May 11, 2010


I've wanted to say something sooner, but I just couldn't find the words.  Because, this grief...I'm not really accustomed to it, if I'm honest.  

Our family has been very fortunate in avoiding loss.  We all agree we've been very fortunate indeed.

Except in one area.  Our beloved pets.  And even there, we've been blessed to have fairly healthy pets who have lived many years.  Even as I write this, my 16 year old kitty sleeps in my room, and my 10 year old puppy snoozes at my feet.  But as those of you who are pet lovers know, their lives are painfully short by comparison.  

If you aren't a pet-lover, you might not know that usually a pet takes ownership of one person in the family.  I was Kaleigh's person.  And she was my dog.  Through and through.

I loved her well and she loved me better.  

Despite having two children now, our pets remain very much our "kids". 

Kaleigh was a spooner.  With me.  With anyone, really.  But with me each night, her head on my pillow.  And often times she was in bed, finding her perfect spot, before I'd even reach the bedroom.  There was comfort there.  She kept me warm at night and she would wander to lay on my feet as the night wore on. 

I wasn't sure about writing this post.  I'm not here to preach about the values of having pets versus not having pets.  Or to debate about the type of dog she was, because I can clear up right now that she was a pound puppy who was part pitbull/part "we'll never know".  And I realize people who do not or never have owned a pitbull mix can't fully appreciate the intelligence, sweetness, and loyalty they possess.  And I know this is somewhat universal because we have two of them (correction: had two...sigh), my parents had sweet Molly for ten years, and my Aunt and Uncle have had two as well.  All living late into their dog years.  All sweet, docile, and complete members of our extended family in every way.

Still grief is strange.  In my sorrow, I keep finding myself waffling.  Trying unsuccessfully to convince myself of things that I just can't
  • there are worse things in life than saying goodbye to your dog (which there are.  but it doesn't help right now)
  • she was just a dog in the big scheme of things (which, she was...but she was so much more)
  • you have children now, and that should be enough (which, I do...but somehow it's completely different)
  • try to suck it up, Christie, she's finally at peace, no more pain  (which is true...she's not in pain anymore, and that gives me some level of comfort - but I cannot seem to suck it up...yet.)

I don't know why I do that.  I guess to make myself feel better.  But it doesn't.  Not at all.  And it's silly to think those things anyway, because she was anything but "just a dog". 

She was special.  That much I would debate with anyone.  But I wouldn't need to.  Because if you met her, you knew it yourself.  She was special.  She loved people and people loved her.  She was described as sweet, a lover, and a spunky girl.  She would put her head on your knee and stare up at you with her big bronze eyes...silently working her way into your heart until you were compelled to give her what she most wanted: love.  A pat on the head, or a tummy rub.  And if you stopped, she would place her paw on your hand and look longingly at couldn't resist her.  Even those who would be intimidated by her at first glance would soon cave to her gentle kindness and be forced to reassess their judgement.  She was a people person...a people dog.  She was something.

I don't want to go into all the details of what led to Kaleigh's end.  It's all irrelevant now.  She was sick for many years and getting worse.  Keeping her with us was selfish.  She was miserable.  It just took a turn for the worse over the weekend and when we realized it, we knew that we only had one option left.  

But in the space of a couple hours, we went from having her here, to noticing she was not well, to saying goodbye, to watching her die.  That still baffles quickly she was gone.

I want to say again how loyal she was.  Faithful.  Trusting.  And it was that trust that got us through those final moments.  It felt like betrayal to me, but I've come to know that it was just the only way left for me to help her.  By letting her go.  

I held her face in my hands, crying - unable to hold back my breaking heart or my buckets of tears, and said "thank you...for everything you did for me...for being my friend, my companion...even being my kiddo when I was heartsick and childless.  You were there for me.  You have always been a comfort in my time of need.  And I love you so much."

And I'm sorry..."

And those big brown eyes calmly looked at me while I spoke.  Paw in my hand.  Enjoying the love.  Blissfully unaware, or so I tell myself.

When I asked her to lay down on the blanket...the blanket where she would leave us, she willingly and calmly obeyed - placing her head in my lap.  And in a matter of minutes, after hugging her, kissing her furry face, and reassuring her...she was gone.

Just like that.  Very peacefully.  Trusting to the last minute.  She was gone.  My sweet, sweet little dog.  

And friends, I don't mind to tell you that afterward..after the staff left me alone in the room with her, and after she had breathed her last deep breath...I wept bitterly.  Laying next to her, my head on her tears running from my face to her chest and my grief pouring over both of us.  I was sick.  Heartsick.  Broken.  She was not a perfect dog.  But oh how I loved her so.  And I did not even try to contain my sobs.  And despite my tears and moaning, the room was silent and still.  She was gone from me, and by my hand...and it devastated me. 

