The most difficult thing about going off to college was having to leave my pets behind. With my dog nearing 12-years-old, I was plagued by the thought that each time I visited home might be the last time I saw him. I still remember the exact moment I got the phone call from my parents about his diagnosis. I was in my best friend’s bedroom getting ready for New Year’s Eve. Let’s just say, 2021 tried its hardest to start on the wrong foot.
I spent the next two weeks in my hometown trying to help him get better. We had to hand feed him every meal, but he seemed like he was getting better. My brain was stuck on the fact that I wanted more time. I did not think that 12 years was enough time for him. I went back to my college apartment and was hopeful that it wasn’t goodbye. Less than two days later, I ended up making that six-hour drive home once again to say my final goodbyes.
It was so extremely difficult. As an avid animal lover, I can say that this experience was the one thing that might stop me from getting another pet in the future. He was my best friend since I was eight-years-old, and I thought he looked fine. I felt selfish for wanting him to fight and stay. I spent the night sleeping next to him and when the morning came, I could not wrap my brain around the fact that that this was going to be it. It felt like a betrayal to set the appointment and I could not stop saying how sorry I was the whole way to the vet.
As it was the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew that we wouldn’t be able to be with him in the end. We had to say our goodbyes in the parking lot. Every part of me wanted to demand that I go in with him. The idea of my dog only seeing strangers in his last moments was heartbreaking for me. Thankfully, one of the vets had watched over him previously and he was comfortable with her. It took them less than two minutes to come back out and tell us he had passed. As they said the words “He knew it was his time,” a giant rush of relief ran over me. I loved him so much; I wasn’t able to see the pain that he was in. He wasn’t in any pain anymore and that was the best thing I could have heard.
The biggest thing that I have learned from this is that it is okay to grieve. There is no time limit to when you need to get over it. I immediately tried to push it to the back burner and went back to my apartment. I figured ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and that he was just a dog I needed to let go of. It wasn’t until I visited home for the first time after and he didn’t meet me at my car that it hit me. He wasn’t there for me to say goodbye to whenever I went out the door. The silence and realization hit me so hard weeks later and I wasn’t expecting it.
Every single second with him was so precious. I am so grateful that I got to grow up with my sweet boy always by my side. It is so hard to think that I won’t see him again in this life, but I know I’ll be able to see him again in another lifetime. My mom likes to say he’s playing in a beautiful field with all of our late loved ones. Our pets love us so much, and it is so hard to let go, but they’re watching over us. I still keep his collar on my bookshelf, and I can definitely tell you healing is not linear. I’m still not entirely sure on how to go on without him, but I feel so blessed to have had him as long as I did.