Some time in the near future my family will be putting down our beloved dog Toby. This is possibly one of the most difficult things I will ever go through. I am sure it sounds strange. But at 26 I still have both of my parents and all four of my grandparents. I even saw two of my great grandmothers live to the age of 98. So death is something that I have not dealt with very much. Sure, I have been to a few funerals (four to be exact). But people generally die from one of three things: age, illness or an accident. Even though I have felt grief for the few people that I have lost it didn’t seem so terrible. Death can’t be helped, no one lives forever. With my dog Toby it feels much different. We will be making the conscious decision to have him put down. Sure he is getting old but there is no way that we would ever look at our elders and say, “Well, grandpa is getting older and having trouble moving around, it’s time to put him out of his misery.” I’m not saying that we should do this but it seems funny that the same rules don’t apply to our pets, whom most people consider to be beloved members of their family. And yes, I understand the logistics. Humans have autonomy over their bodies, animals don’t. Humans can communicate to their family members, dogs can’t communicate to their owners.
But moving on, this is a very difficult time for me. I have been crying a lot since I’ve been home, mostly because I hate knowing that I am going to lose Toby. I have to admit that as he has aged, his body has started to break down. That’s to be expected. The main problem for Toby is his hind legs which have arthritis. His hind legs often give out on him and he either falls down or cannot get up when he has been laying down. It breaks my heart to see him struggle to get up, bark repeatedly and finally give up. There are times when someone in my family can help him to get up but it doesn’t always work and we find that sometimes he is best left alone for a little while. On the other hand, it often feels like it’s too soon. Toby still enjoys going for walks, he still sniffs around the dinner table hoping for scraps, in a lot of ways he is still acting like his old self.
Everyone in my family wishes that Toby would die naturally. It might sound horrible but there are times when he is sleeping and is so still that I wonder if it has finally happened. I know that if Toby were to die naturally then I wouldn’t feel nearly so awful about his death. Unfortunately that is highly unlikely. Toby’s vet said that only about 5% of dogs die naturally, and of those about 50% should have been put down. So here we are. No date has been chosen. No one in my family actually wants to make that call. It’s also difficult because we feel that Toby really isn’t bad enough to be put down just yet but then we don’t want to wait until he’s in horrible shape to put him down. As the vet said, there is no such thing as a good day to put down your dog.
I keep thinking about all of the things I’m going to miss once Toby is gone. I’m going to miss petting his soft long blonde fur. I’m going to miss the guilty look on his face when I catch him doing something he shouldn’t. I’m going to miss the excitement in his eyes when I get out his leash to take him on a walk. I’m going to miss giving him treats like peanut butter and cheese. I’m going to miss being a dog owner in general. After Toby my parents may never have another dog. And as a young single person living in the city I doubt that I will be a dog owner in the near future. Most of all I’m going to miss having someone to come home to. There is nothing like the love of a dog. I know that long after Toby is gone I will still remember his happy barks and wagging tail every time I came home. I know that even if I someday get another dog that no one will ever replace him. In the meantime, I am trying to take everything one day at a time and cherish each day I have left with him.