It was July, 2011. I drove to the veterinary office hoping Casey would soon be back to her normal self. Test results came back negative. Kidney Renal failure. Her prognosis: “A few months, maybe more… try to keep her as comfortable as possible, sub cutaneous injections will help with hydration. She’s had a great life, 17 years.”
I walked away from the veterinary office with a heavy weight in my heart. It felt only like a year ago that I rescued this sweet girl, whose energy was better suited for running around a spacious yard than the kennel she had been confined to. And for ten great years, she did just that.
One of her favorite things was to race around the backyard, sending pebbles and dirt flying as she rounded corners, running circles upon circles, until she ended up sideways in the sunlight, panting with delight.
The past few weeks, she slept more than she played. Now knowing Casey’s condition wasn’t going to improve, I made a silent vow on our ride home to put my own wishes aside. I promised to give her the best quality of life possible, while the protective mama bear in me wondered how best to share the news to my preschool toddler, Kayman. Sweet Kayman, who looked forward to sleeping with her four legged “sister” each night, both of them snug as a bug under the covers.
I knew then, as I do now, how important it was to keep my heart open, to re-frame this impending loss. Here is the video I posted about anticipatory loss after the diagnosis.
Over bi-weekly sub cutaneous injections the following weeks, I began to prepare us for the inevitable. My kiddo and I sat down and looked at photos of Casey. It was clear how different she was now than in the photos. I shared stories about the many adventures of Princess Casey. The time she rubbed paws with a famous pet psychic, how she dog napped a piece of chicken the size of her head off the dining room table and made a run for the border. On good days, we took walks down the street at dusk after dinner and rested by Kayman’s favorite rock in front of a neighbor’s yard. On tired days, we cuddled on the couch, peas in a pod, cherishing what was.
Many people ask “how do you know it’s time?” I will never forget that fateful August morning as I was getting ready to give Casey her saline injection, her body stiffened up and she gazed into my eyes. I heard “Please, no more” her eyes echoing the phrase inside my head. I took her back to the vet who confirmed the inevitable.
Later that week I met with an animal communicator for a heart to heart with Casey. She wanted a party as I did for her four legged sister, Sophie some years ago. Close friends she had converted into pet lovers, neighbors she had play dates with, others who loved and adored her all came over to celebrate Casey and say good bye. She slept all day until guests arrived, then she rallied. There was food, laughter, tears, stories, and lots of photos from that magical day. Casey did her final laps around the yard, her grey, cloudy eyes filled shone, panting with joy, receiving all the love.
That evening when the house was quiet with sleep, Kayman said good-night to Casey for the last time. We read from the book “Dog heaven” about dogs in heaven and I told her about the veterinarian who was going to come over while she was at school. Several days before, I had recorded a video about how we knew it was time, and how important it was to us to give Casey the dignity of her own process, before her body failed her.
I am not going to sugarcoat it and tell you the next day was easy, but having the party and the weeks before to prepare brought a lot of peace. Casey Chew was able to go on her own terms. The at home vet was kind and gentle. Casey laid in my arms wrapped up in a blanket through her last moments. In my heart, I knew, the weeks of consciously preparing, talking, sharing stories, celebrating her full 17.5 years on this Earth was a gift and I will forever be grateful.
Fast forward 5 years later, I am grateful Kayman and I can talk openly about death. I have a video of her toddler self comforting our other dog Lulu, who grieved Casey’s transition. I hope this peek into Casey’s last days illustrates an alternative way to honor a beloved pet’s golden years and last days.
The elephant is already in the room. Talking about it sets it free.
We would all love for our pets to live forever. I tell myself that’s the reason there is so much love crammed into that tiny body.
When the time comes, trust your heart, discuss options openly with your veterinarian to help you with this most tender decision. Most importantly, honor your grief. Pet Loss resources are available, wherever you happen to be right now.
Casey’s sister Lulu turned 13 this past month, her muzzle grey and stride slowing down. Just as we have been sending pet sympathy cards and pet memorial candles to friends who’ve said good-bye to their beloved furry friends, soon it will be our turn once more. Another opportunity to practice conscious loving and letting go. If you recently said goodbye to a beloved animal friend but don’t have support where you live, we have support for you too.
Most importantly, everyone grieves in a different way. As always, our blog posts are only meant to serve as a resource. Feel free to take what resonates and leave the rest. Please share with anyone who can benefit. Please also consider sharing with folks who don’t have pets. It might help shed some insight about the depth of love we have for our animal friends. I’d love to hear about your own stories or comments below.