Saying Good-bye to Riley: Putting Down a Dog is Easier Said than Done

Do you have a dog? Do yourself a favor and stop reading for a minute and go give him a good pat. Maybe a kiss. Because the day is going to come when you’re going to have to say good-bye to your old friend, and trust me when I say you’re going to feel better about letting him go knowing that you gave him all the love he wanted. Because really, that’s all they want, isn’t it? Love.

A lot of you already know that we had to say our final good-byes to our lovely old dog, Riley, yesterday. He’s the gorgeous one in the background of the header, above. He was 12  and 1/2 years old and until a couple of months ago, I thought he’d be around for years to come.

But suddenly he started to slow down and we found out that he had a low red blood cell count. After an operation, a new diet and pills galore, he seemed to turn around and for a time, we thought he was going to get better. But then 3 days ago, he lay down and couldn’t get back up.

The thing is, we knew in our hearts what was coming. We’d had a scare a couple of weeks ago and sent him to the vet thinking “this is it”. But they sent him home.

So we went to the vet yesterday, knowing what was going to happen. Memories of him were flashing through my head. All of them happy and friendly – because even the times he was “bad” had humour in them. But I couldn’t help myself from thinking “I haven’t loved you enough these last few years”. The kids have monopolized my time and my first “baby”, Riley took a back seat.

I knew it was the right thing to do but gee, it’s so hard to say good-bye to a dog.

You tell yourself it will be a relief.  You tell yourself you’re ready for it. But I learned a hard lesson with the death of my father from cancer several years ago. No matter how much they are suffering, or how much they’ve wasted away, the relief that their pain and suffering has ended doesn’t prepare you for the fact that when they die, they’re gone.

So this is why the memories were flooding through my brain as we went to say good-bye to Riley. I knew that we’d have a few short minutes with him when I’d still see life in his eyes and feel his breath on my face and have him lean his head into my hand as I stroked his ear. And then that would be it.

You tell yourself it will be a relief. And it is. But the hole it leaves in your heart lasts.

We miss you Riley. The house feels empty without you.

Riley was definitely not a fan of the heat in San Antonio!
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10 Responses to Saying Good-bye to Riley: Putting Down a Dog is Easier Said than Done

  1. Krista says:

    HI Kate, I know it’s been a while since you lost your beloved dog, but I just cam across this today. We have 3 cats and a dog, and last summer had to very suddenly (within 24 hrs) had to put down one of our cats (we used to have 4). She wasn’t sick at all and then she was gone.And she was only 3. I cried when I read your post, and went to hug and kiss my doggie while she was sleeping. That says something as I NEVER bother her while she’s sleeping as this usually wakes her up lol. These furry critters are indeed our “fur babies” and they crawl into your heart, never to leave. It’s been a year for us and it still hurts. I feel for your family. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Krista – thank you so much for you kind comments. Sadly, we had to put our other dog, Roxy down just a few weeks ago. This was a complete and utter blow to me. Losing Riley was hard and I still miss him, but at least we still had Roxy to come home to. Now I find myself very lonely. You know, they drive you crazy when they’re alive, following you around everywhere. But now there’s no one lying on the floor beside me with her head on my feet as I type this and… well… it’s just lonesome. On a lighter note, Roxy’s absence has lead me to see just how messy my two boys are with food. Roxy was always annoying me, lurking around the table and licking the floor, but holy smokes, I now see just how much mess she saved me from cleaning.

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  2. Monica Turk says:

    Here I sit with my two black labs sitting beside me, crying reading about Riley. My dogs Bob and Bailey are 12, both are on alot of pills, but I love these dogs like my kids, and hopefully will know when their time is up. Good luck with your other dog, and God bless you and your family with this loss. Monica

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    • Monika – thank you for your heartfelt comment. Some time has passed now and my heart heals but Riley is still very much in my thoughts. Our other poor old dog, Roxy was lost for the first little while without him. We got her as a puppy when Riley was 2 and he was the only dog she ever liked. She has absolutely no interest in any other dog. I feel bad when we leave her home alone as she always had Riley for company. She’s lonely, for sure so we give her as much love as we can. I think having her here made saying goodbye to Riley easier. And the little reminders (like loose dog hair, beds, toys) around the house could be blamed on her after he was gone. It will be a different story when she’s gone. It is hard to let them go.

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  3. Rebecca says:

    My heart goes out to you and your family, Kate, and I join others in sending my thoughts and prayers. This was a beautiful tribute to Riley; clearly, he could not have had a happier life or spent it with a more wonderful and loving family. Thank you for sharing your heart with us ~

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  4. Kris says:

    I can’t find the words to comfort you, but know that your words will comfort all that read them.

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  5. Christeena says:

    So sorry for your loss! It leaves a HUGE hole in your heart!! We are hopelessly devoted to our beagle so I cannot fathom saying goodbye to him. We had to put our 17 year old cat down a couple of years ago and I bawled like a baby!!! Time will dull the ache but the memories last forever!

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    • Thank you Christeena. The memories are tough. Walking our other dog in the woods today I looked behind me and imagined Riley sauntering along. He liked to bring up the rear and had this very casual trot that I hope to never forget.

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