First confession: I don’t know where this post will take me. And, be warned that it may be a hard read, but I need to get this out, before the details blur anymore in my memory and mommy brain.
I have wanted to write about this, but haven’t been sure how or when. I first started drafting something on December 5, 2017, when I first admitted to myself deep down that my poor sweet dog, Buck, was approaching his end. That week was emotionally exhausting, knowing and dreading, but also wanting to remember and cherish his last few days with us.
From my Original Draft
That Tuesday, my older dog, my first baby, my rescued buddy, my chocolate boy… took a turn for the worst. He hadn’t been well for months, but we’d found small things to treat and small changes that seemed for a while to make a difference, so I never let myself think it was more than aging. Everybody gets older, but this new change was more than OLD. This was, well, his days were numbered and I was going to have to deal with that. And I knew that sometime soon we would have to tell my sweet son, whose third word after Mama and Dada was Buck, that Buck was not going to get better and… y’all, I had no idea how I was going to do that or what we would say.
By Thursday, we’d been to the vet, and he told me what I already knew. That night my hubby and I snuggled with our chocolate boy and cried as we came to the depressing decision that all dog owners dread.
Friday morning, I called to schedule his in-home euthanasia. The soonest the vet could come was Saturday at 4:30. I undertook craft projects with the kids and stress cleaned to the max. I must confess that I took apart and cleaned my vacuum cleaner. I meticulously brushed and gently scraped every little nook of it, like an archaeologist on assignment. I realized I was nuts.
I called for reinforcement with the kids so that I could give as much time and attention to Buck as possible that awful day. Buck was just miserable. I had to put diapers on him. I carried him if he needed to get around. I held him as much as I could, all snuggled up in a blanket like he’d always loved.
My worst confession ever: I wanted him gone. Because, he already was. The day couldn’t be over soon enough. I just wanted him to stop suffering.
I got into bed that night knowing it would be a sleepless night with my sweet Buck at my feet. As bad as the day had been, the night was still worse. He couldn’t even get comfortable to sleep. I was restless that night as my heart ached for him. The doctor would be there in about 15 hours and that seemed much too long. My poor Buckling.
Saturday morning, when we woke up, he was laboring to breath in his sleep. My husband and I both put our hands on him and looked at each other. After a few minutes, the baby monitor alerted us that our attention was needed elsewhere. My husband whispered soft goodbyes to Buck and kissed him, knowing that I needed to stay with Buck until the end. I think I was blubbering about something nonsensical or irrelevant (medical lingo or something), so he said before turning to go, “honey, say your goodbyes now.”
As hubby left the room, I leaned over to kiss our sweet boy and that was it. My hand on his chest, I immediately felt his lungs empty and his heart stop. I wept for so many things: grief for losing him, gratitude knowing he was no longer in pain, bittersweet selfishness that in the end it, it had been just me and him, and terror at knowing my big boy would wake up soon, and we would have to explain this all to him.
From the Current Blur that is My Brain
Hubby came, gave me a baby, and I muttered “He’s gone. He’s gone. I’m so sorry. It happened as soon as you’d gone.” That’s when he told me that before leaving he had told Buck that it was ok to go. Hubby bent over him so lovingly and moved him onto a clean blanket, one free from the ugly and bodily aftermath of death.
It’s all a blur now, but not long after, our big boy woke up, and his Daddy went to get him. I know hubby explained to me later that as he brought him to our room, he told him about how Buck wasn’t sick anymore.
Then I had to do the thing I’d been dreading all week. In the moment, it just seemed clear. I told him that there’s a little piece of all of us that we cannot see called a soul. That is where the real us is even after our bodies cannot hold it anymore. That part of Buck had left us to be with God. He looked at me and said in a slightly cracked (mostly because he had just woken up) voice, “Who is that doggy? Mommy, I don’t know that doggy.”
Long blurry story short, my two-year-old, sweet child knew immediately that Buck was gone. He fully accepted that Buck was with God and that like Him, we can’t really see him but he will always be with us. He talks about Buck all the time. He is still very much part of our family and family history. Buck’s blanket. Buck’s bear. He prays almost nightly for Buck to be happy with God and to watch over us. He talks about how Buck was old and sick, but not anymore. Whenever I was teary for the next few weeks, he would kindly look at me and say, “Are you sad about Buck?” He’d give me a hug or pat me.
Along with 10 wonderful years with my rescue pup and star of many ridiculous Christmas photos (see above), here’s what I gained from this whole experience:
I am sad that the twins won’t really remember Buck, but I think they will still know him, because Aman will make sure they do. And that’s the way it should be. We SHOULD keep talking about him.
I am so glad that I did that Pet Painting Project, because I will forever have a beautiful portrait of my Buck, which I painted alongside my bestie, who loved that chocolate boy as fiercely as I did.
It is never too early to talk to children about big issues, feelings, and questions. Be honest with them. They are capable of understanding so much more than you realize.
And ironically, as with the case with the Circle of Life, when my grandparents died, it was Buck who came to me as tears spilled down my cheeks. He sat with me and simply knew that his human needed some tenderness and love. When Buck passed, my sweet two year old was the giver of snuggles and extra TLC.
Toddlers are Special Tiny Humans (or animals)
At one point, as I sat in the waiting area of the pet emergency room that difficult week in December, a woman sitting next to me said that it’s hard to see our pets get sick and age, because they are forever like toddlers to us. She got that right. Even when they age, they are our children, toddlers specifically, because they can be so energetic and silly, yet also so surprisingly intuitive and comforting.
Dad: A Man of Few but Poignant Words
I write so much about motherhood and moms, but my Dad is a rock star at the Dad gig, and he deserves props for the best words of condolence, reminding me that all dogs go to Heaven and that Buck is now running leash free forever. Thanks Daddy.
Rest in peace sweet Buck.