Saying Goodbye never comes easy when a dear friend leaves. When it’s someone you’ve loved for a long time, it breaks your heart.
Little over a year ago, I had to say goodbye to my beloved dog Chip. That all came back yesterday when Sheila left us. And just like Chip, Sheila had become one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Four legs and a tail, hair that stuck to every part of the house, and me when I’d lift her, or sometimes even pet her at that time of year when she’d lose her old coat. She had hair like rabbit’s fur. The coldest, wettest nose I’ve ever had touch my leg. But…she loved us unconditionally, unlike most humans do.
Our little girl, Sheila, passed away peacefully yesterday morning at around 9:00 a.m. Her health was unrecoverable. She was about 16 or 17 years old. Arnie wasn’t exactly sure (he got her from the SPCA about 15 years ago, and they guessed her to be about 2 years old then). That made her over 100 years old in dog years. And yet, some days, she would run around like she was a puppy.
During the last year, her health had declined. I don’t think she wanted to show it. She tried not to show it. But the signs were there. Stumbling, where she used to be so fleet of foot. Limping. Even falling over at times. And days when she would stand in the back yard and simply stare out to ??? Her hearing was almost non-existent. Her eyes were bad. But never did she complain.
Sheila had a series of strokes over the past few months, I believe, just like my old Chip had. But each time, she would recover and act like her normal young self again. Last Sunday afternoon, I heard a crash somewhere outside my office. When I went to investigate, Sheila was staggering down the hall. She looked up at me and her tail wagged, slowly, but it wagged. I figured she must have gotten up from her bed in the other room and fell against the loose closet door. A little while later, I found her laying in an awkward position on the tiled kitchen floor. Her tail wagged again, but she couldn’t get up. I carried her to the living room and let her lay on the carpet, hoping that she would recover as she had before. She didn’t.
All evening she lay in that one position. She took a treat and ate it, wagging her tail lethargically. She drank some water from Arnie’s hand. She wouldn’t lift her head enough to drink from the bowl when we put it next to her. She ate some kibble that I put down in front of her. When she was carried out that evening before bedtime. She couldn’t get up.
Sheila slept in her bed that night without moving and Monday morning Arnie and I took her to the vet. The vet tested her and said that the functions on her whole left side had shut down. She explained that we could have her tested to see if anything could be done for her, but with her age, there was a definite risk in putting her under anesthesia. And there was no guarantee that anything could be done to help her recover. All I could think of was how terrified she would be if we weren’t there by her side with all that was happening to her. Would she think we abandoned her because she couldn’t run and play anymore? We couldn’t do that to her. She was trembling enough as it was while we stroked her head and scratched her ears the whole time the vet examined and tested her.
Finally, we had to make a decision. Yes. We had to let her go. The vet said she’d never be the same again, even if she did get back on her feet. She’d never be happy that way. She had always been an active, energetic dog until the day before she collapsed. We couldn’t do that to her. We had to let her go. As much as that hurt us, we had to.
All the tears came back again. I could see Chip’s face as he lay on the floor in the vet’s office before he was put to sleep. And now Sheila was going to join him. How could we get through this a second time. My heart is broken. I prayed.
I kissed my beloved friend, my little girl, our little girl, The Princess who always made her humans laugh and feel such joy. I hugged her. I told her we’d be there until she went to sleep. Arnie told her she was going to get some rest now. As tears fell, we petted her and hugged her until she left us.
Sheila will always be a beautiful part of our memories. She was sweet. She was fun. She made us laugh. She loved us. She made us feel like we were the only people in the world to her. I loved this little four-legged ball of fluff, and I always will.