Be Seeing You, Emily

Somehow our home became filled with old dogs. Flatcoats have a shorter than average lifespan due to a small gene pool that is riddled with cancer. In a few months, Linus and Patty will turn 7. Two of their littermates have already died of cancer. Their half-sibling Randi is 10. Surrey the Beagle is estimated to be about 8. At age 2, Mulder is our only dog who can genuinely be described as young.

Emily was already old, though still very spry, when we adopted her 9 years ago. Her health deteriorated in recent years with her heart murmur worsening as she grew blind and deaf. She lost the ability to navigate her way around the yard by following her normal paths. Then she lost the ability to find her way around the house. Finally, all she could manage was to walk in little circles.

We had to carry her to her food bowl twice each day, carry her outside to potty, carry her back inside where she had to wear a diaper since she would no longer ask to go outside to potty. Lately, I have searched her for any hint of recognition but found nothing. It was heartbreaking to hear her soft cries and to be unable to comfort her – not only was she terribly startled each time I tried to gently approach her, she did not seem to recognize me or take any comfort in my touch. She seemed like a vacant shell.

All my previous dogs have had cancer and I’ve had to euthanize them despite their appearance of otherwise good health. Emily was the first dog with whom I’ve ever experienced old age and dementia. It was not a situation where she was terminally ill but rather a quality of life issue that we had to consider. I feared that without some clear medical diagnosis, I would wait too long or decide too soon. But then, those are normal doubts which I know I’ve had with other dogs and I’m sure many of you have had as well.

With Graham, the decision was sudden and even though she was 13, I was vastly unprepared. With Emily, I feel like I’ve been preparing for some time. It was the first time I ever scheduled an appointment for euthanasia as opposed to the more usual trip to the emergency vet at 2 in the morning. But of course it’s still a very difficult thing.

Emily taught me so much, especially about the behavior of tiny dogs. She was fiercely independent until her mind failed her and even then, her body obstinately refused to be in harmony. We love her very much and I know she loved us in her own very special way. We will miss you Emily.

We buried Emily in the yard yesterday, next to the still fresh dirt from Graham’s grave. She looked very peaceful and sweet and it was a blessing to see her that way once more, even in death. She hadn’t been “present” in a long time and I am grateful to have seen her seemingly at peace one more time.

This is a photo from 2007, taken after we just woke up from a nap on the couch:


36 thoughts on “Be Seeing You, Emily

  1. Oh Shirley — my heart just breaks for you. I am so sorry for your loss (again). We share such bonds with our pups and it is so hard to lose them. It sounds like Emily was dearly loved — and I no doubt am sure she returned the same to you.

  2. Heartbreaking and all too familiar. It’s never easy to identify when the time is right with an old dog, but such a gift to be able to give them a peaceful release when the time IS right. I hope you find some solace in that and in knowing that you gave her so many great and happy years!

  3. I’m so, so sorry. She was beautiful and a joy to you. No one has the right words of comfort for anyone who’s lost a beloved pet so I’m not trying. But I will tell you that since you adopted her she’s only known love – from first moment to last – and dogs always live in the present. My chocker (chow/cocker mix), Gaby, is going into dementia, I think. Sometimes she won’t wake up in the morning and this morning she felt cold. I had to get my husband up to try and hear if she was breathing, as I had one of the little ones in my arms. She was, but she gets confused and isn’t eating like she used to. You are such a kind person to write every day about the “wrongs” of animal treatment and it’s awful to have to write what I just did to someone who does everything right. Fly high, sweet Emily. I do hope you believe you’ll see her again, as I do.


  4. Oh Shirley… We all console you now in doing the most heart-breaking yet courageous, honorable thing for your beloved pet, Emily. May she now run free at The Bridge, fully aware of her surroundings and memories of your love through all those years as your companion. RIP ol’girl. You were greatly loved and cared for.

  5. It does sound as if Emily’s spirit had already gone to the Rainbow Bridge. Bless you for releasing her body. It is so hard when we have to make that decision for them, but somehow, I believe that’s just what she would have wanted. Bless you for taking such good care of the seniors and loving them enough to let them go.

