Sunday, March 15, 2015

All Dogs Go to Heaven

Two days ago, my sister and I had to take our family dog, Zoey, to the vet to be put to sleep.  At about seventeen years old, she had pretty severe arthritis, incontinence, little vision, two found tumors, and was losing weight.  She didn't want to interact with anybody and spent most of her day just lying down in my mom's room.  She was just hanging on.  Fortunately she wasn't scared when we got to the vet's office, and didn't even have the energy to fight against the IV that went in her little arm.  I looked her in the face and told her how much she has been loved and thanked her for her loyalty to my family, especially my mom.

Instead of this blog being sad about the loss of Zoey, I wanted to write this to celebrate her life.  I never had a dog as a kid.  My dad forbade having one (I later found out he wanted to protect my sister and me from the pain he went through when he lost his childhood dog).  Two days before Mother's Day in 2000, Gwyn (my sister) decided to go to the Humane Society on a whim.  She saw a scrawny beagle/terrier in the corner of a cage that the employees had nicknamed Mighty Dog.  She was a 2 year old stray who looked like she had just had puppies and had a bad case of kennel cough.  She was on schedule to be put down since no one wanted her.  My sister felt a connection with Zoey and took me back to the kennel with her to meet Zoey.  Despite being scared and sick, she was so kind and had the type of stare that just made you want to hug her forever.  We were both determined to save Zoey from an early death and be our family pet.  The next step was to convince our parents.

My mom was actually optimistic about meeting Zoey and possibly taking her home, my dad was reluctant.  Fortunately, we got our father to go to the Humane Society with us since it was Mother's Day and my mom asked him to go to humor her.  When we got there, my dad didn't even want to go back to the kennel convinced we were NOT getting a dog.  We were allowed to put Zoey on a leash and decided we were going to take her out to the waiting room to meet my dad.  As soon as Zoey walked into the waiting room, she pulled herself away from the leash, jumped up on the bench right next to my dad, and just stared at him.  My dad started to crack a smile and gave in.  We got to take Zoey home that day and saved her from a morbid fate.

The next week was hard trying to treat Zoey's kennel cough, gain her trust, and get her to gain weight.  Soon after that, Zoey was really close with all of us.  She loved walks, our wooded backyard, chewing on pig ears, and playing tag.  I was actually shy at this time in my life so Zoey was who I hung out with.  She was a good friend to me, didn't judge me, didn't make fun of me.  She just wanted to play and be loved.

5 months after getting Zoey, my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma.  The more treatments my dad went through, the more Zoey stayed by his side.  She took naps with him and let him be when he wanted to be alone.  She instinctively knew when to be by him or leave him be.  Six short months later, my dad died.  This time, Zoey followed my mom around everywhere and slept next to her every night.  My mom admitted she felt better with Zoey watching over her.

When I went off to college, I even had a sense that my mom would be ok since she had Zoey.  I'd still come home every weekend to do laundry and play with Zoey.  The summer before my senior year, I was dealing with unbearable sinus headaches and a broken heart from a breakup.  Zoey was by my side, letting me hug her as I cried into her fur.  I couldn't leave the house much due to how lousy I felt but I had Zoey.  

Over the years, Zoey started to show her age and I moved to Indianapolis so I didn't see her as much.  She still slept with my mom every night.  It's times like these I wish I had spent more time with her after moving out of West Lafayette.  A year ago, Zoey's health started to go downhill.  It was hard for my mom to see but she did the best she could to take care of Zoey.  Last week, Gwyn and I saw Zoey and could tell she was doing very poorly.  We felt it was the right thing to do to go take Zoey to the vet since we were the ones who begged to save her.  I felt an irrational sense of guilt taking Zoey away from my mom, but she isn't in pain anymore.  She isn't just hanging on.  I want to think she is in a heaven, running around with pure joy and getting some hugs in from my dad.

I think it's an understatement to say that Zoey was a great dog.  I think it's an understatement  to even say she was an amazing dog.  She was what you'd hope for in a dog.  She loved so much and so loyally.  I think that is what makes Zoey's death so sad despite living a long life; we loved her so much it made saying goodbye so much harder.  She was the rescue dog that rescued us.  I will always be grateful for her, forever.

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