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
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.