The normal everyday parts of our lives are often taken for granted. I'm almost certain everyone is guilty of doing this at least occasionally. I realized I had, when last week my dog who I owned for eight years had to be put down.
When I was eleven my family rescued Alley, a sweet black lab, from a life that possibly held abuse, neglect, and being hit by a car. She was five years old, but I think she was already in the early stages of arthritis. I remember when my Dad brought her into our home and I got my first glimpse of her. She walked in as if she had lived with us her whole life. She fit right in from the moment she arrived, and seemed to know she was home.
I said she was a sweet dog, but did I also mention she was the most stubborn creature ever! Everything had to be done her way. She decided when she got her bones, or how long I would have to wait for her while she sniffed the bushes on our walks. She picked to wake me up when she had to go outside in the middle of the night, never bothering anyone else, even if my younger sister was by the back door, still awake.
I remember one walk when she insisted on carrying her ball. My mom, who was going with us, knew Alley wouldn't want to hold it all the way, so she tried to get Alley to drop the ball. After that failed attempt we gave up and let Alley take her ball. My mom was right, Alley did get tired of holding it in her mouth, and let it fall to the street before we reached home. My Mom had to hold the wet, slobbery ball for the remainder of the walk.
Whenever my family watched a movie together we each had our own chair, and it was mine that Alley constantly fought for. Sometimes she would jump on the chair and try to make a spot for herself. Since there wasn't enough room for both of us I would get pushed to the edge. She was smart enough to eventually choose a more subtle approach by asking to be let outside. Then when it was time for her to come back inside I was usually the only one who was willing to move and let her in. She took this opportunity to jump up on the now unoccupied chair. When I caught on to her plan I started racing back to my chair to beat her to it.
My dog was full of puppy spirit, you could see it in her eyes. Even during her last phase of life she never quit. One night this past September or October she was weaker than I had ever seen her before. I went to bed expecting her not to make it through the night. When I woke up I was greatly surprised to find that she had bounced back, and was eagerly anticipating her breakfast.
Although she had recovered she experienced another day like that, so we took her to the vet. The vet said Alley only had another month to live but she wasn't suffering. Our most important instructions were to make her last bit of time special.
A month went by and Alley lived on. We made jokes about her stubborn nature, as it seemed that even the time of her passing couldn't escape her control. About four or five months after the vet's solemn prediction I could tell her health was rapidly diminishing. The arthritis that had plagued her since she first came into my life had gradually worsened, and now at the age of thirteen she could barely make it up the stairs. If she really had been hit by a car before we got her, it had made her back legs where the arthritis was much worse. During her last week I witnessed just how bad things had gotten for her, which greatly decreased her quality of life. On Thursday night her already poor condition declined. She was so weak she couldn't even open her mouth for a bone, a sight I never thought I'd see. She couldn't really stand up, and when she was standing she couldn't lay down. She wasn't ready to give up, that was how stubborn she truly was, but my family and I knew enough was enough. The poor dog shouldn't have had to deal with her struggles any longer, and we had to step in and do what was best for her. The decision to call the vet and ask to make an emergency appointment for euthanasia was not an easy one, but it was a necessary one.
We tried to get her to sit in the back seat on the way to the vet, but true to her personality she made her way to the front seat, forever insisting we do things her way. We didn't fight her on it. We also stayed with her as she drifted from this world to finally meet peace and be free of pain. I felt an odd mixture of grief and relief. I was saddened to lose my dog, but it had been hard for me to watch her health deteriorate. I knew that she couldn't feel her back legs that were completely messed up anymore, and that comforted me.
The next morning was harder. The realization that she was gone hit me full force as soon as I opened my eyes. I missed her more than I thought I would. She was a part of my life for so long I had taken her presence for granted. She was a great dog who deserves to be remembered forever. I hope this post gives you just a small glimpse into the life of Alley, the sweet, stubborn, and lovable black lab.