Tomorrow we’re going to euthanize our beloved goldendoodle, Iko. It’s very, very sad. He’s 7 1/2 years old and in his prime.
The difficult thing about a dog that has developed a chronic illness that the vet tells us ‘fatal’ (diagnosis: protein losing enteropathy) is knowing when it’s time to say goodbye. I know about living with chronic illness and I know how it can wear you down.
I’ve had a hard time knowing when it’s time to say enough and goodbye. My tendency toward seeing the positive has prevented me from seeing how sick he’d gotten. Lucky, my husband had a clearer eye.
I was a kid who was went from being terrified of dogs to desperately wanting one. But my brother was allergic to fur and I got a bird. I guess I wasn’t dedicated enough because it died when I forgot to feed it for a week.
When I brought home a dog I’d found on the street in my first college apartment, my roommate informed me she was allergic to dogs. But not cats. So the dog went to a shelter and I got 2 cats. They lived with me for many years through many changes.
I couldn’t possibly get a dog while the cats were living. I knew they’d go nuts. But when they died, I resolved this was the time. My husband and I were looking for a dog in the want ads the week I found out I was pregnant with my first child. He wisely put his foot down saying living with multiple sclerosis and having a baby was enough for our family to handle.
I finally got my first dog, Tasha, when our youngest child was 3. She was a malamute we found in a rescue center. Over the years, we got other dogs and often had 2 at a time.
I tried to choose dogs that my children would love and that would be good to them. I believed that animals would bring a bright spot into our lives. In my mind, having a dog in our home normalized what I worried could seem abnormal and difficult for our girls. I like to think it worked.
I’ve loved each animal in my life but Iko has held a special place in my heart from the day he arrived on a plane from Wisconsin. We got him when I was 53 and feeling as healthy as I’d ever been. I wanted a big dog to walk long distances with me since I no longer had colitis and the MS was so much better – – and I actually could walk. I wanted a dog that would hang out with me and be my loyal companion since I was working in my house full time and mostly alone.
Funny how it worked out. He was the hardest dog I’d ever had to train to simply walk on a leash. He pulled me down in his exuberance (and his fear of strangers) more than once giving meat least one concussion and several mashed bones along the way. He’s so loving that he can’t let you leave without tugging on your jacket – no matter how hard I tried to train it out of him. He’s been my best buddy and in my lowest moments, he’s made me laugh and reminded me that my life is good and full.
Animals can do that, can’t they? I’m generously paraphrasing from one of my favorite books, Marley and Me, “Part of having a dog is learning that you’re going to have to say good bye one day.”