Celebrate Good Times – Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Pet

“Our animal friends teach us
More than we could have expected…
And love us
More than we could have hoped…
…That’s why we miss them
More than we could have imagined.”

~anonymous

“I don’t have good news,” the vet said, after examining the x-ray of Sadie’s left wrist

And in my heart of hearts I knew what news what coming…

Bone cancer.

Oddly enough, it was for an ear infection I’d taken my Golden Retriever, Sadie, in to see the vet on Friday, June 21st, 2019. Although I’d noticed her wrist had been swollen for the past two weeks, I hadn’t taken her to the vet to have it checked because…well, because deep down, I guess I knew something bigger was brewing and I didn’t want to face it.

But for me not to have marched Sadie into the nearest vet at the mere hint of an ailment was very uncharacteristic. That dog received better healthcare than most people on the planet.

In fact, because of her severe arthritis, as well as injuries from relentless ball-chasing, Sadie had been to so many different vets throughout the Western States & Canada that her regular vet teased me that the only way he was able to keep track of where I was at any given time was by the Sadie-updates sent to him by other vets…from Okotoks, Alberta to Newport, Oregon to Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

Anyway, after telling me the news that Sadie had both a tumor and a fracture on her left wrist, the vet laid out my limited (and lousy) options:

#1) Cancel my trip to Ecuador (I was to leave the next day) and stay home with Sadie as she succumbed to a very painful and fast-spreading cancer.

#2) Go on my trip and leave Sadie with her caregiver and take the (highly likely) chance of Sadie going downhill on his watch (without me).

#3) Put Sadie down before leaving on my trip.

I chose the third option and, according to the vet, by doing so both Sadie & I were likely spared an extremely difficult—and painful—month or two (she likely wouldn’t have lived longer than that with her diagnosis).

And so…at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 22nd, I bid farewell to my beloved buddy. Sadie’s passing was peaceful…for her. But I’m not going to lie…for me, it was excruciating.

As I sat on the floor of the vet clinic, petting Sadie and comforting her as she prepared to pass between life and death, I could feel the waves of hurt surging up from deep within myself. It was brutal.

And I just went through this with my dog, Soda, five years ago…and Sable three years before that! But as Shakespeare said, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

After Sadie had passed, I sobbed my home, threw my suitcase in the car and headed to Lynne’s place (the friend I was going to Ecuador with), extremely thankful I didn’t have to spend a single second more in the house without my Sadie.

But here’s the amazing thing: although Sadie’s sudden death was akin to having a Band-Aid ripped off the old heart, the emotional aftermath—the grief—was surprisingly…brief.

One day I was scratching Sadie behind the ear as she passed away; the next day I was on a plane to Ecuador. In hindsight, it was as if the Universe had airlifted me—literally—out of the grieving process. Maybe I’ve wasted too much precious time over the past two decades grieving?

At any rate, when Lynne and I joined up with our tour group in Quito, Ecuador, we hit the ground running (well, okay…walking slowly due to the high altitude). And in the days to follow, I was too busy having fun, laughing, seeing new sites, experiencing new adventures, eating new food and meeting new people to be sad.

And the more I thought about Sadie, the more I realized how silly it was to be sad. She’d had an incredible life (a heck of a lot better than the flea-ridden dogs in Ecuador, let me tell you!). Our five years together had been chock-full of fun, adventure, road trips…and many, many orange & blue chuck-it balls.

Then, one morning at breakfast a few days into our trip, our tour guide said to the group something to the effect of: “This trip is a celebration of life.”

Clunk went the coin as the truth hit me like a ton of bricks: I needed to be celebrating Sadie’s life versus mourning her death. So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing…or trying to, anyway.

Back home again after 3 weeks in Ecuador, it was difficult—and very different—to be in the house without her. I still miss her very much but whenever I look at a photo of her smiling face, I can’t help but smile myself.

In celebrating Sadie’s life, here are 3 things that stand out the most for me:

#1) Her joy…she was always smiling!

#2) Her love of new adventure (which made her the perfect road trip companion).

#3) Her relentless focus. Sadie the retriever took retrieving very seriously. Some have called her ball-obsession a bit OCD. But Sadie was born to retrieve and by God, that’s exactly what she did, day in and day out. May we all learn from Sadie’s intense focus. I sure have!

Perhaps this blog brings up some memories about a beloved pet you may have had in the past…or still have. If so, I hope your memories bring you a smile, too.

Previously Published on Pink Gazelle