Death and Dying for a Dog in America
by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Urbanna, Va.— Dogs don’t live very long. What we hope most for them is that we can spare them a miserable death at the end of the line.
For our beloved golden retriever pup, Lord, who was born under my desk while I sat typing a story (and hitting every other key in a typo), his time on earth was really short. He was still young. For whatever reason he started having seizures last year and went on medication to help control them. Even with a strong dosage, he suffered a series of two or three at least once a month.
We tried everything to alleviate the problem, took him off heartworm and flea pills and changed his diet to lamb and rice for allergic dogs. Nothing helped.
Then after a year on medication, two months passed with no seizures. We thought we had licked the problem.
One night in January while giving a dinner party, I noticed Lord was following me wherever I went and would even lie down in the middle of our group. Chip finally led him away so our guests could make it to the dining table without having to step over him.
When my last guest left, Lord went into a severe seizure. Finally at midnight we all fell into an uneasy sleep, but I heard him again at 6 a.m. having another seizure. We called the vet who said to increase medication. We did, but the seizures continued all day long with in-between bouts of walking dizzily, falling down and crying.
Chip took him to the vet who suggested he spend a night in an emergency pet hospital for observation. Perhaps he could be saved. It was snowing and it took Chip two hours to get there with the dog panting in the back seat of the car. The dog suffered all night with on and off seizures that could not be controlled. Even valium did not help him. He could not recover. After what he labeled a “rough night,” the vet called at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning to say he believed it would be best to put the dog down. We agreed.
The first day without Lord was one of the worst in my life. His mom, Lady, in a rare and sudden streak of sympathy for us, was exceptionally kind. She did dog duty. She even came over to my chair and laid her dear old head on my lap and looked up at me with mournful eyes. She was grieving too.
I wrote emails to my family, friends and priest to tell them of our loss. Emails came back of sympathy. Each one helped me get through the day. My priest who also loves dogs wrote:
“Our hearts and prayers are truly with you.
One cannot begin to express how important these special members of our families are.
They are truly blessings.
We are privileged that they share their journeys with us.
When they are called from us, we know they now run freely in God’s green pastures!”
That night we looked awful from weeping all day. Our faces were bloated, our noses were red, and our eyes were swollen. We looked like a couple of scarecrows that had been in the field all year long. Chip had on a pair of pants stained with paint from last summer’s job on the shutters. My hair looked as if it had been styled by my grandmother’s egg beater. We were both too tired to cook dinner or even change our clothes, so we decided to go out for dinner.
We headed for Eckhard’s restaurant. “Robie, I apologize for how we look, but we lost our dog today,” is all I could manage to say. She led us to our usual table. A crackling fire was before us. Dean brought us wine. Other staff came to our table to console us. Even our favorite chef, Donald, came out from the kitchen to tell us about his favorite white German shepherd who had passed away. Robie pointed to the framed portrait hanging on the wall.
We ate our dinner and I cried all the way through it.
The hospital charged us $1,000. It turns out in America the last night of a dog’s life is expensive.
We wanted to save Lord if at all possible. It wasn’t. The vet thought he might have had a brain tumor. I am haunted by the fact he was without those who loved him on the last night of his life. We should have had him put down immediately. We could have spared him that last nightmarish night alone and held him in our arms at the end.
He wasn’t quite 8 years old.