Daisy Adoption Day
Today, we said good-bye to Daisy.
I knew a blog post would follow. This blog has been just as much a place for reflection and memory archiving as it has been a creative outlet over the years. So naturally, I would honor the memory of Daisy and share some of my favorite photos and moments. But as I was driving home from the vet with an empty collar on the seat next to me, reflecting, experiencing grief and feeling guilty, I knew the piece I had to write, today, and no later, was not the story of Daisy’s life, but of her death. Writing is therapy. It requires me to take disparate thoughts and weave them into coherence. It requires me to dig for context so that it makes sense to my reader, whether that is future me, my family, or a stranger. But it also gives opportunity for facades and lies. To which you can only take my word. But in earnest I tell you my intent of writing this piece today and not later is to capture raw emotions before they’ve had time to dull. I want to read this again and remember how it felt and I want my kids to glimpse the heart-ache from my perspective.
Daisy’s passing was no surprise. She was old, 15 and a half by our best guess. Wife and I, on the way home from picking up our marriage certificate, stopped by the animal shelter to grow our brand new family. That was when we met Fern, an estimated two-year old sweet pup, who we would rename as Daisy when she came home with us. Daisy didn’t know how to play fetch or how to maneuver stairs at first, but she learned and grew just as much as Wife and I did in navigating this new life with our brand new marriage. We very quickly moved away from home and family with the Navy, grew our family with children and another dog, and moved between eight states over the next 13 and a half years. Daisy’s life was not marred with any major injuries or illnesses. She simply had the pleasure of just growing old.
Daisy Standing Up
Daisy Avoiding Snow
Daisy Moving Day
Wife and I had discussed, increasingly, over the last few years when the right time for Daisy’s goodbye would be. Her age was most visible in white fur, lumps, shaky back legs, and a tail that rarely was untucked. But it was also evident in changes to her mental state. She would push her food bowl with her nose in frantic attempts to flip it over. And then once the food was on the floor, she’d often try pushing it more, sliding her nose across the floor. She would wander the yard beyond her bounds and occasionally find a hole to dig. She would ignore calls and beckons. All night and all day she’d pace, rarely laying down and rarely leaving the immediate area of Wife or me. Her ability to wait hours between trips outside dwindled. She was aching. Sometimes her need for attention turned into an obsession. Her eyes often showed worry and concern. But at all times her sweetness persisted.
Her getting old was not tragic, as the symptoms of age were expected as much as the sun rises and sets. However not tragic, it was of course very sad. But, here begins the therapy, also very annoying. She had needs and desires that were inconvenient for me to fill. Our lives were no longer in sync.
This inconvenient truth was no secret to my mind. I knew I was, at times, annoyed with the seeming burden of an aging dog. And I hated my selfishness. I hated that I sometimes felt like I was waiting for an old dog to just age a little bit more. And I was (and am) terrified that my selfishness will encroach on my human relationships when times of need arise.
Fortunately I am blessed with a caring and compassionate Wife that I see as one of the most selfless people I know. And in our many talks about Daisy, I valued her views and respected the fact that it was in near totality her that was bearing the burden of an aging Daisy.
But unfortunately, with a dog that is aging with no significantly urgent health issues, the time to say goodbye can be so unclear. There is some balance of both dog and human quality of life. But how you quantify and weigh those balances… hello guilt.
A few weeks back, Wife and I decided this balance had been breached and we did what any parents of busy elementary and middle school aged kids would do… we brought out the calendar. We looked at what October, November, and December held. Oh, everything. The loss of a pet would be new to us as adults (and parents) and new to our kids. On the heels of a mentally stress-filled military move from Georgia to Maryland, if the opportunity was there to intentionally plan for the loss of a pet, we wanted to take full advantage of it. So that’s what we did. The kids were off school the week of Thanksgiving. In our talks with the kids about the dogs’ end of life, they had requested to be told the day before. So Friday, 24 November was scheduled as “Daisy Day”, a day that we could focus on and celebrate with Daisy as a family… and a vet appointment was made for Saturday, 25 November. We avoided Thanksgiving day, avoided birthdays, avoided field trips, avoided school functions, avoided Christmas, avoided travel, avoided any number of things… Life was out of sync with an aging Daisy.
It honestly felt good to have something on the calendar. I was still hyper-aware of my selfish annoyances and wondered continuously if my selfish thoughts were unfairly influencing my resolve to bring Daisy’s life to an end. Then Daisy got hurt. Her already aching back legs got hurt further and she limped around for a few days. I felt justified. The time was right. But the limping resolved to stiff, shaky, and sometimes uncontrollable joints… and my doubts resurfaced.
Thanksgiving, the day before Daisy Day (letting kids know) arrives, and Jolie had a major injury. So bad that she yelped at the slightest move and contorted herself when moving or laying down. Wife stayed with Jolie overnight and the morning of our scheduled Daisy Day, we took Jolie (age 13) to the vet, with full knowledge that we would not want to put her into surgery, wondering if in a surprise twist, we might say goodbye to Jolie before Daisy. In the end, the vet believed Jolie slipped a disk and put her on meds to recover with an option for x-ray if recovery isn’t smooth.
The kids are then concerned about Jolie and have no idea that we have Daisy scheduled to be euthanized the very next day. Wife and I looked at the calendar and saw no other opportunity before Christmas for an intentional goodbye time for Daisy. We didn’t, and still don’t, know how Jolie is going to recover. We were concerned about delaying Daisy and her getting injured and our opportunity for a controlled goodbye becoming chaotic, traumatic, and reactive. So we decided to proceed as planned.
Telling kids to say goodbye to their dog is such a heartbreaking moment.
We spent the rest of Daisy Day spoiling her with treats, walking around the backyard, sniffing everything in sight, and letting her just do as she pleased. The kids did crafts with Daisy’s paw prints and we got lots of good pictures together as a family. It was very nice. We all slept in the basement with the dogs where Daisy paced all night with a few moments for cuddles.
And then today was here.
I wanted to take Daisy to the vet. I wanted to be with her through the procedure. I wanted to comfort her, but I also wanted to be there to take responsibility for our decisions. I tend to rationalize away grief. If it makes sense, then I can’t be too sad about it, right? Before the vet, I had shed a few tears, but those tears were mostly for the kids’ loss.
Daisy and I parked the car. Daisy sniffed the parking lot. We walked into the vet. And I sobbed.
Over the course of the procedure my hand never left Daisy’s head and I never once doubted our decision. Not even in the slightest. It was the right decision for this moment of life. We needed control over the goodbye. Could Daisy have lived a few more weeks or months? Probably, but that balance of both human and dog quality of life would have continued its slow descent with absolutely zero chance of recovery and ever increasing risk of expedience. What a burden that decision is to make. But a decision nonetheless. That is why I title this piece, with love we sent you on.
Daisy epitomized a dog’s love. She is and will be missed greatly in our family.
Daisy With Lollipop #1
Daisy and Jolie Together
Daisy and Jolie with Kids
Dogs by port swing
Daisy Getting Hugs
Dogs at beach
Family at Yosemite
Daisy in a carseat
Dogs in a packed car
Dogs in backyard
Daisy and Jolie Together
Daisy Easter Ears
Daisy on a walk
Daisy Day Family Picture
Daisy Day with Lollipop #1
Daisy Day with Lollipop #2
Daisy with Wife