I just came across this post shown below on the Reddit Pet Grief thread. It really, really moved me.
It's about a dog's end of life. I lost my cat, but there is a lot of poignancy and eloquence in this post that applies to any pet parent who sees that their beloved's life is coming to an end.
Please take a moment to read it. You will be glad that you did.
My dog is dying.
She's 14 and a half years old. I'm 33... and a half, I guess. She's been here my entire adult life. One of the few constants through all these years. The longest I've been away from her was when I moved out of state for the better part of a year. I remember telling her I was leaving, and her being confused. I remember coming home in failure, single, jobless, back at my parents house where I left her, sitting on the floor and crying with all my stuff in boxes emptied out in my old room... and my dog being there, tail wagging, sniffing around and welcoming me home. No judgment, just love.
She's been dying for a while, now. I feel guilty about it. It's not time, yet, though. I know it isn't. She's still happy, still healthy enough, still finds joy in life. But we're getting close. We both know it. There are things she doesn't do anymore that she used to love to do. That's the guilt.
I want to make everyone magically understand this next part before I say it, so that you don't think I'm the world's biggest ass... but I also don't want you to have to understand it. So I'll just say it.
This isn't the dog I fell in love with anymore.
That's what dying means. Everything changes. Burns out. The heart is an organ of fire, and one day it goes out. My dog burned bright like a bonfire for most of her life. She filled the rooms she entered with an irrepressible light. As she got older, that bonfire burned lower, and we made adjustments. Tore her ACL 5 years ago - just a campfire, now. Still burning, though. Had a bout of vestibular disease a couple years ago - now we're crouched around the fire, guarding it against the wind. She takes several pills every day to help her out, like any elderly person would or should. We try to exercise her and keep her active to ward off atrophy, keep up circulation, hold back the pain. Arthritis. Hip dysplasia. No cancer. Lucky.
It's just embers, now, her fire. Glowing embers that give off such warmth when you get close, but gone is the roar of the fire, gone are the days of flame, gone is the light from the room. She used to climb up onto the couch to rest while we were at work - not anymore. She sleeps on the floor now. Her toys collect dust in the box, in the corner of the room. They had been sewn back up so many times, none of them still have a squeaker left inside. We haven't played with them in a long time.
She used to bark like a loon when we'd go for a car ride. She'd launch herself in and start yelling for me to get in. She'd bark at other dogs if we saw them on the trip, demanding that they look at her and acknowledge her presence, and then bark more fiercely to demand that they look away from her glory. She used to bark like she thought the car ran on barks - like it was fuelled by the raw power of her voice alone. And who's to say it wasn't. We don't go for rides so much anymore. Sometimes. It's tough getting in. We don't bark much anymore. And we just lay down in the backseat now, so we can't really look out of the window anymore either. It's ruff.
This is what it is. Dying. The light starts to fade, and bit by bit, the quirks and unique mannerisms are lost to the dark. She doesn't wait at the top of the stairs anymore for her night-time treat in case someone comes home late. She doesn't sleep in the hallway to guard all the rooms at once anymore. She doesn't fire off a series of trumpeting warning barks when going outside to get busy, like a herald announcing royalty exiting the castle, anymore.
She isn't Nessa anymore. Not really. Nessa was fierce. She was beautiful. She was so smart, and so funny, and so loyal. These days we're left with just a shadow of that. The embers. Dim light in the dark. Warmth... but only if you get real close.
They spark, sometimes, though. Enough to remind us both of what once was.
A little dog on our street got loose the other night during our walk. Ran up to us barking like a maniac. Ran literal circles around us as we stood still, watching her. Didn't bark back. Just watched. As the little dog's owner tried to chase her down, we watched, together, the two of us, and my girl looked up at me. As if to say, "... a few years ago..." and I would just nod, as if to say, "Yeah, darling. I know. I know, baby." But we didn't. We didn't have to speak. It was just a look shared between two old friends. She knew, and I knew. She was something else. Graceful. Strong. Proud. Queen.
I brush her fur and feed her by hand. I have a harness to help her move around when we walk. I carry her occasionally. She's fading. It picks up speed, toward the end. We're not ready, yet. Not there yet. I won't let myself be selfish. Won't prolong. I'm watching. Both of us, she and I, aren't ready. But we will be soon. It'll happen here, in our home. My baby. She's the reason I became a vet tech. She's the reason I became anything at all.
It's like a wave building. With every little quirk lost, every thing she used to do but doesn't or can't anymore, every moment where I expect her to act a certain way, but she doesn't anymore because she's too old, the wave builds. I am standing on the shore of grief, waiting for it to crash down. Won't be long now. Dying is the wave. Death is when it breaks.
I feel like I cry a lot these days. But man... we had some good times, she and I. What we're feeling now doesn't hold a candle to the years of unbridled joy and hilarity and adventures and love and love and love.
I just wish you could have met her, you guys. Before the embers. Back when the fire burned bright, and high. She has been the best part of my life since I met her. I know you all would have loved her.
She lit up the room.