I’m always the last to leave a party. I’ve overstayed relationships well past their expiration date. I’ve kept cars because I’ve been too sentimental to give them up. I have blouses that are 20 years old hanging in my closet that are just too packed full of memories to throw away. I hoard because I care.
So it’s no surprise that tonight – on the eve of yet another euthanization appointment for my dog Lulu – I’m vacillating. And doubting. And planning on waking up at 6am to drive to my vet’s office before he opens to tell him I just can’t go through with this. I’m not ready. I can’t say goodbye. I’m canceling yet another appointment.
I was ready last week. And then I was ready again this morning. Both times, however, Lulu rallied and did something to make me say, “I just can’t justify putting this dog to sleep yet.” I just can’t do it. I’m waiting for a sign of some sort. That thing in their eyes that tells you, “I’m done, Mom.” I just haven’t seen it yet.
It didn’t help that tonight, as I fed Lulu her “last supper” (a Quarter Pounder with cheese, large fries and two avocados from our tree), she looked at me with glee, scarfing down every last morsel of the food in front of her. She did not look like a dog who should be going to death row.
I guess I’m waiting for her to stop eating all together. To turn her head away when I look into her eyes. To cry or wince or do something to tell me that she’s in too much pain to live another day. But she’s not saying a thing. She stumbles and fumbles and pees and poops all over her feet, yet never has uttered a word of intolerance. No surprise. In her 15 years in our care, she has never been one to complain. Dogs are champions at hiding their pain. More often than not, you don’t see the signs until it’s too late.
Having the power to put a being out of their misery is a blessing and a curse. It’s a huge responsibility. You’re playing God and – if you have any heart at all – you don’t take this responsibility lightly. You need to make sure that you’re doing what’s right for the being – not what’s convenient for you. There’s definitely a sweet spot involved when euthanizing an animal. Like the THREE BEARS, you don’t want it “too hot, too cold…but just right.”
I guess you just have to weigh what would be worse: waiting too long, or cutting a life short too early. I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum and I’ve yet to perfect this game. Most of all, you don’t want to make a mistake that you’ll regret for the rest of your life.
So tonight, I will stare at Lulu, love Lulu, pet Lulu and ponder. Just don’t be surprised if tomorrow morning you hear me say, “We’re just going to wait ‘one more day.'”