I wasn't alone in my grief.  The vet staff cried too.  Because she was special, and had touched them over the seven years they had treated her...calling her their favorite pitbull ever.  Loving her and caring for her.  One by one, they made their way into the room to say goodbye, in disbelief that our girl's time had finally come.  Crying with me in those final moments.  She was special. 

Friends called and came over to support us.  They knew.  They knew Kaleigh and they knew what she meant to us.  And we cried and were comforted.  We remembered her, we laughed....and we cried some more.  We're still crying.

And you may not understand this loss.  Maybe you just can't.  And that's ok.

But I know some of you do.  And I know that for you, it's hard to read because maybe you've been there or dread going there.

Being in our home without her is still heartbreaking in many ways.  I half expect her to be on the bed when I head to my room at night.  Half expect her to come running when it's dinner time.  Half expect to see her bolting out the dog-door to chase birds or bark at neighbor dogs.  But no more...

And even harder in many ways is realizing that Kaleigh wasn't just my dog.  And I wasn't her only person.  Even though I might like to think so.  

She had developed a special loyalty to another...and it's breaking my heart to remember him saying goodbye to her.  Patting her head, hugging her neck, kissing her..."bye bye da-doh...see ya"  All of  us crying watching a boy part with his playmate.  

We're so sad.  It will heal with time.  We had her for almost ten years.  It will take at least that many to stop looking for her around the corner...


Suzie said...

Oh Christie - I'm so, so sorry for your loss. I've been lurking here for quite some time and don't think I've ever commented but I'm in tears after reading this post. It's amazing how our pets truly become a full-on member of our family. My boy Duke is 13 and I don't know what I will do or how I will manage without him. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers and will be for many days to come.

Alyson said...

Oh my goodness, my heart hurts for you. I'm not a pet owner now, but I have been one and I completely understand grief. You brought me to tears. Time...yes...time.

frogglet said...

OH I am so sorry for your loss. I totally get it! We have our three "kids" and it pains me so much to think that they will not be with us forever. I am thinking of your family and hope that your hearts heal quickly.

Take Care, Cora

Holly said...

I do understand. She was not just a dog...she was so much more.
Weeping with you and once again finding myself longing for the day when Father will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
What more can I say? None of my words will bring you the comfort of your lost friend.
So today, I will weep with you.

Anna said...

Oh Christie, I'm so sorry! I know the pain and brokenness you are feeling. It's so hard to make the decision you made and you may question yourself, but in the end after some time (albeit a lot of time) you'll know you did right by her.

everythingismeowsome said...

I have been there with a dog and a cat, and I do understand. In the end, I had to look at it as my final act of kindness and generosity to them. To end their suffering and let them be at peace.

It is hard. I'm sorry. She seemed like a really amazing dog.

Lynn said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.


Kelly & Todd said...

My heart breaks for you. I've lost two "fur babies" in my lifetime and it is just sooooo hard. I cried for days. I'm so sorry that you are hurting right now. I hope in time you will find peace and be able to look back on your memories/photos of Kaleigh with smiles of joy and not tears of sadness.

So sorry for your loss - kelly

Anne said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. We went through this with our beloved, special, once in a lifetime dog just a few months after we came home from Guatemala with our daughter and while the pain has diminished, it is still acute and baffling.

For anyone who thinks that (as we were told) a pet becomes "just a dog" after you have children, that is just so, so wrong. He was our first "child" and we always thought of him that way.

We had to make a similar, awful, bafflingly quick decision and it still haunts, though I know it was the only unselfish thing to do. I do trust that God has a good reason for things and I'm thankful beyond words that He created dogs, but I would love to ask Him why they can't live as long as we do...

Take care of yourselves and again, I'm sorry for your loss.


julie said...

Hugs to you, Hon. You know I love you and I feel your pain. (Yes, I cried as I read your post.)

Kristy said...

Christie I totally understand and never make apologies for loving your pets. My entire family is the same way, at my mom and dad where we grew up we have our own pet cemetery. From cats, dogs, hogs,sheep, and now two horses. On thursday our mare Splash died right in front of our eyes and after having her for over 20 years of your life it was like watching a sister go down, it was horrible and I still just cant get it out of my head. When my sisters dog Buster died which had been in the family for 15 years and I might say behaved better than us and our kids , my then 3 year old neice Rayn that we thought would graduated from high school with her pacifier all on her own put it in the box with Buster because she wanted him to have it in heaven and after that she never even asked for it!!!! I know I will wait while you go get a box of kleenex for that one!!!! But anyway I know exactly how you feel, your puppy friend was beautiful and I will pray for your heart to mend okay sweetie.

