The only really awful thing about Penelope’s death was that it was several years too soon.
There is an honesty in the love of a companion animal that is immune to the corruption of words, insecurities, and perceived intentions. Everyday, the moment they see you, is the best moment of their life every time it happens. Such a bright light in every room she entered. She made everyone’s life that she snarfed into better and she did it unknowingly. If you needed support, if you needed a fan, if you needed to pretend a goofball lady-dog told dad-jokes, if you needed to be needed, if you needed authenticity… If Pen was there all of those things were at your feet.
Finding the mass a week ago last. Thursday keeps looping in my head, feeling the lump, ripping off the fleece and putting her on the counter, a giant, hard, bruised mass. The horror of that moment, the eye contact with my sweet girl, I’ll carry with me everyday for the rest of my life. After everything we did, the months of treatment, the road tripping, the surgeries, setting alarms to check her, keeping her waste separate from the other animals in the house, the prescriptions, the chemotherapy, the critically important hygiene, the daily physical exams, the sleeplessness, all of it. We’d done it! Penny stared at a nearly terminal Mast Cell disease and crushed it. It was gone, her, Doc, my two cats and I were ready to move on.
Then this… What turned out to be a different cancer. Presents on Thursday and my girl dies in my arms on Monday. Cataclysmic. She was six. She beat pneumonia at 8 months with ten days in the ICU and a 10hpf Mast Cell at six. That call I made to you on Sunday was one of the hardest of my life.
That said, Journey’s Home Euthanasia gave me the opportunity to uphold a belief and commitment that has been soaked into me for 36 years. When you take responsibility for a life you do everything you can to make sure they’re safe, sheltered, fed, and loved. Your needs are only before theirs if disregarding your own diminishes your ability to meet theirs. Free of fear, confusion, isolation, and suffering. Never doubting the love of their human. Even in the most extreme cases all that you can give to them is still less than what they give to you, and it’s not close.
Everything a companion animal ever does is much easier when it is done with their companion human. Especially this. If it has to be euthanasia then the last touch has to be your own. If it’s possible to do it without a traumatic car ride to a strange place with strange smells, I will always do that. Giving my other bulldog the chance to sit with her and sniff.
My vision for this could not have been executed more beautifully. Penelope took her last steps to my lap, licked me, and let out a sigh. She crawled into me like she’d done a thousand times. I wrapped her in the same blanket we brought her home in six years ago. I held her close and whispered to her, “It’s okay, I’m okay, I love you,” again and again, the exact same way I said goodbye to my mother almost a decade ago. The opportunity to walk with the souls you hold most dear all the way to the edge of the unknowable is not an opportunity we all get to have. I never learn more about who I am than in these moments.
We’re all going to die. Because of you vets I had the chance to carry my girl all the way to the precipice. I handed her off in the same way I want to be, free of fear, with the souls I love. Whatever it is our minds might do as the picture begins to fade, it will do it knowing we are safe, loved and never alone.
More of our awesome lives together can be seen here:
Here’s a 15sec video that is the perfect bio for my sweet Penny.