People who don’t have pets often say, “It was just a dog.” Nothing could be less accurate. Our pets are not “just a” dog or a cat or even a goldfish. We love them like family because they are family. They are our fur kids. They’re our brothers and sisters. They’re our kids.
My family has always had dogs and usually a cat as well. Some of my earliest memories are of our pets. And while I can now think of most of them without instantly breaking down there are a couple who will always bring tears. And, since we still have dogs, this cycle of life, love, and death continues.
Yesterday I accompanied my youngest son to our veterinarian’s office. His dog suddenly started losing weight and had gotten pretty thin. The dog is almost 13 years old but he’s been fit and happy until the last few weeks. He even still played fetch and not even in an old man sort of way.
We’ve had the same vet since our kids were little guys. She’s become a very close friend and she’s the best vet in our county and probably beyond. We trust her implicitly.
After examining Tai, she suggested an x-ray. I already knew something was up by the way she palpated his abdomen. 26 years of watching her do exams has given me a real understanding of the way she does things. I was quite concerned. The x-ray showed what we’d been hoping it wouldn’t. Tai has a very large, fast-growing tumor on his spleen.
She explained everything about that type of tumor to me, then we brought my son into the office. Since I’ve had kids one of the hardest things I’ve had to do is tell them a pet is terminally ill. As heartbreaking as losing the pet is it doesn’t come close to the heartbreak of watching your child’s heart break. My son is now a grown man but the news that his dog, that he’s had since the pup was six weeks old, caused him to break down. It tore me apart.
We are fortunate that our vet felt that it wasn’t yet time to put Tai to sleep. She’s put him on medication for the pain and for the infection that the tumor developed. She said he’ll feel much better in a couple of days and told my son, “If Tai were my kid I wouldn’t put him down today.” My son was able to take his beloved dog home where he can spend a little time spoiling him, loving him, and preparing himself for the inevitable loss. And I’ll be spending more time at my son’s house so I, too, can prepare.
Our pets are our best friends and our confidantes. They’re the first ones to comfort us when we cry and the first to join us when we’re celebrating. They give us deep joy and frustrate the heck out of us. They make our lives better.
In time we’ll be able to talk about the funny things Tai always did. We’ll talk about how tough and brave he was and how he once “saved” me from someone he clearly saw as a threat to my life, who was really my son in Halloween makeup. We’ll tell the story about how this tough dog let our oldest grandchild use his tongue as support when learning to walk. We’ll reminisce about how the grand kids could do anything to him and he’d just look at us as if to say, “Aren’t they adorable?” We’ll talk about all the good things that happened over so many years.
But for now, it just hurts so much it’s almost hard to breathe. So, if you have never known the love, loyalty, companionship, and joy of owning a pet, please don’t tell us Tai is “just a dog.” He’s family.