I am a privileged person to have had my dog, Cokie, in my life. She is the only dog that we've had that we have had since the very beginning of her life. When we picked her up she fit in the cup of my hands. All our other dogs came "pre-owned" with a ton of issues ranging from aggression to abandonment, while Cokie had none of these. We like to think it is because we had her since she was born that she was perfect. I can't say I've ever met a dog like her. She lit up the room. Everyone wanted to pet her. We had a line of people who wanted to dog sit. She was sweet and gentle and every child we knew wanted to take her home with them. How an extremely imperfect person as myself got thrown into the role of making the decision on whether this perfect creature would live or not ... I do not know. How could I judge of her suffering? How do I judge on whether it is her suffering or my own that drives this decision? I am a wretch.
Cokie's perfection started in 2002. We had only one dog, Rex, at that time. He needed companionship for when we left him alone. My wife saw a free German shepherd puppies ad in the paper. She drove over Lake Champlain to Crowne Point, NY to a trailer park. The only pup left was the runt that no one wanted because she was so small. She was the smallest in a litter of ten so she didn't get a lot of time at her mom's teats early on. The people who owned her parents, kept them outside so when we took Cokie home her stomach was distended with worms. She had the worst puppy breathe I have ever smelled and she was obsessed with licking which is something that she never got over. I don't think I've ever fell in love so quickly.
I remember a few years ago, I was on the phone with an insurance agent who wanted to charge me higher rates because I had a German shepherd and I tried to explain "she only weighs 40 pounds" and of course, she wouldn't ever bite anyone, but might lick someone. This didn't convince him and I found another agent. She didn't look like a shepherd. We got a lot of comments about her when we brought her into public. "Is that a fox?" " ... a coyote?" "... a dingo?" Right! I have a dingo as a pet. Both of her parents were German Shepherds but she didn't look like one. She never got any black in her coating. It just meant that she lacked the agouti gene so she was only tan. Her being only tan and very small, convinced some that she wasn't a Shepherd.
About three years ago, we were vacationing with two dogs in Saguenay, Quebec, a beautiful area just a few hours drive from the Canadian border. We rented a dog-friendly place that wasn't really very friendly for dogs. This is just a reminder that dog-friendly only means that you can have dogs; it doesn't mean that it is a good place to have them. This place had a loft for the bed and a steep staircase that was more like a ladder. There was no stopping her from going up to be with us at night while we slept. I could help her get up but getting her down was another story. She fell down the last few stairs and hurt her hip. This breed normally has hip difficulties so this didn't help and she was around ten years old so prognosis wasn't good. She hobbled around for awhile and she got worse as the years progressed. When she was young she used to run around the dog park keeping pace with the whippets, but no longer. The last year and a half of her life we had to carry her outside for her bathroom breaks. The winters were not pleasant. Her light weight made this a lot easier for us. She spent the last two years of her life on her bed not doing much, but not in pain. Her quality of life was still good. It must have been the pain killers that eventually destroyed her liver.
I had a dream today that I was holding her. I could feel her very familiar coat, I felt the breathe in her chest going up and down and her heart beating. I believe she even licked my face like she used to do. This was nice. It felt very real and sweet; it felt like a good-bye or perhaps that she was forgiving me. Regardless, I had a somber reminded of my loss. I know it is an irrational guilt I have for euthanizing her, but it will remain. It did with the other two. No matter how I tell myself it was the ethical thing to do, I feel just awful about it.
Now that my three dogs are dead and I have two new ones, I honestly pledge that I will never have three dogs around the same age again. Too much heart-ache and expenses all at the same time.