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Grief and loss of a devoted dog

In just over a year my husband and I have said goodbye to two of our beloved dogs. For those who are dog lovers you'll get it. The back and forth dance you do at the end. A part of me wished they would go on their own, but it seems for many dogs they wait for their owners to be ready and take them through it. That they desire to wait for us to let them go. Perhaps that is the loyalty coming through them.

This week we said goodbye to our almost 17-year-old kelpie cross called Dingo. Yes, he looked like a dingo too. We didn't choose his name he came with it on adoption. I found him when he was 2 years old in the local leader newspaper advertised and when we went to see him, he was on his last day. We were told he needed to go with us there and then or he would be put to sleep. Ding had bounced through a few homes and was too much for everyone until me. My husband even tried to talk me into taking him back the first few weeks, but something really pulled me towards him.

After about 6 months of barely sitting still and getting hit by a car on a busy highway, he started to settle. Heck he even got kicked out of obedience school not because he was naughty but because he was high energy. Ding became my devoted running buddy, and we spent many hours half marathon training. I swear this is the secret to long age as my family Doberman growing up lived to 17 as well and my mother ran with her. Ding ran with me until he was 12 years old, and I remember the day he couldn't clear as day. I remember the tears and grief. This special thing we shared together was no longer accessible for him. It was a sudden ending that reminded me of when my kids suddenly stopped breastfeeding or when the cot moved out of our bedroom.

The ending of a dog's life is really hard to gauge. Some days would be ok, others would feel painful for him. Even though I never though this of anyone else there was a part of me that still felt I was killing my dog by putting him to sleep. That I was playing God. I asked him for a sign.

He woke up the morning of the booking with the vet and couldn't walk. I had to carry him outside to the toilet. There it was. The sign. I always promised once his legs went, I wouldn't keep him going. He was so fit everywhere else I knew his heart wouldn't give way.

Grieving a dog is such a raw pain. They really are such a beautiful unconditional love. A constant joy there for me when I walk in the door. I have literally a dog train that follows me around the house.

This time around saying goodbye to Dingo felt different. last year we said goodbye to our 13.5yr old Lab cross staffy Misty and I couldn't get over it for some time after. I felt awful. This time with Dingo it felt like the pain was the lead up. The emotions and confusion. I leant on friends and family who had been through it before for support and my children and husband. For some reason I had bore the blame (from myself) and responsibility of the decision. Like it was all on me, yet it wasn't. We all decided together. So why did I still torment myself with the decision? I'd say this is at time a pattern for me to watch out for. I even noticed it with the kids' schooling reports. If there's an area that needs work, I go immediately to what I am not doing and block out the fact that there are multiple people who need to help my child.

I think we always think we have an idea as to how we will cope with these things but when it arises there is so much more than we ever realise that comes into it. I kept worrying what if he wasn't ready? What if he felt betrayed or that we were getting rid of him? At the end of the day, we never truly know how they feel but I can see in him that standing or laying down he was incredibly uncomfortable, and I hope he felt peace and comfort with our whole family there holding him as he passed. I heard from Buddhist teaching that it is important you let a soul pass letting them know they did good. That to free them, you are to let them know they did well for you. I said to him you did good Dingo. You're a good dog.

Loss is hard no matter what. I have friends who suddenly lost their elderly dog, and the guilt and grief were still there. Whether he passed alone naturally or with us assisted I think we often still go into self-blame and fear of not having done what they needed.

A day on I feel like the heaviest parts have lifted. Though I sit here crying as I type it's not a heavy crying. It's a light sadness. An accepting of what is and release of what is no longer. We can be sad but also feel it was right.

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