On a happier note thank you for your comments about my little chubby cheeked ladybug!!! The minute I saw her I immediately thought of Keira Joy and about an hour later my sister and I just had to come see pictures of her and we kept talking about both of their cheeks. My daddy is a cheek squeezer and he is going to have a field day!!!

Christie you are a "real" person and I loved this post.

Love and blessings, Kristy

Anonymous said...

As I write this I am just sobbing Christie, my heart is so broken for you. I know she was special, I know we have to face that very soon with our "special" guy Dex. He too is truly special, different from the norm, even different from our other two.
Some doggies have a special gift of sorts, don't know why, but they do. Kaleigh was a beautiful sweet special creature, never "just a dog"! I hate that saying, just a dog. They love more completely than we will ever have the capacity to as humans, just a dog? They trust they care, they feel, they breath, they add life to a dead soul, save lives, save hearts, stay by our side as long as they live, give their life for us, just a dog? I don't think anyone that has ever loved a dog could think or even say that. She was your baby before you had babies, your love would not change because you now have children. She loved you as her best friend, companion, and mom. I am so so very sorry for your loss, the loss to your family, and to the whole family. She will be missed! She had a great life! Thank you for rescuing her.
all my love

GrowingUpLost said...

Having just made this heart breaking choice myself six months ago, I know the pain you are in... You will be in my thoughts...

My Princess was also part pit, and just the best there ever was despite her troubles...

Paula said...

I am so sorry. Pets hold an incredibly special place in our hearts. They are truly members of the family. Hang in there. In time you'll be able to look at the pictures, remember her crazy antics, and laugh. I know. I've been there.

Jodee said...

I, too, am so sorry for your loss. Sending big hugs from Nebraska. Hang in there :)

Briana's Mom said...

Tears are rolling down my cheeks Christie. I'm so sorry about your sweet girl. I get it. I totally get it.

When I found out my kitty had cancer and thought I was going to lose her, I was devastated. She is my first baby. She will always be my first baby. I'm so grateful to still have her, but I don't know if the cancer will come back. So it is a waiting game. Losing her will crush me.

The hurt will fade, but it will never go away. Kaleigh is embedded in your heart.

meme said...

My son and his wife lost their "Sally" after 16 wonderful years today. I know your sorrow. It is real. They are definitely a part of the family. You will heal in time. I am so sorry for you. From your Kentucky Friend.

Kim said...

I totally get it.. I have 3 doggies that are my kids.. and I have to leave them with John when I is going to killme.. but I know they are with thier Daddy and I can come over and take them to the park and such..
I am soooo sorry..
I am sitting here crying as I type..

Single PAP said...

i haven't owned a pet in years and haven't thought about how hard it is to say good-bye to them but this post made me burst into tears for you and your sweet dog.


Erin said...

I am so heartbroken for you and for your family. I have been there when a beloved pet leaves this earth and it is heartbreaking to say the least. I still grieve Penny every single day and she has been gone 2 years. But I also cherish every single moment I had with her and I know you will do the same. I'm so sorry, my friend. I love you and pray for peace. You did the right thing - please never forget that.

Eloise said...

Oh, Christie, I am so sorry to hear about sweet Kaleigh. There are few things sadder than the loss of a beloved pet. Sending a lot of love your way.

Michal said...

I am crying for your aching heart, for your son's lost friend.
Such a hole is left by the passing of these wonderful friends.
I am so sorry.

Melanie said...

I am very sorry for your loss. I completely understand and I am in tears as I read your post. We expereienced the same type of loss after we adopted our first daughter from China in 2007. Our princess was hurt in an accident and the vet was keeping her alive so that we could say goodbye to her. She was a collie and we had her for 16 yrs. She lived a very long doggie life. the vet said she had brain damage and would not remember us. But as soon as we walked in that room and she saw us she knew us. She remembered us and she wanted to go home. She was put to sleep and we said our goodbyes and I was devestated much like you. I still wish to this day that I had taken her home and not listened to the vet. But we had our new daughter that was 7 yrs old,language barrier, and struggling and I was not sure I could care for Princess. I still miss her and grieve her loss. She was part of our family. I hope that od lets our special pets go to heaven so that we will see them there someday. Crying with you.


Anonymous said...

I've totally been in your shoes when I had to say goodbye to my Golden Retriever at only 8.5 years of age to cancer. I too had to make the hard decision that one day it was his last day b/c he too was too miserable to go on and I knew that it was selfish of me to keep him. I too stayed with him while they put him to sleep but somehow that actually made me feel better to know that he hadn't suffered as he died. But even now as I read your post I started to cry thinking of how you were feeling and thinking of my sweet dog. And it's been 9 years ago since he died. But I still miss him and I still love him just as much after all these years. So yes, I totally understood everything you wrote! It's ok to be sad. Just let yourself feel that. Good luck!


Lori said...


