He’s almost 16. His face and belly are white, his hearing is gone and he sleeps more than he used to. But he watches me, struggling to his feet, following as I go from room to room like he’s always done. In this respect, he’s still the same – still faithful, still normal.
But I know he’s dying. And I’m having a really tough time accepting he will be leaving us soon and there’s really nothing I can do.
So, I’m a mess. My husband is a mess. My house, my yard – everything seems to be suffering, except our dog.
For him, life hasn’t really changed at all. We are the ones in mourning. We are the ones who have to let go.
So, I’m trying to act like an adult (though my childlike heart is breaking), researching burial options while he sleeps peacefully next to my feet.
And I find I have several options. In my state, for instance, yard burials are allowed. The backyard of the home where I grew up was basically a cemetery of beloved pets. Cats. Turtles. Bunnies. But no dogs.
This is my first dog. That’s why it’s so hard.
The vet can put him to sleep. They tell me it’s painless. I want to believe that. I don’t want him to suffer. What I want is for him to die in his sleep…naturally.
If he does die at home, the vet can help me make arrangements to have him buried somewhere else. Pet cemeteries around here are popular. I often see them along the highway – I wonder if owners visit the tiny gravesides, lay flowers, say a prayer… and watch the cars speed by.
But preserving something that is supposed to die, decompose and replenish the earth doesn’t seem right.
There’s cremation. We had our cat cremated. Her ashes sit on the table in our den. I’ve been waiting for the right time to scatter them in the yard where she used to run and play, jump and pounce at me and the kids. She died two years ago. I’m not good at the dying part of pet ownership.
I look at Shadow, stretched out on the carpet, stomach slowly moving up and down with each breath. I still don’t know what I’m /we’re going to do.
But I do know, when he dies, everything will be different. Our lives, blessed by his presence, will change dramatically – for weeks and months ahead, until time heals as it always does.
And for this, for his faithfulness, for his memory, I want to make the right decision. My green-conscience says cremation.
But my heart. It says, stop the clock.