The Hardest, Kindest Day

After a long, dusty day riding in the back of a Humvee wearing my Kevlar helmet and load bearing vest, I was ready for a hot shower. It was mid-June; I was in veterinary school and the Army Reserve, and I was on a training exercise with an infantry unit.

I was beyond excited to be a part of it at first, but after starting the day at 0200, and spending more than 12 hours in the same sitting position next to a turret-mounted 0.50 caliber, my legs were cramping, I was exhausted, and I couldn’t hear anything other than the constant staccato of machine gun fire. 

After cleaning my filthy weapon for the third time and passing inspection, I tore out of the parking lot and through the main gate. But instead of bathing the dirt off my body, I was perched on the toolbox of my truck in a Walmart parking lot outside Fort Hood, waiting as the sun reflected off the hot black top.

My wife and I were about to celebrate our second anniversary and I wanted to get her what she had been hinting at for weeks—a flashy fawn boxer puppy. 

An SUV pulled into the parking lot and I slid off the toolbox and quickly went to the back of the car. I couldn’t wait to meet this litter and their parents. The back opened and there was a loving male boxer with plenty of wet kisses to share and a beautiful flashy female. Their tales wagged incessantly—a good sign.  

After chatting with the owner and receiving a barrage of wet dog kisses all over my hands, the owner brought two female puppies over to a shaded, grassy area off the pavement.  One puppy clung to the owner, the other hurried over to see me; this was her— our Petunia! I paid the man, went to my hotel, showered and hopped back into my truck. I drove non-stop to Michigan to give my wife her gift.

A gift meant for my wife really became the best gift for me. Petunia was my best friend, riding in the truck everywhere I went and playing fetch every afternoon, rain or shine. She loved everyone, human or dog; everyone was a friend to her.  She was the center of our whole life and gave us unconditional love for nine wonderful years. 

The last six months of her life were very difficult. She lost interest in food, wouldn’t chase her ball; she became thin and walked aimlessly around the house. With all medical options exhausted, her pain could no longer be controlled. I kept reaching for anything I could do to combat her progressing diagnosis, thinking, I can fix this. I came to grips with reality when I actually stopped, and saw in her eyes she wanted to go. I knew it was time to put her to sleep.  I buried her with her favorite ball and planted Petunia flowers over her grave.  

The final days of our companion animal’s life are overwhelmingly difficult.  Often, we, as owners, are faced with the agonizing decision of when to put down our best, furry friend.  That can be a very emotional decision; however, at the right time, it may be the best and most humane option. 

At the end of your pet’s life, there are a few symptoms that you can watch for that might suggest it is time to consider euthanasia. If your pet has lost interest in the things that she or he enjoys or won’t eat, or if your dog is suffering and there is no hope for reducing the misery, you should consider euthanasia. 

Fortunately, your dog or cat’s final moments don’t have to be ones of suffering. When done properly, humane euthanasia can be peaceful.  Be sure to establish a relationship with a veterinarian you trust so that when that day comes, you are as ready as you can be.

Jarrell Animal Hospital 

191 Town Center Blvd.

JarrellAnimalHospital.com and Facebook

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