When is the right time to say goodbye?
Many years ago in my late teens, I had to face that horrible decision of euthanasia for my first dog C’fa and I just couldn’t do it.
I remember a conversation I had with my dad as if it was yesterday, it went like this.
“I can’t do it.”
“Why can’t you do it?”
“Because I love her so much.”
“Jenny, if you love her then you must do it.”
“But I can’t.”
“Jenny, this is not about you and what you can and can’t do, you must put the animal first and deal with your emotions later.”
He was right!! As difficult as it was, C’fa was put to sleep. It taught me one very important lesson, and since that day I have shared it with many friends and customers. This is not about us!!
Owning, well we never really “own” any animal, but for the sake of this story I am going to use this term. Owning any animal is about responsibility and this means doing what is right for them while they are in our care and certainly not forgetting when it is time for them to leave. I believe we have been given a precious gift, to never let those we love suffer. The word euthanasia is often called “killing” but I think that depends on how it is used.
Over my last 30 adult years of having animals, I have had to make the decision to terminate lives more times than I care to mention and I can honestly say “it never gets easier”. Each animal brings into my life something different. With each new life brings a different lesson and a different connection. I remember my Mum telling me that we (her children) are all very different and she loved us very much in different ways. I never really knew what she meant by that until recently when I had to say goodbye to her.
It’s simple – Life is precious and to quote my Mum “You live – you die, it’s what you do in between that makes you who you are. Be honest, hard working and live each day to the fullest because you can’t get that day back.”
It was only recently I had to make the decision to terminate the life of my sweet little dog of 15 years. His name was Snookums. How on earth did he get such a name you ask? When Snookums was about 6 or 7 weeks of age, my friend Ronnie brought him and his sister to my home in a cat cage. They were so tiny, they fitted in the palm of our hands. Elaine, my business partner at the time and I gave them a bath, we stood in the laundry with them wrapped in towels and asked “so what do we do now?” Elaine took the girl and I took the boy. We had all intentions of finding them a home – yeah right!! That night I phoned Elaine to see how she was getting on. We decided we had to call them something and without much thought Elaine came up with the name Munchkin, so I called mine Snookums. Little did we know that 15 years down the track Munchkin and Snookums would keep their names.
Munchkin and Snookums became household names and were also known as The Gap Terriers amongst our customers. We operated our mobile hydro-bathing business in The Gap and Ashgrove, looking back now I am sure they were also known as The Gap Terrors. They created havoc on many occasions whilst traveling from home to home. There are too many memories to mention but some spring to mind, like the day they decided to run into this poor unsuspecting woman’s house and jump on her bed while she was in it, on another occasion they jumped into a customer’s hot tub, and not forgetting the time they got into one almighty ruff and tumble in the middle of our coffee break at the old takeaway on Settlement Road, it was sibling rivalry at its best.
Munchkin and Snookums lived a very full life with so many adventures together, at work and in their own homes.
Snookums has had some great companions but 2 of them were very special. Their names were Buddy and Tyro – we called the 3 of them The Storm Troopers. They were the best of mates at all times and loved to go for walks or just hang out together. Tyro was a Dane, Buddy was a bully cross and Snookums was a Pomeranian/Aussie Terrier cross and the size of a milk bottle.
Snookums was also quite the charmer, he had some special girls in his life; Heidi, Nellie and Tidda, and recently at my dads property he took quite a shine to Julie and Jessie. He was not always welcomed by the girls but his determination was admired by all. He also touched the heart of some very special two legged women, one in particular, Tricia who loved him like he was her own.
Early on in Snookums’ life (at the precious age of 3 months) he was attacked by a very large dog. This dog was not at fault but ultimately paid with her life, certainly not at my request. In actual fact, after getting Snookums to the vet I went to visit the owner to let her know I did NOT blame the dog, but unfortunately I was too late, the owner had already made the decision and the dog had been euthanised. As in most cases like this, the dog is not at fault. Dogs are simply just being dogs, coping the best way they know how in the situation they find themselves in. Sadly, they are typically let down by us humans.
Snookums fought to stay alive and it took many months for him to return to health. Unfortunately from that day forward he did have a damaged spine but he was a Storm Trooper and he soldiered on. He also had 2 funny little bent front legs that gave him discomfort later in life ,but with natural therapies and the best diet in the world (The Complete Meal) he managed to run, play and swim with the best of them.
Unfortunately in late May 2013, at the age of 15, Snookums was running up our hallway chasing a ball and caught his hind leg on the mat. The next thing I knew he was standing still holding his hind leg in the air and screaming – I will never get that scream out of my head. He had damaged his cruciate ligament. Our visit to Animal Options (Dr Rowan Kilmartin, BVSc) proved that Snookums’ cruciate was completely ruptured and surgery was the only solution. Due to his age and other ailments, surgery for Snookums was not an option. Instead we kept him comfortable with Essential Oils, Massage, Supplements and Homeopathy.
In June 2013 Graham, Tamika, Felsby, Snookums and I went to visit my Dad at my family home in NSW. The dogs got to do what some farm dogs do, ride in the back of a ute and eat cow manure.
During this time a little lump appeared under his front leg. It was the size of a pea and within 4 weeks it had grown to the size of a large marble, within 6 weeks this large marble had grown rapidly. I knew it was cancer… and it was just a matter of time before I would have to make the decision that every responsible owner needs to face.
I remember asking my mother many years ago how you know when it’s the right time? She replied, “You will know. You will wake up one morning and you will just know.”
On the 7th of July I woke hearing my Mum’s voice. Snookums had not had a good night and I knew it was time to say goodbye.
That morning he had a beautiful bath, his usual bone for breakfast, an Essential Oil massage and a walk in the park with Tamika and Felsby. The park where he and Munchkin used to run as puppies.
Snookums was put to sleep in my arms.
He had a wonderful life, filled with exciting journeys and as much love as all animals deserve. He was returned to his home in the days that followed and life goes on. The decision to end the journey of life as we know it is always difficult but each and every one of us has that gift available. Don’t leave it too long, this decision is not about us, it is always about those we love. You will know when the time is right, just listen to that inner voice and embrace that gift.
Rest in peace little Snooky, you know that your little button eyes, your little button nose and your memory will live on forever through those of us that loved you.
– Jenny Golsby