We have the world’s most wonderful neighbors. Ray and Joyce, a couple of smart, funny, good, engaging people, have lived in the house next door since before we moved in to ours. They have two lovely daughters, Dayna and Camille, who both were babysitters for our younger daughter, and who have now graduated from college and moved on to start their own careers.
We don’t see Ray and Joyce enough — we are all too darned busy — but we do talk to each other in our back yards, share gardening tips and sometimes, plants; discussions about current events; get in a meal together now and then; and talk about life, kids, animals, and the like.
Animals. Ray and Joyce called this morning, in tears, to tell us the news we knew was coming: that their elderly yellow Lab, Miles, was about to go to the veterinarian to be euthanized. We had all known this was coming: there was the evidence we saw each day from our window, as Miles struggled out the door to walk through the yard to relieve himself. And Joyce had told us, over a month ago, that the time was coming soon. Ray and Joyce decided to wait until Easter, when both of their daughters would be home to see Miles one more time, to take that final step.
This morning, while getting our daughter off to school and unloading the dishwasher, I looked out the window and knew that today was the day. Ray and Joyce were both outside with him, and Miles struggled once more out the door and through the yard, slowly, painfully, with Ray and Joyce walking beside him. A little while later, the phone rang: it was Joyce, telling us that Miles would be leaving soon for his final trip to the vet’s office. She was crying. I immediately started as well, and Ben wasn’t far behind.
We pulled on our shoes and grabbed a camera and tissues and went down the back stairs, crossing the yard toward Ray and Joyce’s house. Hugs were passed all around, with many for Miles. A final photo was taken of Ray and Joyce and Miles – with Miles sitting down, as he hadn’t been able to do in months. A great dog, who had reached the end of his days and needed to be relieved from pain and suffering, was about to go to God.
Ben and I have struggled with this decision before, as have so many. We count ourselves among those who are grateful that laws allow for a compassionate end of life for our animals — and we wish that the same were true for people who face the end stages of devastating illness. We have spent thousands of dollars on our animals, at times when we don’t have such money easily available – because we believe that they are a part of our family, and should be treated with love, respect, and care.
Knowing when to say goodbye to a pet is crushingly difficult. And the hole left in the heart — just as with the loss of a beloved person — aches and can not be refilled. We remember them – the beloved pets who have filled our time on earth — with love and gladness. And to Miles, we offer our grateful thanks for sharing such happiness and pure joy with us.