Last week I had to do one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done–say goodbye to my sweet dog, Bailey. I’d adopted her from the local humane shelter when she was a little over a year old. She was quite skittish when I first brought her home and cowered easily; we surmised that she’d been abused at some point before coming to the shelter. It didn’t take long, however, before she and I bonded and I gave her full run of the house.
God did an incredible job in pairing us up, because she and I were so similar in our personalities. She, like me, could initially be a bit shy around those she didn’t know well but once she warmed up to you she was your biggest fan. (There were, however, some people with whom she bonded almost instantaneously and others to whom she never grew to like.) She, like me, enjoyed being around people a great deal of the time, but made it clear when she needed time alone to decompress.
Until the last year or so, Bailey was a very active dog, frequently jumping up on the furniture, sometimes leaping from the loveseat to the nearby ottoman and looking quite proud of herself for doing so. In the past year she’d really begun to slow down. She had arthritis in her back legs that put an end to jumping. In the last few weeks, the arthritis had gotten bad enough that she was having a great deal of trouble standing up and walking steadily on her own. Her doctor tried adjusting her medication to see if that would improve her mobility but it really didn’t help.
Last Monday I took Bailey back to the vet for a follow-up, knowing that it was likely time to let her go. Her doctor agreed that she wasn’t going to get any better and, in fact, would continue to deteriorate. Although I’d long dreaded having to make the decision to put her down, I’d prayed that, when the time came, that I’d know without a doubt that it was the right decision and that I’d have peace about it. God graciously answered that prayer, filling me with a great deal of peace even in the midst of the grief of having to say goodbye to her.
Bailey lived to be 17 and a half years old, which is practically ancient in dog years, and I am so thankful for having her for so long. As tough as it’s been to lose her, I know that she lived a very full, happy and relatively healthy life and that she is far better off now where she’s no longer in pain and is able to move, run and jump again. She used to play with one of my best friend’s dogs, who died several years ago, and I envision the two of them wrestling and playing in heaven now. Perhaps Bailey’s been able to meet the dogs I had in my childhood or even her siblings from her own litter. Maybe she’s curled up in my grandmother’s lap or playing with my nephew. Those are sweet thoughts that bring me comfort.
I’m still adjusting to coming home to an empty house, and I’m sure it will take even more time to get used to it. I’m pretty sure that I’ll adopt another dog (perhaps two) in the near future, but not right away. When my heart’s ready I’ll know it’s the right time.