It wouldn't hurt so much if we didn't love them so much. That's what I have to keep reminding myself. I know I wouldn't change it for anything. We lost one of our beloved dogs last week. Our Great Dane was nine years old. She was a Blue Merle Great Dane. We named her Saphira after a giant blue dragon in the novel "Eragon" by Christopher Paolini. She definitely had the heart of a dragon. She was getting up there for sure. Her health had been remarkably great. Danes tend to struggle with a myriad of weird health issues, but she really hadn't had any of them. She did struggle with anxiety when there were loud noises like fireworks, thunder or gunshots. Overall though, she had enjoyed an excellent 9 years of health and happiness.
Last weekend she got ill. She clearly didn't feel good and seem to be having some pain in her abdomen. By Sunday night she was vomiting. Monday morning we called the vet. We were instructed to keep her hydrated and bring her in on Tuesday. We did so. On Tuesday the vet suspected that she had a uterine infection that was causing her to have a high fever, dehydration and vomiting. I knew it wasn't good. I had told my husband Tuesday morning I felt like we were going to lose this battle. It's not a prediction that you want to be right about. It is what my gut told me though. I felt like she was getting ready to transition from this world, that she was all done. She was hospitalized on Tuesday, for observation and hydration. Wednesday morning the vet called and said that her white blood count had shot up in the night and they needed to do an emergency surgery to rid her of the infection. We knew that it was fairly risky at her age but at this point it was do surgery or she would die. I authorized the surgery. At 1:30 in the afternoon my phone rang. I was in the shower but felt strongly that I had to take it so I quickly toweled off and grabbed the phone. It was the vet. He said that he was not sure how to express this to me but needed us to know that our dog died in surgery. He said that her heart was doing something funny and he couldn't stabilize her. I wasn't surprised but of course I was still heartbroken. He offered to let us come and get her, if we wanted to bury her. That made me chuckle a little, as in her prime she was a hundred-and-fifty-pound dog. I couldn't imagine the size of hole that would have to be dug in the backyard in order to bury her on our property. We decided to go a different route.
Scott and I grieved together that afternoon. Our hearts were broken but we still had a tremendous amount of gratitude for the time that we did have with her. 9 years old for a Dane is old. We have been on borrowed time for a while and we knew it. We had a very busy ahead of us, and had chosen not to tell the kids until later that evening. At 7 we dashed home to grab softball gear to head to a practice. At that point my youngest daughter realized that something was wrong. She demanded to know where Saphira was. She's not really a kid that you can lie to. She's very dialed in and her intuition is constantly at work. I realized that it would just make it worse by not just telling her the truth and so I did. She cried all the way to softball practice. I told her that she would have to put her game face on and get through practice with me and then we would tell the other kids and grieve together. When we got to practice I noticed her clutching her heart. She looked at me with her giant brown eyes and said, “Mom my heart just hurts. It literally hurts in my chest right now.” Oh, how I know that feeling. We managed to get through softball practice and get home. When we got home we sat the other kids down and let them know what happened. Many tears were shed, of course.
When I got up the next morning, I realized that in spirit she was still sleeping right next to my bed like she always did. She got up and followed me into the bathroom like normal. She expressed to me how strange it was to be so light, so unencumbered. She was also a bit miffed that her bed was already gone. Later that morning Skippy, one of our little Chihuahuas, was spooked by her in the kitchen. I saw him come dashing around the corner towards me then throw the brakes on turn and head into the corner of the kitchen where he watched me with with a bit of suspicion. It made me laugh. He never liked her getting too close to me.
The saddest grieving it all has been from our little chihuahua Rico. Rico was Saphira's best friend. They cuddled together, played together and generally adored each other. She was very careful to play with her 3 pound pal and not smash him in the process. After we went to bed Thursday night, I noticed that he was crying in his sleep. He cried and whimpered for most of the night. He was very quiet on Friday, with no interest in playing with his toys or even playing with me. He wanted to cuddle with Skippy in his blankets, and that was it. We have made a point of giving him a lot of extra attention this weekend, and slowly, he is perking up. I know that his grief will go on for some time, and we will be patient with him. As an animal communicator, I have been careful to be sure that all of our dogs know what has happened. They will grieve anyway though, just like us.
Years ago I was working with a dying dog who told me that death, to a dog, is an honor to the soul. She told me that her body was unable to house her soul any longer, and she would be graduating out of it soon. I know that Saphira is just fine now, no illness or infection or lumbering body to drag around. It sure is weird to go to bed without her demanding a series of back scratches before she can settle in next to me for the night. It is weird to get up in the morning without worrying about stepping on her when I hop out of bed. We are okay at my house. Our hearts hurt right now, but we will heal together. After all, it wouldn’t hurt so much if we didn’t love so much. I wouldn’t trade the love and companionship for anything in the world.