's are my kids, my family, my life. I had to make that decision this week, the single most complicated thing that I have ever had to do in my life.
     Dakota turned 14 years old this month and with it I have seen the decline of her health over the last year. I have to be honest and a little selfish here that I am so glad that I haven't been working over the last year and a half, that I have had the opportunity to be home with her to help her to keep her comfortable during the hot and cold weather. Knowing in my heart that her will, her spirit for life far out weighed the ability of her body to keep up. Some days she was great, she still had a spring in her step and others I simply would have to stop what I was doing to go and rescue her from where ever she happened to plant herself. If this sounds even more selfish, I was hoping that one day I would awaken and she would have already slipped peacefully away in her sleep, but I knew in my heart and soul that I would never be that lucky.
     It starts with just random comments, trying to feel people out on what they feel is the right time, but you don't really hear them even though you have initiated the conversation. You have days where all you want to do is cry for her and you do, but the selfishness of not being able to let go sets in and you find that her good days are an excuse to not think about it anymore. Than it's little things like an accident here or there, and you still make excuses that it's the food or it's just harder for her today. Than it starts to become a more frequent problem and the next thing you know your carpet cleaning your whole house because the clean spots from all the accidents start to make your carpet look bleached out, or hosing the patio down every week to wash away all the other messes. Than it's the loss of appetite, that not even adding rice or other foods to her dish will entice her to eat more. When all she does is pick out the good stuff and leaves the rest and nothing will put the weight back on. Than you notice the panting, which up until a week or so ago I didn't realize it was a sign of pain, I just thought she was hot and yet, it's winter and the temperature doesn't creep past 65. So you go back to asking other pet owners around you what they felt was the right time and you continue to cry, to listen, and still deny what really needs to be done.
     Until one day you finally realize that her most basic functions have gone beyond what's become normal and you are subjecting them to different sleeping arrangements because you know you will wake up to a mess not only all over the floor, but all over them and your bathing them constantly to keep them clean. You finally make that call to the vet for the professional consultation and when you finally hear the words from them, you finally realize that it's time to let go. But is it? You know in your heart it is, but you still want to find excuses. Well if I give them pain pills or anti inflammatory, or I just let her sleep more, because her mind is still so active, but you watch her walk around for hours because she's afraid to have to put her hips down even though she has to keep walking in order for her hips to stay in place or at least that's what you keep telling yourself.
     I know that each breed has a time limit, the bigger the dog usually the shorter the time and I know that for a Siberian Husky 14 years old is almost unheard of, but not impossible. Dakota has never thought of the impossible, because if she knew that, she would have never survived to this ripe old age. She has eaten her way through things that most dogs would never have survived. Copious amounts of chocolate (yes, I said chocolate, and it's not from the lack of keeping her away from it, she was always very inventive in her methods of finding it and extracting it from whatever container it was hidden in) food of all kinds, Kleenex, and lord know what else. Even being as attentive as I was, if there was a will, there was a way. She found ways to run away for adventures that subjected her to the open road and careless drivers. She was an inventive dog, a food monger, an adventure taker. She could try the patience of Job, and be the most loving innocent loving creature you ever saw. Dakota broke the rule book on raising dogs in every which way there was and she managed to live for 14 good years as the queen of her castle and us as her subjects.

     In true Dakota fashion we had to wake her from a nap to find that she had been laying in her own pee, got her in the car and before we put the car in reverse she pooped all over the back seat floor after she sat in it first making me have to call the vet to tell them we were running late. Which really at this point made me truly believe that I was making the correct decision. Later one when I was talking with one of my dear friends, he says to me that Dakota had one hell of a sense of humor. Couldn't help but get a good laugh from that, because you know he was absolutely right. I know that if we mess ourselves we become embarrassed and it wasn't much different with her either and it was also the sign I needed telling me that everything was OK.
     Dakota's final weigh in was 49 pounds and she looked so mangled and filthy from all the falling down and I felt like I had to explain to the Doctor that I feed her and that she had just been groomed before Christmas, but I knew it was not from any lack of me trying to give her the best care possible. It is was it is, she didn't eat much anymore and no lack of grooming on my part would change the fact that she just wasn't the dog she once was. The weight was the worst part for me, because in her prime she topped out at 79 pounds and that was only 3 years ago. I knew that she would weigh less, but I definitely wasn't prepared for that.
     In the final moments, I am so grateful that I got to hold her tight and tell her how much I loved her and the peace and calm of knowing that she was no longer in pain became a great comfort to me. Didn't make it any less difficult, or it's not a consolation, or make the pain in my heart any less, but at least in my soul I realized that I was doing the right thing by her. I couldn't keep holding on to her for my own selfishness, but had to send her on to a place where she could run and jump and play again. I know that she is somewhere with my parents beloved Cheyanne who was her first playmate as a pup and who was taken from us to early in her little life and to this day is cherished by us all. The two of them are together and I believe that when it's my time I will see them both and we can all be together again.

     I needed to share this experience and I'm hoping that with my talking about it not only will it help my heeling process, but maybe help someone else out there who is struggling with the same kind of decision. Like I mentioned, I never had a dog live to this ripe old age, and not knowing how to handle it or even deal with it is frustrating. I know I had a lot of support from family and friends, but at the same time it's you and you alone that has to make the final decision. Dakota was my world, and maybe some of you reading this will think I was a bad parent, but at the same time, you may never have lived with the stubbornness of a Husky nor have lived with the love of a dog that could drop you to your knees and make you cry for the sheer beauty and joy she brought me all these years. All I know is that when I get to heaven, my one question to God will be why can't our babies live longer? Why must we loose them so soon? At the same time, I do know the answer to that question. It's because there are so many of them that need love and it teaches us how to keep our hearts and our minds open to other possibilities.

Dakota Ann Smith
December 1997 - December 2011
You will always be in our hearts forever!


mommahobbit said...

As a person with a very very long list of companions I can so feel your heavy heart! Please remind yourself you did what was best and everytime you look to the sky ... smile ... you are being watched by Dakota:)

lil'nickki said...

I too know the pain of letting go of a loved one... I just put my angel of 10 yrs down due to bone cancer this past sept...she was a german shephard cross but more like a child of mine...always there thru good times and bad....as mommahobbit states....you did do the right thing by giving her to the Lord but Dakota's spirit will be with you always in your heart ....

HollyStar said...

Thank you Ladies for your kind words and sympathy and taking the time to read my blog. I feel your loss as well and thank God that I have had so much love and support from people I don't even know but who are bonded together for their love of their kids!

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