Last month of yesterday, I gave my last gift to Marilyn. It got to the point that I was not able to give her comfort she needed anymore, no matter how hard I tried. It was the most powerless moment I realized that. There was only one thing I could do for her at that point. When you recognize your fur babies have lost sparkles in their eyes, you know the best thing you could do for them.
This was not the first time to say good-bye to the dogs in my life, but this was the first time that I had to make the decision and the arrangement for it.
This is All about Marilyn
Marilyn had been my perfect... I don't know what she was as something already defined as one word. A companion, friend, family, healer, safe place, joy, reason, something to love, something to give to, ... I don't know what suits what she was to me perfectly. There was nothing to ask her for better. She was just perfect to me as what she was. Marilyn was Marilyn. She was nothing more and nothing less.
What can I do to honor her life and show her all my support for the next journey of her spirit?
Her spirit would go to the next level. She might get her wings. She might get a halo. She might get a special power. I don't know what would happen to her in the afterlife, but one thing for sure. She would be free from all her discomforts she had. This was something to celebrate. It was also a celebration of the new beginning of her spirit.
Around the 9th century in Japan, there was a custom, called "hanamuke", to point the head of the horse, which a person who was leaving was on, toward the person's destination wishing his/her safe travel. Today, the custom remains in a different form as giving a gift. What could be my gift for her?
Marilyn had the other family who loved her dearly and good took care of her when we couldn't take her where we traveled. I don't like to call them "the second" family because they loved her as much as we did/do. So, I call them her "the other" family. When I led them know she wouldn't have much time left, her the other mom came to see her right away.
In that weekend, her favorite Auntie Olga and sister friend Kenya visited her.
Marilyn was not so good with other dogs (This was from her fear to other dogs. Something bad had happened to her before she came to me. We worked on it together.), but Kenya was one of her few doggie friends. And, I'm so happy that she had some friends. A life with no friends is not fun.
Olga always told us that Kenya loved Marilyn. Somehow, she felt a strong connection to Marilyn though she had her brother Sam, and Marilyn's attention more often pointed to Olga than her. Since we don't have fence between our yards, they went over each other's yard and hung out. They spent a lot of time together. Whenever she was in the yard, Kenya looked for Marilyn. That was her routine.
Kenya came to Marilyn and did a sniff greeting. She was sensing something was going on. She wondering around the house for a while, then laid down on Marilyn's another bad. She was observing. That also looked like Kenya was afraid to be close to Marilyn.
Marilyn had the one last chance to see them again.
Let's Have a Party!
Any celebrations come with food. I decided to throw a party to her. How appropriate to the food loving Labrador? Fortunately, she was able to enjoy food until the last. She had been eating steak bites, meatballs with her favorite Kabocha (a.k.a. buttercup) squash in, chicken broth, sauteed zucchini which had been one of her favorite vegetables for the last couple of days.
I picked up things she loved. She could eat anything at this point. She'd better fill up her stomach before hitting the long way to the rainbow bridge.
Marilyn loved chocolate. She never got into trash and any food left in her reach. But, chocolate was an exception.
One time, I put a Lindt's bear shaped chocolate in a bag on the floor for a Christmas gift for someone, and left home for an hour. When I came home, the open golden tin wrapper was on the floor with its missing content.
The wrapper had no damage. No teeth marks. No tears. It was carefully and gently opened. It was all one piece. Just chocolate was missing. I still cannot figure out how she did it.
That morning, I cooked the bacons. The whole house smelled like bacon. Then, I sauteed the zucchini with the bacon fat.
She had the bacons, the zucchini, the baby sausages, the potato chips, the meatballs, the steak bites, some fish sausage from the grandpa and grandma in Japan and only one piece of chocolate.
We munched them together. As I put them at her mouth one by one, she sniffed, then ate them as if she made sure what she was eating. She finished all bacons.
We sat next to her. Chad kept talking to her petting. I rubbed her velvety ears over and over with the both hands. I couldn't even come up with any words. I put my forehead on hers just like I used to do all the time silently. "Do you feel what I feel?"
Sending Off from Home
I thought about how I would like to send her off once in awhile after she turned 13. The best scenario I thought was that she would pass while she was sleeping on her favorite night-night bed at home. I might not get a chance to say goodbye, but her passing couldn't be more peaceful. Peace... that was all I wished for her to have at her last moment. We all know, most likely this wouldn't be the case.
