On Wednesday, June 18, 2003, I had finalized the decision to put my incapacitated dog to rest. It became a reality. I clearly remember the warm, breezy day that occurred two weeks ago. As I sat in the freshly cut grass of my front yard, I paid no attention to the sounds of the birds that were singing or the leaves that were dancing on the trees. All that was on my mind was the details of the last 13 years and remembering the times we shared together. As I kept trying to convince myself that he would not have to suffer another day from his ailments, I kept thinking of the first day that he came into my life.
I was 15 years old when I got Valen. It was Valentine’s Day in 1990. Earlier that week my mother was near Port Jervis, New York on a business trip. She had some free time before she had to come home to Pennsylvania so she decided to stop at the local SPCA. Her intentions were to simply look at the animals and then leave. She made her way to the area that housed the dogs.
There she found a shy, but friendly, golden retriever. He was a bit apprehensive at first, almost as if he was neglected and abused, but it didn’t take much of my mom’s gentle touch and her soft, subtle voice before this dog realized she was his savior. She decided that she would like to adopt this dog however, the policy was strict, and there was a seven-day waiting period before you could adopt an animal. This was in place to allow ample time for the owner to claim their animals if they got astray. As much as my mom wanted to leave that day with the dog, she had to wait.
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It was on Tuesday, February 13, 1990 that my mom received a call from the SPCA. They were pleased to have the opportunity to offer her the dog through adoption since no one had come forward to claim him. She decided that she would go back to New York the next day to pick him up. On Valentine’s Day, I got home from school and to my surprise; I was greeted at the door by this vivacious, brown-eyed golden retriever. I was so excited and I immediately sat down on the cold, ceramic floor and played with my new friend.
We rolled all over the floor and I was giggling as he licked my face, and at the same time, he was whimpering with happiness. We did this for about an hour until I decided I wanted to show him off to my friends and family. I begged my mom take us for a ride around the Harvey’s Lake where we lived. She agreed so we all got in the car.
The first thing I did was roll down the window. This gave him the freedom to feel the fresh, clean, crisp February air. As his head was hanging out of the window, his lips flapped in the wind and the drool flew out of his mouth. Who would have known that this chore would continue almost every day for the next 5 years? I certainly did not. As we both got older, I didn’t spend as much quality time with him. Being out of school, I found myself a full time job.
I still managed to take him for walks and an occasional car ride around the lake. When I got married, I moved into my own place and he stayed at my mom’s house. Eventually, he started to show some signs of old age. His hearing and sight began to diminish. He developed cataracts in both of his eyes. More recently, he started to lose his feeling in his hind legs due to some nerve damage that he had.
At this point, he was having difficulty controlling his bowels. We took care of him as if he were a human. He was more like an immediate family member than just a pet. It started to get too hard to handle it emotionally. We did not want to lose him but watching him suffer was not an option any longer. My mom and I made the decision to have him put to sleep.
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We chose to have the procedure done at my house because we wanted him to be comfortable and surrounded by the things he knew and loved. We contacted a local Veterinarian to see if she could satisfy our request. Unfortunately, she was unable to do so. We contacted a few others who also could not satisfy our request. Finally, we found a Vet that had just started practicing near Harvey’s Lake and he was able to come to my house to do the procedure. Once he arrived, we took Valen to the front yard.
It was there that we sat in the grass with him, my mother, my husband, and me. He laid his head upon my lap as if he was ready and we all took a few moments to let him know that we loved him and that we would miss him. I let him know that he would not have to suffer anymore. When he looked up at me, I said “thank you for the years you have given me.” I truly believed he knew what I was saying to him. He also knew that his time was up and it was the best thing for him.
As the Vet shaved his paw, he told us it would take less than three minutes. He began to inject the serum into his veins. We all began to cry. As the salty tears were rolling down my face, I began to feel a peace. His head laid still upon my lap with no life left in him, just memories.