Yesterday I had to say goodbye to my sweet girl, and it feels like my heart is shattered into millions of pieces. She was a 16yo black lab named Cookie. My sister and I adopted her from the Arizona Humane Society almost 14 years ago. We grew up together. Cookie was there for me through a difficult part of my childhood, college, marriage, my first years as a nurse, and many celebrations and losses. After I moved out of my parents' house, they kept her for awhile while I had my apartment, and once my husband and I moved into our house, she moved in with us and we had the privilege of spending the last year and a half of her life with her.

The decision to say goodbye was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. It was not an easy, straightforward one. She had already been struggling with some hip dysplasia, but a few weeks ago, I noticed some things that were different for her. She really began struggling to stand and lay down, she had become incontinent, leaving puddles each time she would lay down, she was not very interested in eating, which was a huge change for her, and I just felt like something was off. We tried some over the counter bladder support pills and gave her extra "hip treats" (her treats with glucosamine and chondroitin for her hips), but nothing was helping. We used to move around a lot so she really didn't have an established vet (my husband and I would take her to an emergency vet whenever she needed something). So we wanted to get her established at a regular vet. I knew in the back of my mind that it might be getting close to her time, but my husband was thinking it was too early to consider that. We took her to a vet who gave us some pain medication and bladder control medication, but said it was too early to have the quality of life conversation. We decided to get a second opinion, so we made an appointment for her a week later. The medications still were not helping and we began to notice she would sometimes get stuck halfway between standing up and we would have to help her stand up. She would spend her time either sleeping or wandering aimlessly, with occasional moments of wanting pets or eating treats. Our next appointment was another curbside appointment due to Covid. The vet tech took Cookie inside and the vet called us in the car. He explained that Cookie had a bulging disc in her spine, had lost feeling in her back legs and feet, and had arthritis. He explained that Cookie would continue to deteriorate and be in more pain or get stuck one day while we were at work. He said we had to look at her good days and bad days and remember that humans tend to rationalize and that her good days are probably just better bad days. He said we knew Cookie best and we would have to decide when enough was enough. He said she was not going to get better, she was only going to get worse. He prescribed Cookie a two-week supply of pain medicine and an anti-inflammatory and I explained I needed some time to make the decision and that I wanted my sister to be able to say goodbye. After this appointment, my husband was sure it was Cookie's time. I had known for awhile that our baby was tired and in pain, but I suddenly found myself unsure of what to do. What if we were doing it too soon? What if the new medications could help her and she wouldn't be in pain and maybe could live another year or so? But, by the next day I remembered something else the vet said: you have to ask yourself if you are keeping her alive for her or for you. That's when I realized I needed to let my sweet girl rest. She had been there for me through so much, and now I needed to be there for her and give her this final gift of love. My husband called and made the appointment for the next week because I couldn't bear to make the call. 

That last week with Cookie was full of love, but also doubt. I did not expect this decision to be so unclear. I thought we would get to a point where I was 100% sure we needed to do this to put her out of her suffering. The signs were more subtle than I thought. But we wanted to make sure she did not get to a point where she was totally suffering. That last week was filled with walks in her favorite park with all the ducks, car rides, cheeseburgers, puppuchinos, treats, pets, and so much love. My sister got to spend a whole day with her to say goodbye. I struggled with a lot of back and forth. Some days I felt like I was sure I was making the right decision, and other days I wanted to cancel the appointment. The vet and many family members reminded me that labs are eternal puppies and always look like they are smiling so it seems like they are always happy. But I knew she was tired and hurting. I just didn't want to let her go.

The day of the appointment was one of those days I felt like it was time. We gave her all the pets and love. I broke down when we started driving to the appointment. I was trying so hard to keep it together for her but I couldn't. When we got there, they took her in the back room to do the IV. They had trouble because her blood pressure was low, so the vet had to put it in. They gave her a sedative and brought her back in the room and laid her on her blanket from home with her head in my lap. They had to administer the euthanasia quickly so they wouldn't lose the IV and before I knew it she was gone. I was able to hold her head and tell her she was a good girl and pet her. It was much faster that I expected. Afterwards, they gave us some time to be with her and I completely broke down and sobbed and sobbed into her fur. My husband was rubbing my back and petting her belly at the same time. We told her she was the best girl, we loved her so much, and thanked her for everything. After lots of hugs and kisses, we left with some of her fur, her leash, and her collar. My sweet husband talked to the vet and techs for me because I could not speak to anyone. I can honestly say that was the most difficult moment of my entire life, realizing she as gone. It was also a beautiful moment, and I am so glad she was able to pass peacefully with me right there with her, holding her. 

I spent the rest of the day crying and feeling physical pain in my heart. There was a dust and rain storm that evening, and at first I thought it was because my sweet girl was upset, but my husband and I decided it was because she was so excited to be in heaven and out of pain that she was running around in circles like she used to do when she was young. I think whenever there is a storm in the future, I will think of her. My husband spent a lot of time reassuring me that all my feelings were a normal part of the grief process and it's ok to be sad. I honestly felt like I wanted to die too and there was no way I could go on with my life without Cookie. I did not expect to feel this amount of sorrow, even though I had time to prepare and to say goodbye. 

Today has been difficult as well. Today I am feeling an immense amount of guilt. Guilt that I didn't take her to the vet to get pain medications and anti-inflammatory medications sooner. Guilt that we put her to sleep too soon. Guilt that I feel more pain for the loss of Cookie than I ever have for anything else. And also worry that I will always be sad and won't be able to get the picture of her sweet face while she passed out of my mind. I don't really know how to get through this. I know it will get easier, but should I go to counseling? Should I just give myself some time? My husband has been incredibly supportive, but I just feel like my mind isn't right. Cookie was my best friend for so long and I feel like a part of me died yesterday too. I keep trying to tell myself I did the right thing for her, but my heart isn't agreeing. I feel like I let her down. I miss her so much it hurts. 
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Wow that was a very powerful and emotional tribute so beautifully put and my sympathy is with you on your loss.I lost my choc lab just short of age 10 a month ago so 16 is an amazing age especially for a lab who usually don’t live past 13.Every single feeling you have described I have and still am going through but what you must convince yourself is that you did your very best for Cookie and her time by what you described had come so you should feel no guilt but don’t worry if these feelings linger as your happy memories will soon blank these out over time.I was told by my vet that a dog will let you know when he/she has had enough and this was correct regarding my Coco.Heart disease,arthritis,spine started to show and his head was sunken not to mention loss of bowel movement so my only regret is that I did not end his suffering sooner as I selfishly did not want him to leave me so now I only have his urn to talk to and the emptiness in my life is indescribable and I cannot contemplate getting another dog for the foreseeable future as the pain is to raw and I would be betraying his memory although I know he’d be telling me otherwise.We are all different when it comes to grief but it will get better in time but I suggest you make a little shrine with a candle + some of her toys to remember her by and there is a great app called Etsy what sells everything regarding pet loss as I have spent quite a bit on it in the last month so I can just brighten up my house with my boy.Sending hugs + love.
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Thank you so much for your kind words. It is very meaningful and reassuring to me right now that fellow dog parents have similar feelings and that I did the best thing for Cookie. I actually just spent some time on Etsy ordering some things to remember her, which did help me feel a little better. I am so sorry to hear about your sweet Coco. Labs are amazing companions and friends, and I am realizing just how much my sweet girl brightened my life since she has been gone. Thank you again for your kind words and I wish you continued healing.
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