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PET TALK: They even have their own door

I no longer have to stuff a chair under the shoe closet door. My flip flops are safe. The 5-pound weight that sat on the top of the bathroom trash can is now gone. The towel protecting the leather passenger seat in my car is folded and back in the closet. The games of chase at dinnertime and hiding treats in her favorite red ring are over too.

So many changes in such a short time. It’s been three weeks – weeks of shattering sadness and silent emptiness in my house.

While at Edisto Beach, planning a wedding for our daughter, Connie (second Mom to Dora, the red devil), called me several times saying that Dora was acting “weird.” She was walking as if confused and pacing to find a comfortable place to sleep. Her last comment, “She’s not eating, Holly,” jerked me into full attention. Dora is a chow hound. She will stare down anyone at the front counter of the clinic, begging for a biscuit. She would eat a rock if I put a little bit of squeeze cheese on it.

“Take her to the clinic, Connie. I’ll call ahead and let them know you’re coming,” I whispered, but I knew. I already knew what the diagnosis would be, and I guessed the prognosis. I’ve been through it too many times with my patients.

Dr. Douglas was finishing her ultrasound when Ed and I entered. Her gentle words and eyes, searching mine, seared into my brain: “She has cancer, Doc Holly, and she’s bleeding into her abdomen.”

Like so many of my clients who express amazement at a critical, mortal moment in their pet’s lives, I was blindsided. The week before she was terrorizing turtles at Hopelands Gardens! Our magnificent pets, dogs and cats, compensate and compromise when they’re sick until they cannot anymore. They crash. We then wonder and ask ourselves painful questions: “Why didn’t I see this coming? If I had only paid more attention, could I have saved my precious pet?” Those guilty questions were spinning in my head.

We took her home to wrestle with the question of what to do. She slept on the bed next to me, my hand outstretched to feel her breathing and feel her warmth. After a sleepless night, I realized it wasn’t a difficult decision. We had to say goodbye. But at 10 years old? I felt cheated. Dora 0, Cancer 1.

Vicious, sneaky cancer has claimed another. Eighteen hours after the diagnosis, I said goodbye to the best dog I have ever had. She was my one-in-a-million dog. Forgive me, Pennywhistle, Kelsey and Lilly. I have loved you with all of my heart, but this quirky, fun and strange little dog bonded with my heart.

Euthanasia is a job we do almost every day at the clinic. In a quiet, music-filled room, reliving the joyful years of the pet, we say goodbye. It hurts us all but not the patient – the old, sick or enfeebled dog and cat. They don’t know what is happening. Euthanasia is truly a gift of love.

- And as I hold the box of your ashes, I silently say to myself, "Don’t grieve." You are not in this box. You are in my heart and soul. How happy I am to have had you as my companion for 10 years.

All pets go to Heaven. They even have their own door. And oh! What a welcome we will have when we too cross the Rainbow Bridge into heaven and see them again.

Thank you all for the lovely cards and sentiments that you have sent me. I had no idea what an incredible ambassador she was as she grabbed your biscuits and entertained you with her escapades in my stories.

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