Unearthing creative possibilities: Trish Roque's website, personal blog, & portfolio

Grieving the death of my old furry friend

The Doubts

I set up a bed next to Siwa so that I could be with her through the night. I also sketched her to try to calm my mind and remain as emotionally stable as I could for her.

I set up a bed next to Siwa so that I could be with her through the night. I also sketched her to try to calm my mind and remain as emotionally stable as I could for her.

It’s been three days since Siwa passed away and the feelings are still very raw. I find myself thinking about the 35-hours prior to her passing, second-guessing my decision, wondering “What if I had________”, insert the appropriate word to fit the action/non-action I should have/could have taken. That is what makes the decision to euthanize a pet so difficult…when the doubts creep in once the decision has been made.

I spent the last 35 hours of Siwa’s life by her side, never leaving her once. I set up a bed next to hers, not really sleeping at all that night, trying to listen to her, for any movement that she might try to make.  I would move her occasionally so that she would not be in one position for too long, to help keep her blood circulating. I constantly cleaned her fur of the blood that would occasionally trickle from her mouth and I would keep changing the towel under her so she would not have to sleep in her own bloody drool.

Sketch therapy

Sketch therapy

[Here’s some advice for people with pets: have at least 5 towels designated specifically for your pet. Cut one big towel into several pieces that can be soaked in hot water when needed. This is what I did to clean the blood from her face. As the towels got soiled, I’d just grab another clean one, and as we used the towels, Jon would throw them in the washing machine so that we would have a constant supply of fresh towels.]

To keep my mind calm and my emotions stable, I decided to do some sketches of her. I believe animals are quite perceptive and can sense stress in their humans, and because of my emotional bond to this dog, I knew she could sense my immense grief. They are not the best drawings of her, but in the effort to draw, I like to think that I lessened her stress by trying to remain calm and focused.

Another Siwa sketch

Another Siwa sketch

I somehow slept several hours that night and it was during those hours that she managed to move herself. When I awoke, she had shifted on her bed, flipping herself completely around so that her head and her torso were on the bed, her bottom half on the ground. She seemed to be sleeping peacefully but when she heard my movements, she lifted her head and looked at me. And the thought that she MIGHT make it through this crept back into my mind. She even managed a tail wag.

It was very clear though that she was in pain. She still could not get up on her own and everytime I offered her water or chicken broth, she would turn her head away. I gave her the last injection of the painkiller her oncologist prescribed the day before. It was hard to determine if the blank look in her eyes was a result of the painkiller or if it was really the sign that she was ready to go.

Trying to remain calm & focused by sketching.

Trying to remain calm & focused by sketching.

Making the Preparations

Once I knew her vet’s office was open, I gave them a call to try to schedule at-home euthanasia.  I had spoken to them months prior to see if they could do this and they had responded with a possible yes, pending  the day’s schedule.  But because it was Monday, the receptionist could not give me an answer right away. I had to wait a couple of hours to hear back from them.

It’s the waiting that is the hardest. After having made a decision, seeing a dog suffer anymore than she has to, even with the painkillers, is very difficult. It also leaves opportunities for doubts, for wavering and indecision to occur.

My emotional state was obvious in the lines I drew. I was trying to focus but her proportions were clearly off.

My emotional state was obvious in the lines I drew. I was trying to focus but her proportions were clearly off.

I knew that she loved being outside so I managed to move her to her favorite morning spot. I grabbed my journal for more sketch therapy. Sketching is a wonderful way to remain present in the moment and even though I had not practiced much zazen in the past week, I like to think that the sketching served the same purpose.

At that point, my vet called back to say that she would not be able to come to the house because Monday always proved to be a very busy day for them. She could come by on Tuesday.  I was devastated. Fortunately, Jon decided to take the day off from work. He called other vets who made house calls, and found one who could come by that afternoon. She was expensive, and although I did not want to factor this into my decision process, I knew I had no choice. We made alternative plans.

Siwas favorite morning spot.

Siwa's favorite morning spot.

Jon made all the phone calls because I knew I would just break down and cry. He called her oncologist’s office to see if they would euthanize her in the car. This was the next best choice. The car was a second home to her; it meant adventure; it meant hiking, camping, traveling to forests, deserts, the SNOW! It meant FUN! He also called the crematorium to see if they could cremate her and have her ashes return to us that day.

I had been planning for this day from the time she was diagnosed with cancer and had researched options. I found the crematorium and drove there in the months before so that I would know how to get there. I did not want to be running around when the day came, trying to figure out what to do while in an emotional frenzy. And although it had not exactly turned out the way I had hoped, we had enough options to make informed decisions to make her death as respectable as we could.

About an hour prior to her passing. I moved her into the shade to keep her cool - she was a snow dog after all.

Photo taken about an hour prior to her passing. We moved her into the shade to keep her cool - she was a snow dog after all.

The Final Goodbye

When the time came, Jon and I put her bed into the car and drove to her oncologist’s clinic. We had the back windows of the car partially opened. I could see her occasionally trying to lift her head, as though she was sniffing at the passing scents. It seemed like she was trying to get up, but couldn’t.  When we got to the clinic, I climbed into the back of the car and laid down next to her, while Jon informed the clinic of our arrival.

