We came home from church this morning to a quiet house. Really quiet. It’s hard. Nearly two weeks have passed since we said goodbye to our best friend, Liia. For over nine years she greeted us with excitement every time we came home. As a puppy and young dog she would stand on her back legs waving her paws with an “over the top” display of happiness at our return. We would automatically turn to the closet and get her “cookie”, scratch her behind the ears, eliciting moans of pleasure. Now, it’s just quiet.
Back in July, Liia was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a condition that was causing her to loose feeling and control in her back legs. The vet predicted then that she would not see Christmas. At that point, her condition was preventing her from lifting her back feet properly. She scratched her toenails across the ground, wearing them off, but otherwise, she was fine. The condition did progress quickly and by early November she was falling over constantly and was no longer able to negotiate our hardwood floors. We put down old carpet and yoga mats so she could move around our house, hoping to put off the inevitable. While watching her stagger around drunkenly was hard, we still had our friend. When she became incontinent, we knew her quality of life had gone as far as we should allow it to go.
Owning a pet comes with tremendous responsibility, particularly when it comes to the end of life. I will never forget Liia’s trust in us that last day and will always wonder if, in the end, she would have thought her trust was misplaced. We had the vet come to our home, and Liia, slightly sedated met him at the door, wagging her tail. She sat quietly as we held her front leg to be shaved, tourniqueted, and needled. She became still in our arms. It was a respectful, even sacred moment.
We’ve owned many animals before, pets and livestock, and have made hard decisions for many of them, but none has affected us like this one. Maybe its because, with Liia gone, we are truly empty nested, just the two of us in the quiet of our house. Maybe it’s the fact that Liia was with us so long, and living intimately with us. was really family. Maybe it’s because we are older and recognize our own mortality, the passing of our own lives in the passing of our pet. Whatever it is, we are finding this event more traumatic than expected. It’s just too quiet.