Annie... Time to say "goodbye."
We rescued Annie about 15 years ago from a local Lab/Golden Retriever rescue. We'd recently moved into our current home in Summerville and our kids were aged 6, 4, 3, and 1. This dog was awesome. She loved us all but she was my wife Joan's dog. Wherever Joan went, Annie was her shadow.
I am amazed how much my daughters and Joan showered Annie with love and affection all throughout the day, everyday. Especially since the girls are homeschooled, Annie was rarely alone. She had such a calm demeanor and always looked like she was smiling. She had a calming influence on the vibe of the house and she had her cozy spots where she could lay and have a clear view of as many of us as possible. Especially Joan. If she was working at the kitchen table, Annie usually laid right behind her chair on the air vent. If we were watching TV, Annie was laying in front of the fire place. Wherever Joan went, Annie followed. And at night, Annie had a bed in our bedroom.
While her attitude and demeanor was always sweet, gentle, and relaxed. She started having issues with arthritis and allergies that grew progressively worse over the last few years. It was just a couple of years ago that as a result of an x-ray, we discovered that she had been shot by a shotgun before we adopted her. The x-ray showed numerous shotgun pellets in her chest and side. That just broke our hearts. We couldn't believe that someone would do that to a dog.
As Annie's health continued to deteriorate, I was dreading the thought of life without Annie. How would Joan react? The girls? The girls had grown up loving this dog so much (the girls ages are now, 15, 17, 18, and 20.) As Annie would have bouts of not being able to get up on her own, we could tell she was starting to suffer and I knew that the time was close. I'd always thought that when it was time to put a dog down, you took them to the vet and the vet took care of things at the office. I didn't even know what happened next. Would she come home with us to be buried? Did the vet keep her and dispose of her body? Was there cremation for a dog? I mean, I'd never had to put a dog down. (I didn't even know the correct terminology for this. Was "put her to sleep" correct?) I obviously didn't know much about this at all.
My brother and sister-in-law recently had to put down one of their dogs and they told me about a vet that came to the house. She helped guide them and their other dog through the process of loving on and saying goodbye to Rosie. As we were getting very close to the end, I reached out to that Vet. It was a tough call.
I remember when Dr. Lauren Orvin from Lowcountry Pet Hospice called my cell after I requested more info through their website. Dr. Orvin's "bedside manner" immediately put me at ease as she walked me through the process of In-home Euthanasia. I think we talked on a Thursday and our appointment was for the following Monday morning.
It was a challenge to have everyone at home that last weekend. We spent every minute with her. The girls took her to get treats and spent just about every waking moment loving on her. For her entire life, Annie was constantly receiving hugs and kisses. This weekend was something special. Everything was about spending quality time with her while trying to ignore the clock and calendar that was rapidly counting down to Monday.
Monday was tough. We were well aware that this was real and time was running out. How could this be? Were we really going to lose her, TODAY?!! Lots of hugs. Lots of tears. Tick...Tock... It seemed like time slowed. Our emotions were raw, tears were shed, love was shared with Annie and with each other. Spent a lot of time reminiscing. Sharing favorite memories and photos. More hugs. More Tears.... Tick....Tock.... Eventually, we heard the knock on the door. It was time. Dr. Orvin is here.
Dr. Orvin was so gentle with Annie, Winston and the rest of us. She reviewed what was going to happen and took her time answering questions. Her bedside manner was so amazing. Very empathetic and gentle. She was going to give us plenty of time to love on her and say our goodbyes, give Annie a sedative, allow us to spend more time with her and say our final farewell, then help her pass on with a final injection.
We weren't sure exactly where all of this would occur and Dr. Orvin encouraged us to let Annie pick her spot. We'd moved Annie's bed from our bedroom to the den and thought she's end up there. Instead, she made her way to one of her favorite spots on the bare floor centrally located to the Den, Kitchen, and Sun Room. She always loved laying there. The floor was cool and it allowed her to keep an eye on us.
As Annie got settled, everyone gathered around her. Winston was involved in the process. He would come up to her and nuzzle her. Dr. Orvin said it was important that Winston be close by. Gently petting her, whispering how much we loved her, and trying to hold it together and not fall out in a blubbery mess of tears and sadness. Dr. Orvin sedated Annie and allowed us a final opportunity to love on her and say goodbye. Eventually, (can't remember how long) Dr. Orvin provided a final dose of meds to help Annie pass on. Oh my goodness. The sadness. The tears. Joan's overwhelming grief was almost too much to bear. Oh...my...goodness. Annie was gone.
Eventually, Dr. Orvin checked for a pulse and confirmed she had passed. Since she was going to take Annie for Aquamation, Dr. Orvin had prepped us that she would bring in a carrier and we could help her carry Annie to her car. With Dr. Orvin leading the way, Joan and Grace solemnly carried her out to her car and gently laid her in the back. We said our goodbyes and Dr. Orvin left with Annie.
Lowcountry Pet Hospice provides a myriad of services for families and their much loved pets. A few weeks later, LPH returned to the house with 5 sets of paw and nose prints and clippings of her hair. We also ordered 5 clay paw prints and an urn for her ashes. I was at work when Annie was brought back home to us. Lots of tears. Still can't believe it.
It's been over a month since that fateful Monday and Annie's bed is still in the Den. It'll probably be there a while.