Handling the Loss of My First Dog

This past month has been relatively hard for me. On January 7th, my parents told me that they were planning on putting our black labrador, Cowboy, to sleep in a few days. I was immediately overcome with sadness. How could my once lively dog be already at the point where we need to send him to Heaven? Just a few months before, he was running around, jumping on people, and being his foolish and fun self.

January 10th came, which is the day we all decided to put him to sleep. All I could do was look at him and see how truly old he had gotten. His teeth were building up with plaque and he had sores in his mouth. His poor, old body was covered in lumps, possibly benign, but a few could have been cancerous. His breathing was labored and he wasn’t eating or drinking quite like he used to. Looking into his eyes, I could see that he was tired, scared, and hurting. He was wrapped in a blanket with all of our family’s scents, surrounded by us until the moment they carried his body away. My parents’ house has never felt so lonely.

I’ve had dogs in my life before and watched them grow old and pass. They were in the house before I was born so I didn’t have the attachment with them like I did with Cowboy. We picked him out of a litter in April of 2007 and I couldn’t tell you how attached I was to him. I took him for “show and tell” in 4th grade, I tried to teach him how to walk on a leash, and cuddled with him in his kennel when he cried. He grew up too fast and grew old faster than I could process. He would have been 12 years old on February 13th.

I’m not gonna lie, it is really hard to go to my parent’s house. I find myself looking for him all over the place. It’s gotten a bit easier, but we are still waiting on his ashes to come back, so that will be a very emotional day. I look at pictures of him often. It reminds me of the good times before he got old. It helps him stay young in my mind, knowing now that he is no longer in pain and can run with the dogs that have left before him.

All I can say is cherish the time you have with them now. When you visit your parents, make sure to give your pets a hug and tell them you love them. Let them be a little annoying. They get older faster than you realize. Soon enough, you’ll wish you could hear their bark one last time.

They will be waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge.