Saying Goodbye

17 Jun

Even when we know it’s coming, death catches us unprepared.


Quince had been doing pretty well, all things considered. A little slower in the step, to be sure. But still,  jumping up on the bed to greet us in the mornings. Standing sentinel at the door in case he was needed for a trip to Sonic.

Then one night, he kept coughing while trying to eat, and walked away from a full bowl. For a corgi, that’s serious.

We switched to soft food, but the cancer had spread, keeping him from controlling his jaw. He bit his tongue, and it lolled out like a prize fighter who had been one too many rounds. Still, he would bob his head up and down with that tongue out, trying to offer broken kisses as best he could.

We knew, hearts broken, that it was time to let go. I made a final vet appointment, and the night before, as he shuddered to breathe, my daughter and I sat with him until early in the morning, both crying and petting him. And she, in the wisdom only a child can have, prayed, “God, it’s OK. I just don’t want him to hurt anymore.”

She told Quince, too.

“You can go. We’ll miss you so much, but it’s OK for you to go.”

Between sobs, we talked about whether or not there would be dogs in heaven, and I told her “yes, I thought so.”

And, as I often am for so many reasons, I was grateful that I have spent a decade of Sunday mornings listening to Max Lucado preach. Because Max believes there will be pets in heaven, too. And although it is hardly the most pressing theological issue of our time, early Monday morning as I cried with my girl, it was the most important one in the room.

Quince settled in and slept that morning, and eventually, so did we.

When it came time for his appointment later that day, my husband  and I met at the vet’s office, barely holding back tears until we got to the exam room.

Our vet, Dr. Kyle Crowley, was gentle and reassuring.  He joined us in petting our brave little general, and told us what we needed to hear, that this excruciating choice was the bravest and kindest we had. That cancer was killing him, we were sparing him pain. We stroked Quince gently while Dr. Crowley gave him those final shots, and we told him what a good dog he was over and over until we knew his heart was not beating.

And then, I told him a few more times. Because he was such a good dog.

We stayed for a while, and then, the vet came back in and told us to take all the time we needed. We gathered up his collar and leash and turned to go. But Dr. Crowley stayed, and he kept petting Quince so that we would not have to walk out of the room and leave him alone.

I will tell him, when I trust my tears to let me talk, how that small kindness was a balm to my bruised heart. That sometimes the simplest moments of compassion mean more than we can imagine.

But because I can write and cry at the same time, I will tell you the same now. Your comments and emails have been a reminder of all that is sweet in this world, a reminder that has made the bitterness of loss easier to swallow. Thank you for that.

37 Responses to “Saying Goodbye”

  1. Judy June 17, 2009 at 6:29 pm #

    So sad. I am so sorry for you and that you all had to go through it. One of the hardest things to ever have to do…

  2. MrsMessiness June 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm #

    Ack. This loss for you breaks my heart.

    I agree though – of course there are dogs in heaven – it just makes sense. Hugs and prayers to you and your family.

  3. Deb June 17, 2009 at 6:33 pm #

    I’m so sorry, but I’m glad he is not in pain anymore. You will be missed but now that you are not in pain go and play now Quince.

  4. princessjenn June 17, 2009 at 6:50 pm #

    I’m so sorry you lost such a good friend.
    You can tell your daughter that Quince will be watching over her and is sitting at the Rainbow Bridge.

  5. Juanita June 17, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

    D, I’m so sad for your family’s loss. He was a great puppy, glad he had such a great family in his short life. Give M a big hug from me…she’s such a brave girl for letting him go like that.

  6. Toni June 17, 2009 at 7:15 pm #

    Awe Dawn… I’m so sorry for your loss. Your daughter was so strong and brave during this time. Just like you.

  7. Elle June 17, 2009 at 7:23 pm #

    I’m so sorry, Dawn. Quince was the best dog, and he’ll always be in your hearts. I wish I could be there to give you a hug, and M, too. All of you, really. Pets so quickly become a part of the family, and it’s so hard to let them go. He needed you to tell him it was ok to go. He’ll be there for you, I know it.

  8. kellypea June 17, 2009 at 7:25 pm #

    Oh my goodness. My heart’s just breaking for you all right now. Such a sweet pet, and so many of our own too fresh memories past loss. Such a wise daughter you have making such a difficult decision. I see that someone else has shared Rainbow bridge with you…and yes, I’m convinced there are pets in Heaven.

  9. Denise June 17, 2009 at 7:37 pm #

    I wish I hadn’t read that, but at the same time, you inspire me. You know what I’m going through right now. I’ll try to do better, try to understand that he can’t “hold it” and that it’s just carpet and that can be replaced. I’m so sorry for your loss, I love you and am thinking of you.

