A beloved dog’s legacy

AF­TER MISTY DIED, I didn’t know how I’d get through my grief. Then a fel­low an­i­mal lover sent me a mes­sage that changed ev­ery­thing

Montreal Gazette - - Opinion - JILL SALOMON

Last Jan­uary, my beloved dog, Misty, died. The de­ci­sion to put her down was the most dif­fi­cult of my life. Misty was an amaz­ing dog and my con­stant com­pan­ion. She was loyal and her love was pure and un­con­di­tional. But she was 13 years old and she was suf­fer­ing.

I wept as I lifted her into the car to take her to the vet, know­ing it would be her last ride. Misty loved the car. We had taken so many trips in it, her head out the win­dow, her ears blown back in the wind, smelling the smells go by, joy on her face.

When we ar­rived at the An­i­mal Health Clinic in N.D.G., she did not want to go in. Nor­mally she would just walk up the steps; she al­ways liked it there. I think she made the con­nec­tion be­tween not feel­ing well, go­ing to the vet, be­ing treated and then feel­ing bet­ter. The vet, Dr. Elkin Seto, a won­der­ful, kind doc­tor, al­ways treated Misty with a gen­tle hand and re­as­sur­ing words. And liver treats.

This time I think Misty knew that it was not an or­di­nary visit to the vet. I know she sensed my sad­ness. She felt my pain. I felt hers too.

We en­tered the ex­am­i­na­tion room and through my tears I told Dr. Seto that it was time. That Misty had stopped eat­ing. That she could not get up any more from a ly­ing-down po­si­tion. That her par­a­lyzed esoph­a­gus was caus­ing her to gag all the time. This once strong and vi­tal dog had be­come old and fee­ble.

I swore to Misty when I adopted her that I would al­ways be her de­voted per­son. I also swore that I would never let her suf­fer.

I lay down with her on the soft blan­ket on the floor, and Dr. Seto ad­min­is­tered a heavy bar­bi­tu­rate to ease her into a deep sleep. I held her and stroked her fur and told her how much I loved her. How she had been the best friend I had ever had. How she was there for me when no one else was.

Dr. Seto kindly stayed in the room with me. He told me that in about 10 min­utes he would go and get the in­jec­tion that would stop her heart. He re­as­sured me that it would be very fast and that she would not feel any­thing.

I am crying now as I write this, re­mem­ber­ing the mo­ment when I felt her go life­less in my arms. The pain was so in­tense that I thought I was go­ing to die, too.

The doc­tor wrapped her in a blan­ket and I kissed her sweet head one last time. Then I left my beau­ti­ful dog for­ever.

I had her col­lar and I sat in my car sob­bing. I could still smell her.

For four days I grieved. I lay in bed not get­ting up. I looked over at her bed on the floor and she was not there.

The loss of a beloved pet is a pro­found one. Peo­ple who have loved their an­i­mals know what I am talk­ing about. I didn’t know how I was go­ing to get through it.

But one of my Face­book friends, a fel­low an­i­mal-lover who had lost pets be­fore, sent me some­thing beau­ti­ful that changed ev­ery­thing for me:

Be­fore hu­mans die, they write their last will and tes­ta­ment, give their home and all that they have to those they leave be­hind. If with my paws I could do the same, this is what I would ask:

To a poor and lonely stray I’d give my happy home, my bowl and my cozy bed, my soft pil­lows and toys. The lap that I loved so much. The hand that stroked my fur. The sweet voice that spoke my name. I’d will to the sad, scared shel­ter dog the place I had had in my hu­man’s loving heart.

So when I die, please do not say, “I will never have a pet again, for the loss is more than I can stand.” In­stead, go find an unloved dog, one whose life has held no joy or hope. And please give my place to him.

This is the only thing I can give — the love I left be­hind.

— Author Un­known

I sobbed as I read it, but it changed my life.

I was go­ing to get an­other dog. I was not go­ing to wait. I knew that there was an­other dog out there that needed me.

I went to the SPCA’s emer­gency shel­ter, L’An­nexe, where they take in dogs with spe­cial needs, be it health or be­hav­iour prob­lems.

Be­hind the counter was a won­der­ful woman named Mar­i­lyn. I told her of my loss and that I wanted to get an­other dog — a dog that des­per­ately needed a home.

At L’An­nexe they do not al­low you to en­ter and tour, look­ing at dogs and cats. You have to make an ap­point­ment. So I did. But Mar­i­lyn re­as­sured me: She told me that she was go­ing to find a dog for me.

That night she called and told me that she had a spe­cial dog at the shel­ter. His name was Toby, and he was a beau­ti­ful and sweet Rot­tweiler-shep­herd mix. He had been found tied to a fence and left to starve. When he was brought in he was ema­ci­ated, weigh­ing only 35 pounds.

She told me I could come in and see him the next day. I was so ex­cited and ner­vous that I didn’t sleep that night. I couldn’t wait to meet Toby.

There he was, in the first pen, his soul­ful eyes look­ing right at me. He was not bark­ing like the other dogs, just wag­ging his tail. This ema­ci­ated dog, just skin and bones, mis­treated and ne­glected, had not lost hope. His spirit had not been bro­ken.

I climbed into his pen and shut the gate be­hind me. I sat on the floor with him and pet­ted him and kissed him. And I knew that this was my next for­ever dog. I re­named him Lucky.

I have had him for more than four months, and he has blos­somed. So have I.

I have not for­got­ten Misty. She will be for­ever in my heart.

There is so much joy in hav­ing a dog. I can­not even put it into words. Those who have ever loved a dog know what I am talk­ing about.

So that is my story. I hope it helps oth­ers suf­fer­ing af­ter los­ing a pet, and that they will con­sider go­ing to the shel­ter and adopt­ing a needy dog look­ing for its “for­ever” home. Do­ing that changed ev­ery­thing for me. And it changed ev­ery­thing for Lucky.

For more in­for­ma­tion about L’An­nexe, go to spca.com and click on the Ser­vices tab and then SPCA — L’An­nexe. Jill Salomon is a re­tired el­e­men­tary school teacher and a fundraiser for the So­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals. She lives in N.D.G.

Jill Salomon with her new dog, Lucky, who had been found tied to a fence and left to starve.

Salomon’s dog Misty, two weeks be­fore she died.

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