My brother-in-law Mike and his wife Erica lost their beloved chocolate lab, Molly, a few days ago. Mike posted this very moving essay on his Facebook page, and I had to share. It is a beautiful tribute to how dogs fill the gap left by children who’ve grown up and moved away — as Mike puts it “with the added bonus of no back talk or allowance.” He rightfully called her “The World’s Best Dog.” RIP, Molly.
This Saturday was the one of the most sad moments in recent memory for my family. Molly, our twelve year old Chocolate Labrador and loyal friend – broke her back a couple of weeks ago running like a puppy around the yard. She slipped, hyper extended her aging back and, well you get it. She seemed fine for several days and we never knew anything was wrong. Then she slowly started to lose her balance, had trouble walking and then eventually – no amount of money nor the greatest of veterinarians could prevent her from becoming paralyzed.
Molly was the dog I never wanted – we already had a friggin’ dog and I certainly didn’t want another one. I liked dogs, but they were just dogs, nothing more. Besides, they shed and they smell and they don’t have the courtesy of cleaning up after themselves. The nerve . .
But my 14 year old son wanted his own dog, so months of wife and family pressure gave way to a trip to the breeder to find a new friend for my son. He wanted a Labrador. He chose her, he named her, he was supposed to take care of her. Of course, it’s the story you often hear – grumpy man doesn’t want stupid dog, but once dog arrives and takes over the house and all the cars – the fabric of the home begins to change. And that’s what happened, this “dog” became an integral part of our lives – transitioning us from a two-kid household, to one where the kids have left home, graduated college and started careers. They never returned, but dog was still there – now “our dog”. And that’s what happens. The dog replaces the kids with the added bonus of no back talk nor allowance.
Molly went everywhere we went. Endless ski vacations, camping, trips to the beach, swimming, hiking, gardening (helping to uproot newly planted flowers), washing the car (stealing towels and other valuable tools). She accompanied both boys to their respective colleges, helping them settle into their dorms.
And in the blink of an eye, 12 years have passed, and this dog is so entrenched into your lives you cannot imagine waking up without those soulful eyes staring down at you. But the years do pass by, and in one of life’s cruel tricks, your dog has aged so much faster than you.
And so on Saturday morning two weeks after her injury and after agonizing for hours, we called a mobile Vet to come to our home to end her life in the place she most enjoyed, her own home in her own backyard. There was no way Molly was going to die in a clinic on cold stainless steel table. We led her out to the backyard and gave her one of her favorite treats, peanut butter stuffed inside a cow bone. She licked away blissfully on a beautiful sunny morning while lying down next to us as we held her. Fifteen minutes later, she was gone.
There is no greater loyalty in the world, no stronger bond then that between man and dog. Unless you’ve known the love and peace a dog can bring into your life, it’s hard to comprehend the anguish surrounding a decision that will end your dog’s life. “Dog people” will know what I’m talking about, others will roll their eyes. Regardless, no matter how humane the decision to peacefully release your friend from the confines of pain and suffering, you never escape the guilt of “but maybe I could have done more.”
I found this poem on the web any years ago. It moved me then, but now of course it has a very special meaning.
Sweet dreams Molly. Thank you for all the happiness you brought to so many lives.
If it should be that I grow weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle cannot be won.
You will be sad, I understand.
Don’t let your grief then stay your hand.
For this day, more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the test.
We’ve had so many happy years.
What is to come can hold no fears.
You’d not want me to suffer so;
The time has come — please let me go.
Take me where my need they’ll tend,
And please stay with me til the end.
Hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time that you will see
The kindness that you did for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I’ve been saved.
Please do not grieve–it must be you
Who had this painful thing to do.
We’ve been so close, we two, these years;
Don’t let your heart hold back its tears.