Last week was a low-point in my life. As sixty-three-plus years flew by, I’ve witnessed death in many forms: cats poisoned by neighbors, favorite dogs hit by cars and trucks. As a minister's wife, I've spent many hours at the bedside of dying family members; and sat with them alongside caskets as friends came by to show their respects for the life they knew. I've hugged teens who lost grandparents, parents and siblings. I've hugged parents who lost their teens and spouses. Death...From grandparents, to my own children, strangers, friends. From accidental deaths to suicides. I buried my granddaughters' daddy. Death is no stranger to me.
You'd think I could handle putting a suffering dog out of his misery. Such a humane act seemed like the merciful thing to do.
I've written quite a few times about Rowdy over my blogging years. He's provided great subject material and given me several analogies for life (see below). His spirit and stamina are second to none other dog I ever knew. Even the amputation of his front leg did not deter his determination to root out Oklahoma armadillos, skunks and snakes. He literally kept coyotes from the door. When his lone, front leg finally failed to support his 91 pounds of mete strength, it broke my heart. No longer could he lift himself to walk. He scooted on his belly, pushing himself with his virile back legs. From the porch to the field, he pushed himself in an effort to relieve himself away from the house. Then he'd push himself back to lie in the shade for the day. I carried water to him and fed him hotdogs stuffed with extra-strength Tylenol by hand. Each time I came near, he wagged his stubby nub of a tail. He looked into my eyes with all the trust and devotion he’d shown since I loaded him in my Astro van and hauled him back to my daughter's house to live with us following my son's death.
I knew it was time. I knew his days had come to an end. I sat and patted his head, scratched his ears, and listened to him groan with pleasure. His buddy, Minnie, stood guard by him and seemed to begin a mourning process of her own.
I drove down to Texas to get my son's daughter so she could say goodbye. I made the appointment with the vet. It was the merciful thing to do. I took pictures of him with my two youngest granddaughters so they'd have a tangible memory to hold. My eldest grandson drove a tractor in the woods and dug out a 4-foot grave. I prayed (as did other internet friends), that my grandson's broken foot would not be damaged further by his act of compassion for me. He and my daughter loaded him into the back of her Suburban, so we could take him to the vet. I placed an old quilt in the trunk which my granddaughters once used on their beds in Texas. We'd wrap him in that after...
The vet's staff carried him in for us so my grandson didn't have to stand on his booted foot. Waiting for the vet to treat other animals was not easy. Rowdy sat there staring at us, whining, then panting wildly, coughing now and then. His ears perked up and he wagged his stub. It was hard to believe he was so sick. I rubbed his ears to keep him calm. My grandson talked soothingly to him and patted his thick neck. We chatted about different things to avoid talking about the obvious. The merciful thing to do.
Tears rolled down my face in waves as the vet shaved Rowdy's front leg so she could find a vein to insert the overdose of anesthesia. Rowdy didn't have a good vein...I suppose he was already "shutting down". I'd so prayed the Lord would take him so I wouldn't have to do "the merciful thing". The vet explained to me what would happen with Rowdy and told me I could pet him as she inserted the needle in his vein and put him to sleep forever. As I patted his head and stroked his ears the last time, I recalled the sweet memories of him, and the annoyances. I pondered his connection with my son. No words can express how my heart felt to watch the act of mercy. One second he’s staring at me…the next his eyes closed shut, his breath stopped, and he is gone. Lifeless. And it was my choice to do it.
Oh, yes…Rowdy was suffering--how much, I do not know; he could not say. I know when he tried to stand on that front leg he whimpered in pain. His labored to breathe. He choked each time he ate the third piece of hotdog stuffed with Tylenol. He choked and sputtered when he drank from the pan of water I kept near his chest. Yet, to order Rowdy’s death crushed my heart in a million pieces. My son's teenage daughter told me it was like "losing another part of Dad". I don't know how long I'll struggle with what I did--the thing of mercy that feels so unmerciful. I still haven't reconciled myself with the fact that I had Rowdy’s life snuffed out.
It made me consider the heart of God when He gave His permission for soldiers to nail His only begotten Son to a rugged, humiliating cross. He watched him suffer a sacrificial death and make the payment for our sin. God in His mercy, gave His life, in Jesus, so we might live eternally. And on that dark day, I sincerely doubt it made God feel any better than I--even though it was the merciful thing to do. selahV