That Decision (Putting Our Dog Down)

Red and Meg as xmas elves

Red and Roger under the table Red close up Red elf Red on blanketI remember my mom feeling bad about having to put down some family pets when I was a kid. But she always did it in a room I never entered. She came out crying — sobbing really.

Today I had to make that decision for the first time in my life. My husband and I did it together, but it did not make it easier. We decided it would be more humane to put her down. Once again, like a crazy lady I put on the toughest of masks and insisted on being there with Red when she was euthanized. A peppy veterinarian gave us price quotes and options, but she stressed that Red was not doing good. She stressed we needed to act quickly and aggressively.

This was obvious this morning when Red lay lifeless on the floor of the sun-room (this is our dog room). Red used to sleep inside, but as she aged in the last year she would go to the bathroom inside the house.

Over the last year, Red lost some weight but nothing too drastic. I do have to admit that I had that sinking feeling…that sinking shutter — cancer. She had problems getting up and down, but I attributed it to old age and the cold weather. Denial is a wonderful thing.

There was no denying what was going to happen today once you laid eyes on her. She was all spit and vinegar last night, barking and snapping at Roger when they came in last night. Red did her usual hog the food and bully alpha dog routine with Roger (our other dog — a black lab/Shepard mix).

I got up early this morning. I had time to put my make-up on before heading out the door. I wore my royal blue long skirt and a colorful top (which reminds me of a Matisse painting). Ben, my almost four year old son said, “You look fancy Mama,” indicating a great wardrobe choice indeed. Little did I know this outfit would be my armor throughout the day — a day I never wish to repeat again. On my way out of the house, my husband went to let the dogs out and said that one of them threw up. Ben, our almost four year old was dancing around in his bright primary color, two-piece  car and truck pajamas. Ben had woke in an unusually cheerful mood. He usually is a little crabby when he wakes. I asked before grabbing my coffee from the butler’s pantry counter, “Is it Red? Did she throw up? Is she OK?” thinking it may have been a fluke thing. Red had not thrown up recently. In fact, other than seeming arthritic and skinnier, she seemed fine. I had had that conversation with myself in the last year: She is getting up there. She is about 13-14 years old. She most likely will pass away soon.

Red in our back yard in healthier days

Red in our back yard in healthier days

But I never really thought serious about it. Who the heck wants to?

When Ben was out of earshot and I had my bags for work in hand, my husband gently said, “Red isn’t doing too good,” and from the look on his face, I just knew. But he continued when we locked tear-filled eyes, “You might want to see her before you leave for work and give her your love.” I went into the sun-room and she was laying at a strange angle as if her body was lifeless and not cooperating. I got her a fresh blanket as her chin was resting in her own vomit — just a little bit. And then I began to cry. I sat down in my royal blue skirt and petted her nose line.  Her tail came up in a straight awkward angle, as if her tail was trying to wag.

I’ll skip the Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, dog dies in the end bit.

I called into work, holding enough composure to get past the receptionist at school. Once transferred to the school secretary who handles most emergencies related to getting subs in the classrooms, I lost it. In a high pitched sobby voice, I wobbled out, “I can’t come in today. My dog is dying.”

I sat with Red petting her hair and stroking her face. Her tail lifted and I assumed she was trying to wag it.

We made the decision. What a doozy. I need to go cry some more.

She is in dog heaven.  Ironically, I actually thought about that as I held her paw when she was being put down.  Is there really a dog Heaven? I thought.

I hope so. She certainly belongs there. She was a good dog.

I wrote a short little prose piece trying to articulate the love dogs (and pets) share with humans:

Dogs get in the place in our hearts that is silent.

The quiet quell of just who we are.

No bells, no whistles, just who we are.

Our relationship is effortless because they don’t have any expectations — just to be their owner — just to be their friend. They only want some petting, some food, and an occasional walk. If you ask me, kind of low expectations. But that is the beauty of the human/dog relationship. It’s simple. And based on love. A love that is different than human love.

Red always took what affection I gave her. And loved me just the same, everyday — each day. She never got mad, always present like the skin between my fingers. Without the skin, I’m just bones and tendons, She was my skin.

Sure, I could’ve given more affection, but she was not greedy. She just needed a pat, a hind leg scratch, a soft nuzzle and of course, a full cup or two of food each morning and night.

