November 1, 2011 by Nicole
It’s weird to think that when I left the house this morning, I had four dogs, and when I return, there will likely only be three. The time has finally come to put one of our puppies to sleep. Well, I guess that 13 years old isn’t exactly a puppy, but we’ve had to make the decision to put Leeli to rest. Despite the fact that I don’t have the same close bond with Leeli as I do with my other dogs, it’s not easy to have to realize that this is the decision that has to be made. She’s never been in good health since we’ve had her–she survived breast cancer, and she has congestive heart failure, lung problems, bad teeth, and even with as far as she’s come in the last three years, the past abuses she experienced with whoever owned her before us are still with her, though to a significantly lesser degree. About two weeks ago, however, she lost what was rest of her eyesight, and since then, she has been steadily losing weight, wandering around the house bumping into everything, and clearly unable to remember where she is and whether she is coming or going. As a result, it’s hard to see her so disoriented to the point that she keeps losing her footing and falling down. It’s hard to see her shaking out of panic all of the time, and crying in her crate because she can’t figure out how to get out of the crate even though the door is open. In the midst of an extremely stressful week, I feel very grateful to my husband for taking her to the vet and being with her in her last moments, which, I am embarrassed to admit, is not something I presently have the strength to endure. Honestly, I feel very guilty because I can’t bring myself to be there when she is put to sleep, yet Randy tells me that it’s better for my sanity if I just allow him to take care of it for me. It really doesn’t make me feel too much better, but deep down, I suspect he’s right (as usual).
Despite my frustration at Leeli’s often spastic and “off center” behavior, the fact that she was always underfoot and managing to trip my husband or me, her inability to be (or maybe indifference toward being) housebroken, the fact that she always smelled bad because of her tendency to eat a meal twice (We’ll just leave it at that.), or the countless bottles of carpet spray and endless (and recently, daily) laundering of soiled bedding, I realize that she is the product of what was probably a very difficult past that stole her ability to behave like a normal dog. There are days where she tried Randy’s and my patience to no end, and I will admit there are times where I was tempted to regret the day I saw that sad little dog who had clearly been through a lot, and my heart was so sad that I took her home. In spite of all of this, looking back, I will say that ultimately I am glad that I gave into that moment of pity out of compassion for her lot in life. Had I not taken her in, she probably would have been euthanized due to her old age and her poor heath and behavior problems; I am thankful that she had at least three years of life in a (relatively) calm, quiet, and safe environment where no one hurt or mistreated her.
This makes me think about a few things. It reminds me that one of the gifts that God has given me a generous heart, love, and care for not only the people he puts me in contact with everyday, but also compassion for other parts of his creation (Okay, I admit, I even cry if I run over a chipmunk with my car.). Leeli is also a reminder that there are no promises that this life will be easy or fair, but if you look around you, there are people who want to “take you in” and make your life a little easier and begin to heal your hurts.
Moreover–and I could care less what most people think–her little doggie spirit will be up there in Heaven running around and acting like a healthy dog; after the life she’s had here on earth, she’s clearly earned it. Maybe some people think that animals don’t go to heaven, but I think that anyone who owns a pet knows that God blesses us those animal companions to both enrich our lives and help us on our life journey (Even C.S. Lewis and a few other great theologians think there are animals up there, and I am inclined to agree with them. 🙂 ).