We returned from taking Lily, our oldest child, to college in NY. On our return home, we found our oldest dog, Cookie, in very bad shape. She’d been in decline over the past year, having gone blind, dropping weight. But Monday, she couldn’t stand anymore on her own and wasn’t taking water or food and hadn’t been for days. I took her to the vet and he offered a couple of choices – we could spend thousands of dollars searching for why our fourteen-year-old aging dog was ill or we could ease her through her final moments. We chose the latter.
I took Cookie back home so that our youngest child and my wife could say goodbye. At that point she could barely move and lay inert on her bed, breathing shallowly. I took her back to the vet after a while and stayed with her, telling her she was the best of dogs and giving her scratches she could barely feel as she took the shots and went into her final sleep. She was the best of dogs. I loved and love her.
With the death of humans, I don’t worry much about the afterlife. I am an atheist. With people, they have enough self-will and intellect to assess their own lives at the end of them, and make decisions, and evaluate their own experiences if they have enough foresight. But with dogs, who are good through and through, it tries my godlessness. Atheism offers no comfort for the death of a beloved dog. Or a child.
This has hit me pretty hard. I have to think some of it is because I’m processing one of my children leaving home – and my other child is going through things I won’t discuss here – that with Cookie’s death I am devastated.
I took Cookie out to our family land, Rob-Bell, and dug a grave for her and placed her in it with crepe myrtle and magnolia blossoms. It’s a very strange sensation, digging a grave with your own hands for a beloved family member. I cried at the end and, if I’m being honest here, asked if there was some unifying energy guiding the universe to be kind to her spirit as it joined the greater whole. It was as much of a prayer as I could muster. And a hard thing to do alone.
You were a good dog, Cookie. I will miss you.