So, I started thinking about the second best scenario... Just the idea of this made me cry and sick in my stomach, but it's an honor and a responsibility as a fur baby parent. It's the last gift we can give to our babies. We have the power to end their suffering. I wanted to put some idea in place when my selfishness wouldn't push away her best interest. More importantly, I wanted my last gift to her would be the best and most perfect could be.
When Olga had to help her another dog, Sam, cross the rainbow bridge, she had a vet over her home and led him pass surrounded by his family and friends at his own home. That's how I learned some vets offer a home euthanasia service.
You can find many resources via Google. One of the resources I used was the In Home Pet Euthanasia Service Directory. You can look up service providers by states. Methods, approaches, prices, and so on vary by providers. You should look into at least these couple of things:
- Who they are... of course, they are vets, but you can see their personalities on their web sites and through email/phone communication. I found some are very business like and some express their sympathies and cares besides their busienss. I highly recommend to contact them directly to find the best match to what you wish. You'd like to have somebody both of you and your pet feel comfortable with.
- How they do it... some give pets sedation first to help the passing more peaceful.
- Availability and flexibility... some require an arrangement in advance during their business hours, some are more flexible even after hours and weekends, some accommodate an immediate request if they are available. Sometimes, things make unexpected turns. If there are possibilities for that case, their flexibility is something you'd like to check.
- After passing... this is about the remains. You can arrange burial or cremation by yourself, but it's just too tough to go through this. Letting your pet go is already hard enough. Unless you already made an arrangement by yourself, I suggest using their help. This step comes in various patterns. So, make sure what they offer in details and that suits your needs.
You might also ask your vet if they offer a home euthanasia service. We found out our vet offer the service. Since we knew Marilyn's favorite vet would do the visit, we decided to go with our vet.
In some cases, you might not get this option. You might be in a spot to make the unfair immediate decision. It's not easy to even think about this. But, if you are given an option, it is not a bad idea that you think about what you could do the best for your fur babies' last moment. And, I wish the time you have to say goodbye to your pets is far far away from now to you all.
Here's To Marilyn!
One month ago, snow came down over the night. In the morning, the ground was covered with fresh white snow. I put the playlist I made for her. It was a collection of Mischa Maisky. His delicate, gentle and emotionally rich cello was so suitable to the situation.
Past noon, the vet arrived with one of her vet technicians. The vet tech went over some paperwork first. The vet explained to us what would happen step by step. Then, the tech did some prep work.
I asked them to join the toast for Marilyn's safe journey to the bridge with this little champaign. We could send her off with our best wishes. That was the least we could do for her. I wish I could go with her to the beginning of the bridge to make sure she gets there without getting lost.
After the toast, we said goodbye to her one last time. I had her on my lap. While I was petting her head, the vet did injection. She stretched out as its reaction. The vet confirmed her heart stopped. She was still warm and soft. I felt nothing had changed. She was still on my lap. I wanted to think nothing had changed. She was still with me. Her ears were still soft and velvety.
Chad took Marilyn to the vet's car. She had a blanket to keep her warm. I put a picture of three of us to go with her, so she wouldn't feel alone. The vet asked if there was anything else to go with her. I made a little doggy bag with the meatballs and some other goodies, so she wouldn't get hungry on the way to the rainbow bridge. We watched their car with Marilyn disappeared from our sight.
Love and Support
When I realized it was her time, I posted that on the rescued dog owner groups on Facebook I belong. So many people commented with their kind words. I met only a couple of them in person. We only know each other through our love to our dogs. They were with us all along this journey.
When I announced the news to them, they cried for her, grieved with me, expressed their sympathies. They showed their kindness and empathies. Every single of them was very touching. I'd never thought people I'd never met so close. Here are some of them. You cannot read them, but you see so many warm hearts.
Some who lost their pups told me their pups would welcome Marilyn at the other side of the bridge. That was just comforting. Some posted touching poems. Some posted thoughtful quotes and letters.
One of the groups put her picture for us. This is from her Sweet 16 party, 2 years ago. Marilyn, you were a cover girl!
Someone mentioned that they cried for the dog they'd never met.
Another shared her memory of Marilyn about the time she heard about her for the first time. That was right around she just joined the group. She read the members were talking about Marilyn's birthday. She thought Marilyn was a person at first. When you hear about a planning of a Sweet 16 party, you don't think that's for a dog generally. I can imagine her confusion.
One told me that she fostered a senior after reading my posts about Marilyn, then ended up foster failure, and she and her family were happy to have the senior pup.
I nodded, teared, and smiled as I read them. They kept my heart warm. I am so grateful all love and blessings they gave Marilyn over the years, and how lucky she was to take those love and blessings with her to the heaven.
