Best in the world: They are never ‘just a dog’…
Privilege and responsibility: They are with us for a season, but we become their whole lives, and everything they ever know.
Sometimes you know a relationship isn’t going to work. I was 20 and devastated because our family dog had been put to sleep that morning, when my long-ago boyfriend said: “Oh, come on Jennie, it’s just a dog.”
Just a dog? Chops – I named him when I was five – was actually the best dog in the world. I wanted to talk about it; I wanted to tell this man who purported to love me about those last moments…
About how my dad carried our adored black Labrador into the vet and the old boy lay on the table like it was a relief; how the rain fell like tears; how afterwards my mum and I sobbed in the car while my dad stayed inside; how, when he finally reappeared, he was red-eyed.
Best in the world: It’s ‘never just a dog’
It was the only time I ever saw my dad cry. Because it’s never just a dog.
All the dogs my family have had since Chops have been the best in the world: Bill, Ben, Jonty, Penny, Sasha, Coco, Monty – and most recently, my darling Juno, who died on Wednesday.
Himself was right there beside me as Juno was euthanised. He cried inconsolably, and held me in the carpark afterwards while I howled like a baby.
Privilege and responsibility
You see Juno wasn’t just a dog – she was ours. And we were hers. That’s the privilege and responsibility of pets – they are with us for a season, but we become their whole lives, and everything they ever know.
I’ve had to make the final decision about a dog three times in the last four years. Juno was the last of our “three musketeers”, all rescues, all beloved right up until that very last breath at the vet’s.
Gentle ending: Staying with pet as they slip away a last ‘thank you’
I know some people go “nah, can’t do that”, but staying with a pet as they slip away is the least we can do, a final kindness, a last thank you for their unwavering love and loyalty.
Done right, it’s a gentle ending too. You stroke their belly as they’re sedated, kiss their paws, whisper you’ll see them again in the blink of an eye.
Then, when they’re peacefully asleep, the vet injects the medication that will stop their heart… and break yours.
But we’ve had another dog since December, and remarkably we have lucked out yet again: He’s the best dog in the world.