It’s tough, being a dog parent. Because no matter how much you prepare yourself, no matter how much wonderful time you spend together, you still have to say goodbye.
Dogs live an average of twelve to fourteen years; less if the dog is bigger. A person can own many dogs in a lifetime; I’m 44 years old, and I now own the fourth dog of my life.
But saying good bye sucked all three times I had to do it.
I’ve been thinking about old dogs and saying good-bye ever since John Unger and his dog Schoep became an internet sensation. The photograph of John taking his nineteen-year-old dog into Lake Superior to ease the pressure on his aching joints exploded on Facebook with nearly 200,000 shares already.
It’s such an incredibly touching photograph, and my heart goes out to John because it’s highly likely that he’s going to have to say goodbye to Schoep soon.
My childhood dog, Hugo, was put to sleep under sad circumstances. He attacked a friend of our family’s, and my mother didn’t know what to do so she had him put down. He wasn’t a puppy – he was about twelve years old – but he was healthy, and I still remember sobbing uncontrollably as I hugged him goodbye in our family’s VW beetle.
Misty, the dog I rescued as a puppy at age 17 and had for over 15 years, was tough. Like Schoep, she had chronic joint pain and became incredibly addled as an old dog; she was pretty checked-out, and wobbled about some but mostly slept. I knew the time was coming – and was, in fact, coming to terms with the fact that I was probably prolonging her life and pain unnecessarily – when the decision was made for us thanks to a fast growing tumor. Saying goodbye was awful, even though she’d actually been gone in some ways for a while.
Nothing prepared us to lose my next dog, Hammer aka Bubba (he’s the one in the picture above). I’ve never owned a dog as marvelous as Bubba; he was so sweet, so gentle, and so damn GOOD losing him hurts to this day. He was so beloved that the day before we put him to sleep, seventeen of our friends came over to say goodbye. Worst of all, my daughter was three and a half years old, old enough to know what was happening and still to this day talks about missing Bubba. We only had him ten years; another fast growing tumor brought him down as well, and he was clearly in agonizing pain.
I love that Mr. Unger is working so hard to make Schoep’s life as comfortable as he can, and I’m sure he knows the time is coming soon and is trying to prepare himself for the decision. Nineteen years as a companion is a long time. I wish both John and Schoep peace, and hope the decision comes in a peaceful way.