    Emily was a beautiful little girl and is at peace once again. I’m sure it will be a sad time for you, having just lost Graham, too.

    Comfort to you as you grieve her passing.

  6. You gave this little girl a wonderful life and then did the most unselfish thing, helped her from this life in peace and with dignity. I am so very sorry for your loss of sweet Emily.

  7. Gosh, Shirley. And so soon after Graham. I’ve told you this but we had our vet come to our house for Snakey so she would not need to travel or become fearful. The kicker was cognitive; her diminished hearing and sight left her fearful and confused at night. Days were ok mentally but she had so much trouble getting up and down that when she became afraid, we knew we had to let her go. She was stunning in her prime; a Frisbee dog and true athlete who looked like a Shepard in the body of a coyote. When we hit the point where we felt she was trapped inside her body, we just had to say farewell.

    I know you don’t need acknowledgement about your choice. But from where I sit, I was the only choice you could make for her.

    I questioned the timing of Snakey for some time. Had we let her go too soon? Had we waited too long? It is not the same but having lost people to cancer and seeing their physical demise, it just confirmed what I knew from Snake: you reach a point where you cannot keep them here from love. And you just try really, really hard to be thankful for the years you had together.

    I am so sorry for your loss, Shirley.

  8. Ah. So very sorry to hear this. This year has been tough for us as well – somehow we also ended up with all senior dogs at the same time. And we lost all three this year.

    From our hearts to yours, be well.

  9. Sorry for your loss….it is her gain physically….frolicking weightlessly in a meadow with great new smells to explore…perhaps…that is what I tell myself when I lose a beloved friend…

  10. So sorry for your loss, Shirley. The loss of a pet’s life is hard to say the least, but two in one month’s time – devastating. Run free, sweet Emily.

  11. you are both gorgeous.. inside and out.. I am sorry for your loss but happy that Emily had such a wonderful life with you

  12. Oh Shirley, my heart is heavy with the knowledge of the loss you are again experiencing in the death of Emily. However many years are afforded to us it is never enough. Take comfort in the knowledge that you loved her and in return were loved by her. You are not alone…we all morn with you knowing our day will come too.

  13. Oh Hon, I am so sorry to hear of the passing of yet another of your beloved ‘babies’. May you find peace and comfort in knowing that you did what was in Emily’s best interest. My heart aches for you, but I have no doubt that we will one day be reunited with all our loved ones who have just gone on ahead of us. What a Glorious play time that will be for humans and animals alike!

  14. I sit in tears reading your story. It’s never easy to let go. It’s also not easy watching them suffer either. So sorry for your loss.

  15. Bless you, Shirley, for all the love & compassion you have shown all your “kids”. To take the life of one who has always depended on us is one, if not THE hardest, things I’ve ever had to do & I fully understand your greef & loss you feel.

    Other folks who are not “dog” or “cat” people just don’t understand the pain & sense of loss we feel when our 4 leg family members go. There’s no describing the pain, there’s no understanding from those who are not “one of us.” We here at your blog, I’m sure, do understand.

    I’ll send you a photo of Scooter, my doggie that appears to be the spittin’ image of of your’s in the photo. She does have a lump on her upper neck, but I never considered cancer. She, at 12+, has always been very active.

    My deepest sympthany for your loss, Shirley.

  16. Again so sorry for your loss Shirley. It must be so hard so close to Graham and around the holidays although it’s never easy. My heart aches for you. I can only wish you peace and comfort and I thank you for sharing your life with us.

  17. I know exactly how you feel. We have euthanized several dogs, some old, some not so old. Every time it has been the animal (including one cat) that told us when it was “time”.Our 10 year old Lab, with kidney failure, our 15 year old beagle, our 15 year old Siamese (cat). They would all look at me, telling me time they had had enough. It is so true…the “the eyes are the doorway to the soul”. Even our 15 year old shih-tzu, even though very spry, decided he had had enough by jumping in the pool, knowing he could not swim. It only took a second, but in that second, he did it his way. Our latest, my 10 year old Chihuahua, literally faded away in my arms. Jumping around, tail wagging in the morning…by noon, she was gone. Her congestive heart failure had caught up to her. Your pets do know when it “is time”. It is us humans who have to listen to what they say.

