The Passing of a Very Good Dog

It’s been three weeks since Crystal’s death. Only now have I been able to write about how much I miss her.

I say death, but I really mean since her execution. And I was the executioner — something I doubt I will ever get over. Her smudgy noseprints are still on the inside of my car’s back window hatch. She loved going for a ride, and may have even enjoyed her last one, as I lied and tried to keep her calm with, “we’re going to the vet. Remember you always feel better after going to this vet.”

That part was true. In her four short years she had visited him often. Sometimes for the care I wasn’t experienced enough for — like removing a giant tick that I had missed in her daily rubs. As well as the initial time he brought her back from the brink of death from nonstop convulsive seizures while she was boarded and we were on the other side of the country on vacation. He helped me reshape her life — her very existence — through the precisely calibrated medicines (even the one that had to be compounded by an old-fashioned pharmacist), that she happily inhaled via those inventive beef-flavored pill pockets.

But I had known for the last month that the end was near. Over the last year, I had brought her back to some sort of normalcy after awful episodes of those canine seizures. The seizures would last all night and no matter how much of the “emergency” meds she would dutifully down — inbetween losing consciousness to the next round of convulsions. Then it would take two weeks to get her back to some kind of normal dog life. But her world had dwindled down to just me. I was her entire universe. Me and the food that she could never get enough of due to those medicines that kept her alive. She was our daughter’s pet — she was the one who picked her out of all the puppies needing to be rescued that day four years ago. Crystal was an older puppy — a beautiful blond, sleek, fluffy, furry creature. Part golden retreiver, golden lab and border collie. Most people who met her commented on how beautiful she was.

I knew she had border collie in her due to the white triangle marking on her forehead and the way she could jump higher and farther than a small pony. When she was healthy and young she showed great promise as a frisbee dog. But near the end, she dutifully pushed herself to go up the many stairs in our home, to sleep in the cushiony dog pillow on the floor by my side of the bed. She could no longer jump into the back of my car, and on that last night, we lifted her in with our sheet sling method. Two adults to lift one large, sick dog.

It’s not fair to continue telling you all the gory details. But if you’ve ever had a dog, you can relate to the fact that I always felt safe when I was in the house alone with her. She was truly my companion, and as I told her that last night, she was the best, sweetest pet anyone could have ever asked for. She was quiet and calm by nature and only barked to protect us. Children as well as adults who were terrified of dogs learned to like dogs thanks to Crystal. She was my walking buddy and I met more people and more dogs and covered more ground in this new neighborhood, with her, than I would have in any other way.  She was our daughter’s pet and the images of a five-year-old girl joyfully running around in the backyard with a one-year-old dog are forever burned in my memory.

Crystal must have expanded new love capacities in my heart. And this old heart still hurts. Every part of my home, my daily patterns, my neighborhood, even my outdoor coats and shoes remind me of her. Following Crystal’s death there have been many talks with our daughter — some, such as answering the question of cremation — have been tough, but necessary. The greatest sadness is our daughter’s anger at God. “Mom, I don’t care what you say, I hate God, and nothing you can say will ever make me feel differently.”

And I agree with part of what she says. It doesn’t make sense when a person or a pet dies early in life. And disease and illness don’t make sense. And that is the way it is. We will never know why God created things the way He did. Until, perhaps, at sometime in the future, if we should be so blessed to make it to heaven, then we might understand.

There is one small glimmer of hope in this ebb and flow of grieving for a sweet pet. Yesterday my husband was talking with our daughter about her loss and in their conversation about canine seizures he planted a seed. She could do something about her loss and find out about research on canine seizures. Perhaps she could raise money to help. “Can a kid to that, Dad?” she asked. “Of course they can” was his optimistic reply.

The same God that takes away also gives. He has given us an outpouring of sympathy and kindness from friends and family who know what it’s  like to lose a true companion pet. And He is the same God that might lead our daughter to walk a path for some positive outcome to her grief.

With blessings and kind regards to you all.