Lilly was nearly 14 years old. It was hard for so many reasons...she was the last dog in the house...she had been part of our family since she was a tiny, wiggly 6 week old baby...she got sick suddenly, after surviving removal of her spleen just 2 months earlier (the tumor in her spleen was benign, so her sudden illness was a surprise).
She was a typical Jack Russel Terrier, and we actually called her a Jack Rascal. And she lived up to the name: she was loud, demanding and naughty. She became naughtier over time, getting into the trash, jumping on the kitchen table right in front of us, barking her high-pitched bark randomly (or so we thought).
As these changes occurred, I started to realize she was probably upset with us. After all, she had been the original baby of the family, coming to join us when we had an adult Golden Retriever, who truly helped raise her. The pair went everywhere with us- camping, road trips, hikes. They saw the Pacific Ocean a number of times, ran wild in Yosemite, the Redwoods and walked side by side along numerous trails and campgrounds all over Colorado, California and Southern Oregon. But 4 years ago, we rescued two older dogs (who were brought to my clinic to be euthanzied for the then-owner's convenience), and then we started having kids. So the heirarchy in the house changed, and for a bossy, bigger-than-life little dog, these changes were hard.
So, letting her go was hard. But thinking about it now, days later, it is much harder. Guilt and grief have set in.
Part of my job as a veterinarian is to coach and support people through this chapter. Maybe I need some coaching this time, to move past the sadness of feeling like I let Lilly down somehow, because my life got busy and crazy, and she wasn't the center of my universe, as she had once been.
I know we made the right decision for her, before she was really sick and suffering. A kind friend offered to euthanize her for me, so I didn't have to be the one to administer the drugs and could instead just be there with her. I declined the offer. I owed it to Lilly to not only be there with her, but to be the one to help her so gently and personally, one last time. It's always heart-wrenching when I do this, but saying a final goodbye to her was much more difficult than I expected. I hope she knows I adored her and all of her rascal ways.