Call it coincidence. Kismet. Divine intervention. Whatever.
I walked into our town library and there it was.
Going Home, Finding Peace When Pets Die by Jon Katz was sitting there on a table.
I grabbed it and sat down and began reading. And it’s as if Jon Katz wrote this book for me. For us. For our dog-loving family.
Yesterday I left my house after my 14-year-old Dalmatian, Checkers, had already gone through countless incontinence under pads and it wasn’t even noon. It was soon after telling him that, since he could no longer walk and really function as he should, that it was okay for him to go meet God. And then taking it back because I felt so guilty looking into his beautiful face and soulful brown eyes.
I stroked his silky black and white ears realizing that I had become more than frustrated that it had come to this. Life isn’t fair and dogs don’t stay on this earth nearly long enough. More than a little angry that our beautiful Dalmatian — once rife with infinite energy enough to leap tall buildings in a single bound, jump rivers, run vertical trails through the woods and up hills with little effort — can no longer walk because disease has ravaged his body.
I can no longer lift him, can’t help him to go to the bathroom. I spent yesterday morning changing the pads underneath, trying not to let the frustration of having to change one every, what seems like five minutes after he pees, come to the surface. But it does. It escapes through the string of profanities I find myself scream through the house. Kids aren’t home and Checkers is deaf and can’t hear me. But He can.
I needed to get some air, a change of scenery and return the kids’ library books and get one that I had put on hold.
And that’s when I walked into Jon Katz’s book.
I sat in the library and read chapter after chapter. I bawled my eyes out from page one. Jon wrote the book mostly about his beloved border collie, Orson, and how he dealt with the before and after of putting him down. There are stories of his other pets, some who died and some who were euthanized and how he dealt with them all.
Through my tears (and looking around wondering if I’d get kicked out of the library for making too much noise sucking in my sobs) I cherished this book I was reading — a book about our life with our Checkers and inevitably the decision that we will likely be making in the near future.
The dog we know and love is still here in mind and spirit and I believe if he could walk he would, and probably run. But the decision — that 100 ton elephant as Jon put it — hovers above.
More than likely Checkers won’t go to Heaven on his own. Yes, it would save us the sadness of having to make the decision for him. For us. But that would be easy and this part of life with pets is never easy.
Jon’s book — and I use his first name because I feel now this man is a kindred spirit– was exactly what I needed. I took it out of the library and will share it with my husband.
I especially found solace in the part Jon described about a pre-death grieving process. A man had created “The Perfect Day” for his dying dog — a day filled with rubber balls and toys and real meat and special together time for the man and his faithful friend. I immediately thought that would be something great to share with Checkers. Though he can’t walk, we can still take him to his favorite place, maybe in a little red Radio Flyer wagon, give him steak and ice cream and share some special moments with our whole family.
Maybe then Checkers will be able to let go and head on up to the big dog house in the sky. I am sure God will be as pleased to know him as we, and all who know Checkers, have been.
If not, we will have been able to share that special memory with him. And then find some strength to do what we need to.
Going Home, the book I stumbled upon today lifted me at a time when I was feeling low and sad. It gave me hope, it gave me strength to not feel guilty about Checkers and his long and wonderful life. It made me reach for the answer to one of life’s very hard questions.