I brought a warm wet towel to keep her face and fur clean from the blood coming from her mouth.  I tried to remain calm and whispered in her ear how much I loved her, that we would go for a walk,  and make the trip to Tahoe where she could roll in the snow (she LOVED snow), and that she would have chicken for dinner. I could hear my husband sobbing outside the car (there was no room for him in the car). This was the first time he had ever witnessed an animal euthanized, and even though this wasn’t my first, it NEVER gets easier.

I whispered a Tibetan Buddhist chant in her ear. I repeated this over and over, even as the vet and technician placed the final injection in her vein.  I laid next to her trying to remain calm and present, grooming her with the wet towel, telling her I loved her and wishing her a favorite rebirth.

Some People to Thank

This whole process was much harder than I thought it would be but it was made easier by the compassion and kindness of people, some of whom were strangers, and some who knew and cared for Siwa.

  • First and foremost, I need to thank Jon my husband, who was with me throughout the whole process. Siwa was his first dog after all, and she was the perfect dog for him to get introduced to. He was more of a cat person, and Siwa was part cat so that worked out well.
  • The Bay Area Veterinary Specialists: they had been treating Siwa for her cancer since early 2008 and knew her well. I especially want to thank Dr. Chiarello and Josue, the vet technician, who both responded with compassion when I made my emergency call on Sunday. I was comforted to know that she would pass on in the hands of people who had known and cared for her. They also gave me the gift of another two years with my dog. I had talked directly with Josue (pronounced Hosway) on Sunday and when he heard that it was Siwa I was calling about, he responded with “Oh, I know Siwa.” It didn’t take much but his response got me bawling on the phone. He was the technician present at Siwa’s passing.
  • Groveway Veterinary Hospital: especially Nicole and David who managed to rearrange the day’s schedule to accommodate our desire to have her cremated and returned to us that same afternoon.
  • Friends and Family: their kind and supportive words have really helped. Many of them had adventures with her in the Sierras, Tahoe, and the deserts, lakes and mountains of California and New Mexico.

Final remembrances of Siwa:

Siwa & Me, then in 1996 (she was ~3-4 mos. old; I was 23 YO); and in January 2009

Siwa & Me, then in 1996 (she was ~3-4 mos. old; I was 23 YO); and in January 2009

In Tahoe, Jan. 2009; Siwa absolutely loved snow if you couldnt tell by the big smile on her face. Photo taken by Tom Holub.

In Tahoe, Jan. 2009; Siwa absolutely loved snow if you couldn't tell by the big smile on her face. Photo taken by Tom Holub.

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22 Responses to “Grieving the death of my old furry friend”

  1. Evelyn says:

    What a lovely and thoughtful message. Real connection and love. You were obviously a loving and responsible pet parent. My condolences.

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  2. Sharon says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I couldn’t read the whole post. It brought back so many painful memories of my own little Pekingese, Kibbles, who suffered terribly before I could give in to have her euthanized. She was 16 yrs old and that was 1997, and I still mourn her. I know the pain you feel and the agony of the decision. You did all that you could, and she knew that you loved her. Praying for you and your family as you get used to life without her.

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  3. Gary says:

    I’m like Sharon. Anybody who has been through this before knows deeply every word that you so eloquently expressed. Your drawings were so deeply moving…

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  4. Ellen says:

    I know how you feel, Trish and my heart goes out to you. I had to put down my 18 year old cat Beanie almost two years ago and I miss him today as much as that day. Your drawings show your affection for her and you wrote so beautifully about her. I know she felt your love and you did the right thing. Don’t doubt that. She’s free now and at peace. Knowing that is important so you can be at peace too.

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  5. Betty says:

    I went through exactly the same thing two weeks ago with my beloved Willow. It’s so incredibly sad to have them go, but at least we can ease them out as hard as it is for us. I miss my girl as I know you do. Best wishes. Betty

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  6. trish says:

    Thank you everyone for your kind words and best wishes. They reverberate.

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  7. Dan Kent says:

    It was many years ago when I lost my own dog – I remember it vividly to this day. I am so sorry for all you have gone through. I am sure it is a difficult enough time anticipating your operation, without the loss of your companion for so many years. I wish you well. And, by the way, your drawings of Siwa are beautiful.

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  8. Alex Tan says:

    I am so sorry Trish… being a Buddhist myself, I know that there’s no Dog Heaven, and very likely she’s gone to one of the worlds, or reincarnated as a another dog, another person, another animal.. lots of possibilities. But because it’s fated for her to be spending 14 great years together with you, and it’s your fate too that she’s been with you… so it’s very likely she’ll come back in another form, who knows right?
    As I was reading and looking at the beautiful pictures, I had to wipe my eyes… remembering the dog I had when I was 11. His name was Tyson, and eventhough he life was shortlived(mere 2 years) but he was the best dog ever. I brought him to the playground every afternoon, with a stack of cream crackers, one for me, one for him…and the last one I’d always split them into 2. I have had 2 more dogs after that but Tyson was the one I really loved… I know somewhere somehow, he’d want me to be strong too, and that someday we’ll be together again… maybe not this world, maybe not this life…but someday.
    Amittaba.

