• Barry KuKes

Talking About Pets: Safe travels Bear

On Dec. 2 at 8:52 a.m., my oldest dog, Bear, crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. He was 14 years old and never really sick a day in his life, until the last couple of months. He had experienced a bout of vestibular disease over a year ago, but otherwise, he was his old ornery self.

However, recently he was having trouble getting up off the floor. His back legs were giving out. He finally got to the point where my wife and I would need to lift his backend so he could walk and relieve himself. He would cry for help about every two hours and then hourly. The situation continued to escalate, and I had realized that his quality of life had diminished, and it was time to put Bear down.

Saying goodbye to a best friend is never easy. I was fortunate to have our veterinary and animal care staff's assistance to make the process as painless as possible for Bear and myself. I stayed with Bear until he was gone. I had never done this before. I was always too distraught to stay and watch my best friend die right before my eyes. But about six years ago, I talked with a friend who had just lost her dog, and she mentioned that she stayed with her dog until the dog had passed. She said, "Oh, I could never leave my dog at the time that she needed me most. She would be so scared. I needed to be with her." I realized she was absolutely right.

I felt so guilty for dropping off my dogs at the vet, paying the bill, and then walking out to my car, bawling my eyes out. Yes, I was saving myself from the pain of watching my dog die, but at the same time, I was abandoning my best buddy when he did indeed need me most. I made a promise to myself that I would never let a pet die alone again. I would be there to hold them and comfort them until they crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Yes, it would be tough to do, but I owed them at least that much for being a loyal and loving companion for many years.

I stayed with Bear and, to be honest, it was not as bad as I had imagined. He was given a shot that had him drift off to sleep. He was calm and peaceful. The veterinarian then administered the euthanasia injection. Bear just slept peacefully and then took two deep breaths, and he was gone. I cried then as I am crying now, recounting how it all happened.

I am writing about Bear not because I want your condolences or sympathy, but because I want to let you know that your pet needs you to stay with them until the very end. I can't imagine how scared Bear would have been had I not been lying by his side, rubbing his back. Dying is never easy, but having your best friend with you sure can make the experience less scary. I don't think Bear was as scared because I was with him.

People lose loved ones all the time. Sometimes they are with their loved ones when they die, but sometimes they are not. If given the opportunity, most people would stay with their loved ones until the very end, but they don't always know when the very end will happen. In the case of euthanasia of an animal, we know when the end is coming. We can be there more often than not, so we should.

I woke up this morning and said, "Today is going to be a bad day." I was right.

Please, adopt, don't shop.

Barry KuKes is the community outreach director at Halifax Humane Society. He recently published a collection of his columns titled "Why do People Have Pets?" which is available at amzn.to/2RWr2d4

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