"I haven't lived a day of my life without Scoop," our daughter cried Saturday night. How could it be time to let him go?
Our heart-wrenching decision had been coming for months. Scoop, our faithful 19-pound Terrier mix. had wandered confused around our house for at least that long. No longer able to see or hear, he rarely wagged his tail or displayed any of his quirky personality that had captured our hearts so long ago.
Even so, we weren't prepared for the day when his kidneys no longer functioned. How do you know when it's time to say goodbye to a beloved family pet? Why are dogs' lives so short?
Paula and I weren't prepared 15 years ago when our previous dog, Garp, died suddenly of a rare blood disorder. At only age 10, our lovable cocker spaniel left us too soon.
Only a month later, I found myself scanning the classified section of the Denton Record-Chronicle. An ad for a terrier mix caught my eye. I told Paula we were only going to look at the shelter. It was too soon after Garp to get another dog.
Of course, Scoop had other plans, and suddenly we were taking home the most sweet-natured dog either of us had ever met. Scoop was so kind and gentle he didn't mind a bit when we brought home a baby girl named Nicole a few months later. He immediately welcomed her as another member of our pack. Scoop's patience can be summed up best in a photo we have of toddler Nicole chewing on one side of Scoop's rawhide bone with him on the other.
When we brought home Pica, a rescued kitten, several years later, Scoop said, "Hey, cool." Another cherished photo shows Scoop and Pica riding together in our family van during the move from Colorado to Texas last year.
Twice, I've said goodbye to my dogs during the past 25 years. The first time I rushed Garp to the emergency room in an unsuccessful attempt to save him. The second time, we decided as a family we should let Scoop find peace. Neither way felt right. Does it ever?
We plan to have a family ceremony to scatter both Scoop and Garp's ashes in our backyard. We've carted Garp's ashes around for 15 years, never sure how to say goodbye. Scoop and Garp never knew each other, but somehow it does seem right that they should be together at the end.
As a footnote, I want to thank Dr. Lee Zeplin of Lone Star Animal Hospital for her compassion and kindness at the end of Scoop's life. She came to work on a Saturday evening after attending a child's birthday party and took skillful care of us.
Fighting back emotion, I couldn't say much to her then, but I'm grateful she was there to guide us.
In the next room, she did the same for another family in between fielding a phone call from a distressed pet owner somewhere in Victoria. I marvel at such dedication.
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