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  9. andrea joseph says:

    So movinging. Your sketches are beautiful.

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  10. andrea joseph says:

    Sorry, it was meant to say ‘moving’, but I couldn’t see through the tears. Love, Andrea.

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  11. Joanie says:

    Dear Trish and John, I join you in all prayers for Siwa’s journey into Light and Love, and hold you in my heart as well. Just last year I lost my beloved JazzyGirl (calico cat soulmate) to cancer but I celebrate our 15 years of bonding. Once in awhile I feel her hop on my bed at nite for a quick visit. It’s so tender.

    Now my 17 year old Boomer, (british shorthair rescue cat) has gone totally blind and has become quite a special needs cat. He yowls and yowls because he can’t see me, and wants to know where I am. Oh, what would we do/be without these precious angels in fur bodies in our lives!!! Beginnings and middles and ends, what a blessed experience.

    Prayers to you in your healing!
    Joanie

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    trish Reply:

    @Joanie, You expressed beautifully what our bonds are with our animal companions! Best of luck with you and Boomer! It sounds like he’s been with you quite a long time! Hugs! -Trish

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  12. Wendy says:

    Thinking of you and asking Casper and Arabella to say cat’s prayers for you and Siwa. Beautiful drawings and beautiful writing as well.

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  13. Lyn says:

    I shouldn’t have looked…..so sad to loose a furry friend! I’ve spent a life with horses, now we are all old. Have lost many big friends in the last few years, 10 over 25 sure to happen again. Greener pastures for all

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    trish Reply:

    @Lyn, A belated thank you! It is tough to lose our animal companions but like you, I wouldn’t want to know what life would be like without them. Best wishes to you and your big friends! Yes, greener pastures for all! Hugs! -Trish

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  14. Louise says:

    Trish,
    Your post is such a touching tribute to Siwa. I can see that you have so many happy memories of your years together, and I hope that after the initial pain, you are able to celebrate the good times. That little movie about going for a walk had me smiling despite the unhappy circumstance of the post. It is so clear that you gave Siwa a truly happy life. I’m sorry she has passed, and I wish you all the best in feeling better soon.
    love, Louise

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  15. Eric F. says:

    Look how many people were profoundly affected by your writings! It took me several days to read this page, I couldn’t do it all at once. As you know all too well, Jenny and I went through the loss of our dog, a very painful experience.

    It’s very clear to me that you gave Siwa all the days & hours that were best for her to live, and that no further hours would have been fruitful. I hope you become at ease with that decision.

    Thank you for creating this page.

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  16. Theresa says:

    What a beautiful homage to Siwa. The Buddhist chant (for which you had provided a link) left such an indelible impression on me. You have irrevocable wisdom — it’s what made you draw as a way of being present during such a charged time, and it’s what made you create this entry that is so full of heart and light. Thank you for giving us this space of expansion. By allowing yourself to openly express your heart, we are receiving an authentic experience of being alive. Much love and gratefulness, Theresa

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  17. Anne says:

    Thank you so much for making this blog post. What a beautiful, hard, journey you and your dog took together. She is forever grateful to have had you, I am sure.
    Thank you for sharing

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  18. MJ says:

    My dog, Katy was laid to sleep just this Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. It was nice of our vet to accommodate the time on the weekend.

    Thank you for your blog since it brings much relief to me during this grieving times. Your sketches are beautiful and your story is such a great comfort. The best part is, as I read through your last blog, it turned out that your dog looks exactly like my dog, Katy. The video was perfect. My Katy got so excited about walking and we also teased her as you just did in the video. Katy joined our family April 2001. We loved her every bit of her 13 years of life with our families, friends, neighbors. We also took her in a lot of our camping, hiking, and even community events and services. Her last community service was Saturday, Sept. 21, 2014 as a traffic controller on a 5K run in our town. She enjoyed the company of the young scouts. Each day after her passing away, I meditate by her grave where a nice big yellow mum was planted. I also give so much credit to my strong son and wonderful husband especially during Katy’s last day. We love Katy so much!

    Thank You for sharing your story! Thanks so much.

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  19. Wanda says:

    Don’t know which is worse, reliving the passing of your friend or my Border Collie three years ago. I think my husband and myself had so many doubts about the right time to have her put to sleep. Even to the point where we made the appointment and cancelled it at the last minute. Just one or two more days is all we asked but it did not turn out that way. We also went to our vet and he came out and put Liddy to sleep in the back seat of our car with her head in my lap. Again while my husband stood outside with tears pouring down his cheeks. Liddy also loved to go bye bye in the car with her head sticking out of the window with ears a flyin. Liddy was his dog through and through but I took it as hard as he did. I will copy the Buddhist pray and keep it handy as I know I may face the passing of my Chihuahua someday too. Having animals is really hard but so rewarding.

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