This was my Facebook status update. I wrote it in the car waiting for Rich while he went to the doctor. He had a doctors appointment scheduled for late that morning. I didn’t want to be separated from him after the horrible event of putting her down. But I couldn’t bring myself to go inside and wait in a waiting room. It gave me a little comfort to read empathetic posts from friend. I’ve included some of them below. You most likely are thinking of a pet you had to put down and can relate. It is a horrible pain. My friend, Jenna, posted this on my Facebook page and I think it sums up losing a dog quite nicely.
RIP Red…had to put our dog down this morning. Haven’t been this sad in a long time. Curse you cancer.
I remember my mom having a hard time when I was a kid…had to put a dog down. It was sad of course but for first time in my life I had to make “that” decision. We opted to give her comfort. Nonetheless, I’ll miss ole Red. She was a good dog.
  • Megan Oteri It’s an Old Yeller kind of day.
    11 hours ago · Like
  • Brenda Megan, I’m so sorry for your loss. I know how difficult it is to have to make these decisions. I have a kitty with cancer and we will be forced to make this decision all too soon. Our pets provide us with so much joy. I’m praying that the hole in your heart will heal soon.
    11 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Megan Oteri I can imagine @ Roger. We lost a dog in Cheyenne. Rich was really close with Norman. Red was the next dog we got in 2006. She was thirteen about so she lived a long life. Nothing prepares you for this…it just is fing sad.
    11 hours ago · Like
  • Sean Patrick Nolan My thoughts and prayers to you and the family today Meg!
    11 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Megan Oteri Not even sure how to broach the subject with Ben…I’m tempted to say Red went to live on a farm somewhere.
    11 hours ago · Like
  • Scott  Sorry Cheyenne
    11 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Tory So sorry for your loss!
    11 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Debbie  Sorry Meg,
    11 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Jayme  I did the very same thing last night. I had him for 11 years. One the hardest things I have ever done. I know how you feel.
    11 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Jennifer  sorry megan
    11 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Carrie Yes its hard to make decisions, but you have to make the right one for the dog. I to lost a dog when I was very young, was in 3rd grade. I went to school my dog was home. Came home and my dog Navy was gone. Mom told me that she had to be put down for she was very old and sick. Was so sad and cried for a very long time. We also had a cat called tippy tom also that we loss.. Very sad sorry.
    11 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Tabitha so sorry megan.
    11 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • T J  So sorry for your loss. I die a little every time one of mine does. They leave a mark on your heart.
    11 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • DeeAnn Nothing more difficult that making that decision. I know of an amazing pet communicator who can talk to Red, regardless of the health or death of the body. I used her for my dogs and my friends have used her and she is AMAZING. Not expensive, either. If in the coming weeks you are interested, let me know. I think it would bring you great comfort!
    10 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Jim  Always a very sad and difficult decision, Megan. Among the many things pets teach us is how to deal with mortality.
    10 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Heidi Sorry to hear that honey… ahhh Norman
    10 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Megan Oteri Thanks for your kind words everyone.
    10 hours ago · Like
  • Christy So sorry for your loss.
    10 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Beth So hard to say goodbye to our sweet family members! Thinking of you today.
    10 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Liz She was a good pup  Red can play without pain in doggie heaven. xoxoxo
    10 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Lloyd Sad for y’all. May the memory of your pet bring blessings to you.
    10 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Rebecca Another angel has left her dog suit. I know you will miss her. Sending you love.
    9 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Renee  sorry Megan.
    9 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Jay  One of the toughest things in life to do,to quote George Carlin “every time you own a pet you buy a small tragedy”
    9 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Eric Ugh join the club. It’s a pain like no other.
    9 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Tony I know the sadness you are going thru, we lost 3 in the last 2 years. They are all in a better place.
    7 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Donna  sorry to hear that. RIP Red
    7 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Lu-Ann  So sorry Megan. That was the first “adult” decision I ever made – and it never seems to get easier. Red was a good dog and a loyal family member. RIP sweet baby – and peace to your family, from me, Jack & Dom.
    5 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Linda  I had to put down Mandel last April. He was 15 years old, blind, diabetic and was arthritic. Your dog is i n dog heaven with mine.
    5 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • John  Sorry, Megan.
    5 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Lisa  I’m so sorry  I’m dealing with a similar situation with simi…. Remember him he is 16
    4 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Jessica I’m so sorry, Megan. It hurts so much to lose our furry family. I still miss mine. Thinking of you and your family.
    2 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Sparklebunny  Sorry to hear about your loss. Losing a loved one is never easy, whether 2- or 4-legged.
    2 hours ago · Unlike · 1

The Bones Know (how to cook, that is)

Latest blog post on the Community Kitchen blog — about my one true sentence. Also a recipe for chocolate chip cookies from my grandma’s and great-grandma’s bakery in Evanston, Illinois. Happy Valentine’s Day. Also a photo of little memomuse as a kid with my grandma and mom.

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
― Ernest Hemingway

The Evanston Community Kitchen

As I was making chocolate chip cookies with my son today, I thought of something so profound and deep — it barely surfaced.

At that precise moment when my three and three-quarters year old poured the baking powder into the blue bowl, I should have honored and listened to the Montessori urge to go write it down right then and there.

But I didn’t. I kept mixing, baking, and preparing our cookie dough.

I had spent the hour prior to this trying to engage my sick, moody, snow day cabin fevered son to bake with me. He was mad at me because I would not let him watch Phinius and Ferb — his current favorite cartoon (I really like it too). We (or rather I specifically) are trying to limit his TV watching to two hours a day. And two hours a day seems like too much as it is.

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