My friend just e-mailed me a link to this post about your sweet dog and I'm weeping because I just had to have my sweet 15 yr old kitty, Leo, put to rest yesterday and it's killing me. I have another kitty and I don't want him to leave my side, yet he loves to be outdoors most of the day so I have to let him go (Leo was ALWAYS inside, following me around and sleeping in whatever room I was in). I feel your pain and grief. Despite having kids, pets mean just as much, just in a different way. Pets are comforting in a way that humans are not, aren't they... You are in my prayers, and thanks for having the courage to post this.

It appears that you're an adoptive mom, as am I, but I'll need to read the rest of your blog to find out--HA! :P For now, I must go wipe my tears and try to deal with this quiet house....:(


Stephe said...

I cried with every word you I remembered my last moments with my precious furry baby. The unconditional love, that security when you felt like the world around you was falling, that snuggle buddy that loves you even at your worst...
Sending you big hugs and I'll sent my furry baby over her way to comfort her...she won't be alone. Stephe

J said...

Oh Christie,
I just read your amazing post and am in a puddle of tears. What a wonderful tribute to a very special dog. You have some amazing photos to help you remember.

Thoughts and hugs,

Becky and Naing said...

Christie, I'm so sorry for your loss of your sweet dog. I understand totally your grief. I lost my sweet Brutus 4 years ago and I still think of him every day. Plant a lovely flowering plant in her memory. Something to live on in her spirit. When it blooms next year, hopefully the pain will be less and you can share in her beauty with the plant's beauty. Has helped me.

Marie-Claude said...

Oh my, I'm sorry for your loss. Boy do I get it. We adore these animals because they give us such unconditionnal love. Time will heal, but it will take time.


a Tonggu Momma said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. The day we lost our beloved Bart is etched in my soul. Kaleigh sounds like she was a very special four-legged friend.

Luna said...

I understand. I lost my beloved Kiri almost 2 years ago and I still haven't been able to "get over it". He had been with me for 13 years, he was not "just a dog". He was my best friend. My "forever dog". He will always be a part of me. So, I understand how you feel about losing Kaleigh. This is a poem I found when Kiri passed and I was all over the place trying to find comforting words. I'll share it with you:

From time to time people tell me, "Lighten up, it's just a dog," or, "That's a lot of money for just a dog." They don't understand the distance traveled, the time spent or the costs involved for "just a dog."

Some of my proudest moments have come about with "just a dog."

Many hours have passed and my only company was "just a dog," but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by "just a dog," and, in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of "just a dog" gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it's "just a dog," then you will probably understand phases like "just a friend," "just a sunrise," or "just a promise."

"Just a dog" brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy.

"Just a dog" brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person.

Because of "just a dog" I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future.

So for me, and folks like me, it's not "just a dog" but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past and the pure joy of the moment.

"Just a dog" brings out what's good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday they can understand that it's not "just a dog" but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being "just a human."

So the next time you hear the phrase "just a dog." just smile....because they "just don't understand."

- Anonymous

KO said...

I hope no one says 'suck it up'.

I was in tears just reading the emotion you beautifully shared. I say let the tears flow!

Sue said...

I am so, so sorry for your loss. Your post made me crumble for a moment reliving what I recently went through with my beloved Georgie. I feel every ounce of your pain, I understand it well. There are days that I still have moments of utter grief and cannot beleive my most loyal companion is gone. I would give anything to see her one more time.
Time does ease the pain, this I know. I will never stop missing her but I know her suffering is over. We will see our pets again in heaven , this I believe.
There is no getting around how bad it hurts right now. Barrel through it and on the other side there is relief and peace.
My thoughts are with you and your family.

Stefan Bauschard said...

So very sorry to hear about your precious Kaleigh. ~Holly

Unknown said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your lost.

Kristin N. said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your dog. Their lives are always too short. Cherish the happy memories. Take care.

Unknown said...

Christie, I know I'm posting well after the fact, but I wanted to let you know how much your post touched me, and how sorry I am for your loss of a much-loved family member. I almost lost my puppy this summer (he ate a ton of fiber fill, rubber, a paper plate, a comb, and several pennies before I realized what was happening), and sitting in that vet's office, holding him as he drifted off to sleep (for xrays), I thought my heart was going to break! Praise God, he survived (two weeks of special diet and medication, and TONS of brisk walks later), but it gave me such a jolt, realizing that he IS my baby, furry or not! We just celebrated his first birthday (pic on my blog, if you're curious) on Sunday, and I swear, if having human babies is even more wonderful and scarey as having a fur baby is (which I am sure is the understatement of the century), I'm not sure my poor heart can handle it!! Of course, that won't stop us from trying, and from adopting *wink* Take care, friend, and know my heart is with you as you grieve you baby girl *hugs*