I lost 3 dogs in 8 months
Dog 3: Ben
Two days before Christmas, I lost my third dog in eight months. He was a former puppy mill dog who was kenneled for 9 years in Missouri. But, he was one of the lucky ones because he was rescued, rather than killed by his owner when he could no longer breed. His name was Ben, a friendly and loving chocolate Labrador Retriever. Four years ago, he became a part of my pack.
The morning he died, I hadn’t planned on putting him down, but there had been a marked difference in his behavior even from the day before. I had waited until he had no more interest in the things he loved and he showed me it was time. He was having accidents in the house and my vet gave him medications for Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, better known as dog dementia, but nothing worked. I agonized over the decision to put him down, but it came down to a quality of life issue. The dementia caused his physical decline that had gotten to the point where he couldn’t hear much anymore and his sight was waning. He became a prisoner in his own home. If he was standing next to me and I touched him or moved, even slightly, he jumped and tried to get away. At night, he crouched and didn’t know where he was.
He laid down at the vet’s office and put his head on my lap as I sat with him. He never moved and was gone. I had a paw print made and he was cremated and returned to me in a decorative wooden box where he sits with the other dogs I have lost over the years- it is my own Rainbow Bridge.
Dog 2: Cotton
Cotton was a yellow Labrador Retriever. She was my saving grace and constant companion who never left my side, especially when times were tough. I believe all dogs have souls, but Cotton was a once-in-a-lifetime dog. In fact, I had thought she would not last much longer when I went through a divorce, but she rallied as though she knew I needed her, for another year.
Although her mind was still sharp, her body couldn’t keep up and at two months shy of fourteen, Cotton died. As she was euthanized, the vet said he wondered how much time she actually had left because she passed so quickly, even before the solution was in her fragile body. I was devastated, certainly, but my grieving for Cotton was very different from my grieving of Ben. I didn’t cry, I was just numb. She was cremated and returned in a very nice ceramic urn, along with her paw print, and her collar rests over it.
Dog 1: JoJo
JoJo was a four year old puppy mill survivor I had rescued in December of 2014. She was a cream and amber colored Lhasa Apso. I initially was fostering her, but she fit in so well that I quickly made it official and adopted her. Three weeks later, JoJo was tragically killed in a bobcat incident at my home. I had gotten home from work and found her collar laying on the ground in the dog run and as I called out her name and ran around the run, I saw her body. She had been gone for some time. The vet believed a bobcat had jumped into the dog run and tried to get her out, but then dropped her when my other dogs ran outside and scared it off. It was an experience that I never want to have to go through again.
I imagine she was terrified as she was likely sunning herself outside in the dog run when the predator attacked. Unlike the others, I was so shaken that I did not have her body returned to me, nor her collar. I simply asked for a paw print because that was all I could handle in the tragedy. She only had a family and a pack for four months after being rescued and it felt like a great injustice.
Their Last Days and Remembrances
Both Ben and Cotton had burgers and ice cream on their last days. Cotton spent time with my nephews, as she loved them very much. Ben enjoyed looking (as best he could) at the water. On his day, there was a number of ducks and geese at the pond where we went. He stood with his nose in the wind and enjoyed the brisk day. I want to be the last thing they see and the last thing they smell before they die.
I always get a paw print, but over the years, there have been three dogs that I haven’t had ashes returned to me- they were all rescues and I wanted them to be able to metaphorically run free. I have wildflower seeds to mark a remembrance for them and will plant them soon. I also have a “Rainbow Bridge” shelf at my home where their ashes are and pictures of each dog rests behind them. Recently, I got a tattoo of one of my dog’s paw prints on my arm. It is a representation of and a memorial to them all.
-Jill Haffley, Colorado Springs, Canine Behavioral Specialists