The Day I Put My Dog to Sleep

I was practically a baby when we got Skippy, the joyful, funny-looking golden orange dog I grew up with. I don’t remember much about the day he came into our family, but my parents tell me that I screamed and cried and threw a huge tantrum until I convinced them to buy him from an old man.He was keeping the little fur ball in a cardboard box on a street corner, trying to sell him to whoever walked by. What I do remember is the day Skippy died.

Skippy and I were almost the same age. As time passed, I was growing more full of life and dreams, while my furry pal grew older, less vivacious, but ever more loyal. He was like a wise grandpa – not as apt and willing to play and run around with you like in the old days, but still always happy to see you and give you a helping hand anyway he could. I knew deep down inside Skippy will not be there forever, but I never imagined how heart-breaking and terrifying the departure would be and that it would be me who would play the biggest role in it.

I was 16 and Skippy around 14 when he developed a degenerative spine condition. At first, he had mild pains when the weather got cold, he wanted shorter and shorter walks, he played fetch less and less often, but he was still joyful and happy overall. We would just give him some mild medication prescribed by the doctor, keep him warm, gently massage his back, and the pain would go away. These episodes were rare and everything usually went back to normal pretty fast.

But the episodes started to occur more and more often and they got increasingly painful both for my furry pal and for us, watching him suffer. The doctor said there’s nothing we could do but to control the symptoms as well as possible, that the condition will only get worse as time passes, and that at some point euthanasia would be the only option.

And it kept getting worse – and fast. The pain was so severe at times that poor Skippy couldn’t even move. But then it got better for a little while and we had hope again. Until one night, when I woke up in the middle ofthe night hearing Skippy scream. It wasn’t barking or whining – it was a poignant scream of agony that will stay engraved in my memory forever. This is when I knew that the time has come.

We called the vet and he gently told us that it’s now best for our little pal to leave us, but mom didn’t even want to hear it. Crying, she kept saying that she was not God, that it was not her decision to make whether a poor creature should leave or die, and that she could never kill her baby. I could.

As excruciating as it was to see my mother like this or imagine a future without my lifelong friend, it was more tormenting to know we’re prolonging Skippy’s agony just because it hurts too much to say goodbye. I took mom aside and had a long talk with her, explaining how she should think of his best interest now, and that living like this is not life. I did not realize it then, but, suddenly, I was the parent having to make the difficult decisions.

After a lengthy and painful discussion, my mother finally agreed with me, but stated that she cannot bear to witness Skippy go. Therefore, I, alone, stood by his side, held his little furry paw and petted his curly ears just the way he liked it, while the vet laid my friend to sleep forever.

The day I euthanised Skippy marked my transition to adulthood not only in my heart, but also inside my family. I realised then that life means sacrifices and taking painful decisions for the sake of others, no matter how much it tears you apart inside. This was also the time I understood that my mother was just human, that she had weaknesses like everybody else, that our roles can switch, and that she will need my help more and more as time passes, just like she helped me so much over the years. She had the same revelation that day, which took our relationship to a new level and brought us even closer together.