Last night, I googled: Do dogs go to heaven? Yes, I wanted a clear answer, based on some facts, that dogs go to heaven, even though I knew logically this was impossible. (Btw, if you decide to do this after your dog dies, it does not bring you comfort because most of the people who write about this subject say that dogs don’t have souls and can’t go to heaven–which made me feel worse. But what do they know?)
I googled that because I wanted confirmation that somehow Chester was still living a peaceful life with other dogs; and he wasn’t gone, completely gone. Because from my life and from my daughter’s, he is completely gone.
I feel like I shouldn’t complain. He was a 10-year-old boxer who lived an amazing life in good health. Once we knew something terrible was wrong, he deteriorated quickly–so we didn’t have to watch him suffer, and we still got to say good-bye. This is the perfect scenario, if there is such a thing as a perfect scenario when having to say good-bye to a pet.
My thoughts turn to all the human suffering. I have a friend with a daughter the same age as mine who is going through cancer treatments. I have received phone calls about three of my greatest friends in life dying in their 30s and 40s–one of brain cancer, one of scleroderma, and one of a gunshot wound. And yet, I am heartbroken about my dog.
I remember when my first boxer died, Charlie, before I had a human child, and I grieved that dog more than I did my own grandma, who I loved and miss dearly to this day. I thought maybe I had lost my mind. I checked out a book on pet grief from the library. I realized since Charlie was with me every day, and I took care of him, it was normal to feel so sad and disconnected. And I decided then that is why we miss our pets so much. They rely on us. They are loyal to us. We are with them every single day and worry about their care. And frankly, they make us better people.
Chester got me out of the house in the winter to walk him. He gave me someone to talk to when I work from home day in and day out. He taught me about caring for someone besides myself. He taught me kindness and loyalty and unconditional love. Dogs do this–okay, I know cats do, too. But I’m a dog person.
The decision to put him to sleep was excruciating. There was no one in my family, besides me, who was in doubt on whether or not we should do put him down. Chester couldn’t walk. He didn’t want to eat. He was having long and violent seizures. He was unable to control his bladder. The vet told me the day before that the medicine he gave me was a “last ditch effort” and not to save him, but to give him hopefully quality life for a few weeks, which was really just for me and KT.
Then the decision yesterday to get Katie out of school early and take her with me to the vet (along with my good old dad) was also very hard. I questioned whether or not this experience would scar her for life (watching her first dog die from a shot at the vet’s office) or if it would bring her peace, closure, and comfort. But as I’ve done with most hard stuff in her life, I have been open and let her experience it. I’m sure some of you think this is too much, and for some kids, maybe it would be. But she wanted to go and it absolutely was the right decision. Chester actually managed to give her one kiss–on purpose, I think–before he was carried to the car–and she was the only one he did that to. I like to think it was on purpose.
Pet grief is real. If you aren’t a pet person, that’s okay. But please know that what pet owners feel when their pets die is real. Plus there is a struggle, at least for me and I”m sure for others, about how sad we feel mixed with the fact that this was an animal, and we know that other people are dealing with much worse stuff. However, I decided that trying to rationalize away my sadness is not good for anyone–it will take me longer to get over it and probably make me a very grumpy mom for a while. So I’m feeling this devastation as much as I can. I am making myself stay home and work and feel Chester’s absence until I can appreciate the joy he brought us and not the grief of missing him.
RIP, Chester Frazier, March 17, 2009 to April 9, 2019