  18. I’m so sorry. As others have said, it’s so hard when their decline is more on a scale than sudden and obvious. Day by day they disappear a little more, and it’s hard to know when that line has been crossed.

    We lost our Heather to brain cancer a few years ago. The MRI showed multiple masses in the brain and bleeding in the brain stem. But her symptoms actually started a year before the MRI…she kept scratching just above her eye. We had all manner of tests performed trying to figure out WHY she scratched herself bloody. I once jokingly said to the vet “what if it’s brain cancer?” Then her pupil blew and I knew I’d been right all along.

    In a very short time after diagnosis, Heather was reduced to walking in small circles. She couldn’t STOP circling. Mom called me at work and basically said she couldn’t take watching it anymore. Sometimes the pet isn’t the only one being released from their suffering with euthanasia

    Sometimes I think it’s easier when it’s a big accident that takes them- something obvious and dramatic. Not that slow, slow slide down where you have to ask everyday if it’s time.

  19. I am so sorry for your loss – what a great life Emily had with you. Peace be with Emily, you and your family. That is a heart-warming and very beautiful photo.

  20. My deepest condolences for your loss, Shirley. Emily was beautiful and it’s obvious how very much she was loved.

  21. It’s all part of the territory Shirley. Our dogs are our short sharp lesson in our own mortality. As we love them so we should love each other. And each new gift is not just fabulous in it’s pretty wrapping but mind-boggling in the stunning and precious gift inside. That is why we should be grateful (and eager) for the next new gift – and friendship – and grateful for it’s fabulous content. For as long as we have this precious jewel we benefit hugely.
    Now go hug that mutt. And be grateful kids.

  22. Shirley, so very sorry to hear of your loss. It is so painful when our fur-babies leave us. Hugs to you. RIP sweet Emily

  23. Shirley, i could not read this until today. The loss of one of my dogs, last week, is fresh on my mind. Your story echoes what i went through this summer with a very old dog in my life, Cuddles. Oh how i feel for you, and my heart breaks for you. this is a most difficult decision, but i feel that the right decision. It is as if their personality simply disappears without a trace, and leaves that shell of a dog, looking like the one we loved, but yet, not there. I send you my love, and my sincerely felt symphathy for the loss of the little one. The last gift we can give any of them is a peaceful journey to the next world. so very very sorry for the pain I know you feel. You gave her a wonderful life.

  24. My condolences to all of you who have lost pets. I am inspired by your ability to soldier on while honoring the memories of your family members. It is so helpful to have the comfort of friends at times like these. Thank you to everyone.

  25. Sounds like her little spirit had already moved on to The Land Where They Are (that’s how I think of it…no bridges; just The Land Where They Are) and you let her body rest peacefully. I am sorry for your loss and know how difficult the long goodbye can be.

    In the last two years, we lost Opie very suddenly (it was like having my heart ripped from my chest), Nicky after months of hospice care (thought I was prepared but it has still been soul-shattering), and now face the real prospect of 15 year old Sparky dwindling much the same way as Emily. Different roads leading to the same sad place. The grief with each is different, and yet the same.

    Emily is scrappily adorable and bears an amazing resemblance to my sister’s little dog, Cindy Lou who lived to the ripe old age of 19.
    Thank you for sharing your heart and home with her.

  26. I have a question fo all the readers concerning brand of dog food & cancer occurance:
    I was told by a person that she believed her dogs began having cancer problems when she started feeding Beneful brand dog food. It very much concerned me because I’ve been feeding ‘Beneful food to my dogs for years and all of my dogs now have huge moles & lumps on heir bodies. One dog recently euthanized because of tumors. Has anyone else been using Beneful dog food & noticed lumps or cancer problems?

    I don’t want to accuse Beneful dog food of being bad stuff because I don’t know. I just know that all my 6 dogs have at least one lump somewhere that’s not supposed to be there & have only eaten Beneful for years, until recently changing brands.

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