I lit a candle for her. The rest of the day went by quietly while going through the growing Facebook posts, their comments and her pictures. Her beds were where they had been. Her water bowl was still holding water.
The next day, I saw Jim's post. Samson is his dog over the rainbow bridge. The message from Samson made me smile. Elizabeth also shared a strange incident in her bedroom the night before. She thought Marilyn stopped by on the way to the bridge. That made me smile, too.
They also check how I am doing even after weeks via posts and PMs. Like I said, they've never met me in person. Can you believe that? I cannot find the words to tell how thankful I am.
Then, even more! Pat made the beautiful tribute video for Marilyn. This was a totally surprise. How sweet! How special! She took time to go though Marilyn's pictures and put them together.
Every picture brings memories and stories around them. To me, the video has so much depth.
I didn't mention anything to Pat, but very interestingly, she put the picture I took on the day we adopted Marilyn as the first picture in the video.
The members who watched the video left nice comments. Later, Pat told me that video got the most comments in ones she made for the group.
About a week later, her ash came home. This was the affirmation of her being gone. Marilyn was a quiet girl. Even after she was gone, I had felt like she was napping in another room all the time. I'd never got a sense of her disappearance even though I lit the candle every night.
It was a small dark blue paper bag. There was a bubble wrapped box in it. When I removed the bubble wrap, the box had the name, Marilyn, on it. It was a small box, but felt much heavier than it looked. There were no soft velvety ears anymore. There was no snout I love to run my finger on. There was no forehead I used to put mine on.
It was a right thing to do. But, why it's so hurt to do the right thing?
We took her food, blankets and supplies to the local humane society. Those were Marilyn's best wishes to their shelter dogs to find their forever home soon. I couldn't quite give up all of her blankets. When I'm ready, they go there.
Thinking back, we did some charities together besides our annual donation to the humane society.
Marilyn and I did cancer walks together for American Cancer Society honoring the brave fighters, Jim and Jackie.
At the second walk, we teamed up with our neighbor and friend pups and raised over $1000. After the walk, we had a Cinco de Mayo party.
Her boyfriend Cosmo was very supportive. He didn't have a strength to walk anymore, so he joined as a cheerleader to our team.
We made some donation to a charity at her Sweet 16 with some who joined the cause.
We had a great success with her 17th birthday charity to Labs4Rescue she came from. So many people and their pups joined the cause.
We had a great time.
Since she came to us at 8 1/2 years old, we celebrated 9 birthdays together. How blessed she was! Knowing adopting a senior dog, we didn't expect to have her such a long time. We were very fortunate.
These are all from her favorite doggie bakery, the Barkery. Kristi made the beautiful cake for her Sweet 16. Barkery was not only her favorite bakery, but also where she was able to get along with other dogs.
Speaking of birthday cake, it was years ago. Chad took Marilyn there one day. The owner, Kristi, was kindly led her hang around off the leash in the store. They were chatting for a while. Marilyn was wondering around the kitchen. Then, she came out with her proud finding in her mouth. That was a cake Kristi was cooling before decorating it. It was supposed to be somebody's birthday cake.
Marilyn "found" it on the lower lack and munched on. She was so proud of finding it, and decided to show it off. She proudly came out from the kitchen holding up the cake high "Look what I found!", then her party was over. Luckily, Kristy baked two cakes, so the birthday pup got his cake just fine.
Since then, she got a name of "Cake Stealer." Whenever one of their staff heard the name "Marilyn" there, they go "Oh, you are the cake stealer!" with big smiles on their faces. Even Mrs. Santa said that when we were there for a picture with Santa. I don't know how Marilyn got away not getting coals in her stocking.
I could go on and on miles long of her pictures and stories. They make me smile and comfort me. I feel her presence all the time. Maybe, I just want to feel that way, but I do. And, I find that is comforting. I find her hairs on my cloths, between piles of papers, and where my eyes go. It's silly, but I collect them in a little bottle. I feel those hairs are signs from her. That's comforting to me.
I put her ash, the sympathy cards from our friends with a candle on the buffet table. I don't mean to live with her shrine forever. I don't think that's what she wishes, but this is what I need for now to process my feeling.
Last night, she got some baby sausage with scrambled egg.
On the right, her paw print impression the vet made for us. It has some flowers at the right top.
Never Have Enough Time
Whenever you have opportunities, give hugs and kisses to your fur babies. No matter how many times you do, you will wish to have one more someday. You'll wish to feel one more stroke on their fur. Don't take the time you have with them for granted. The time you have with them is much much shorter than you think. Cherish every moment you have right now.