  10. amyvig June 17, 2009 at 7:48 pm #

    I am so sorry for your loss. Your lovely tribute to your dog made me think about all of the beautiful times that we sometimes take for granted. And how quickly all of that can seem to pass. What a lucky family to have had such a wonderful dog for so long (and vice versa)

  11. RJ Flamingo June 17, 2009 at 8:08 pm #

    I’m finding it really hard to write and cry at the same time, but having been through this myself, not all that long ago (and no, I’m not talking about my MIL!), I know how hard it is to say goodbye to a loved member of the family. Quince will always be with you – in photos, stories, and mostly in your hearts. {{Hugs!}}

  12. Bridget June 17, 2009 at 8:36 pm #

    I was out of town and just found out about Quince. Hugs and prayers for you all.

  13. Katwmn June 17, 2009 at 10:04 pm #

    That was a beautiful tribute to a great wee-beastie. My thoughts are with you and your family. It really does help to write about it – have your daughter write about Quince and draw pictures. It gives closure and makes you laugh through the tears. I’m glad you have such a kind, compassionate veterinarian.

  14. Molli June 17, 2009 at 10:09 pm #

    Oh Dawn, my heart just broke reading that. Having been there myself, I know just how you feel (though I have not had to do that while having children yet, and I know that must add a different dimension to the sadness.) Thinking about you all and love you very much.

  15. Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer June 17, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

    I am so sorry that you are going through this. I was heartbroken when my Angel, Tess passed away as she was part of the family (and after my divorce she was my rock) and they become such a huge part of our lives. They offer so much to us and are the best companions. It took me a long time to open my heart to another dog but I finally did – Her name is Lexi and she is my white lab puppy and she is amazing – she has made my heart smile again.

    Quince was so blessed to have you as his family!

  16. Ron Galvan June 17, 2009 at 10:16 pm #

    So Sorry for your loss. My sincere condolences.Quincie will never leave you , but will continue in the memories of his devotion and love for you.

  17. Icy Blue June 17, 2009 at 10:55 pm #

    I can’t find words, so I offer my sympathies to you in the form of tears and cheers. To Quince! and I sip my 7up with a heavy heart. Wishing you comfort.

  18. Regina June 18, 2009 at 5:02 am #

    I’m so so sorry my sweet friend. I know he is running and playing with all our babies waiting for us. My Eddie is now pain free and young, showing him where they keep the best food and the best toys.

  19. Jen June 18, 2009 at 5:22 am #

    My heart is breaking for you all. It is the hardest thing to let a pet go. M is wise beyond her years. Knowing how hard that is to do. It brought back so many memories of us having to make that choice to let our dog go.
    You are all in my thoughts and prayers. ((((HUGS ))))Love you!

  20. dawn June 18, 2009 at 7:20 am #

    I’m sorry honey. I know how hard that is to say goodbye. I have to give you credit though, I was not brave enough to sit in the room with my pet while she was being put to sleep, it was way too painful for me. I guess I didn’t want to see my cat go “that” way, rather wanted to remember her in motion/happy/moving around with me.
    My heart truly goes out to you and your family.

  21. RuthWells June 18, 2009 at 8:18 am #

    I’m so, so sorry. You did the kindest thing.

  22. Stephany June 18, 2009 at 11:52 am #

    So very sorry for your loss… I’m shedding tears reading your beautiful and moving words. Thinking of your whole family during this difficult time.

  23. Aunt Becky June 18, 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    I’m so, so sorry for your loss.

  24. Sean June 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm #


    We put down our Sheba a year ago. She was a mix mutt that chased us home while we were walking Fourth of July weekend, 1994. She was 14 and her hips were so cracked and chipped, she could barely walk.
    We had a great vet too at the Henderson Pass Animal Hospital. We even had her cremated and she is in a wooden box on our 10-year-old’s bedside table.
    Your column brought tears to my eyes as well as I remembered sitting with my wife and daughter. Our oldest did not want to come with us and I think she has regretted it ever since.
    Hopefully Quince and Sheba have gotten together and Sheba is showing him the best spots where the heavenly rabbits and squirrels jump right into your jaws.

  25. Ericka June 18, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    Oh boy, I don’t know what else to say but that I am truly sad for you. I lost my beloved Tasha the same exact way last July. I really admire your vet, I wish mine would have stayed with her, that was the hardest thing I have ever done was to leave her in that room by herself. I’m sitting at work, tears streaming down my face, feeling bad for you, your kids and a little for me too.
    Hang in there

  26. Foodycat June 18, 2009 at 2:33 pm #

    I am so sorry for your loss. I read this story once – I hope it helps you.

    An old man and his dog were walking down this dirt road with fences on both sides, they came to a gate in the fence and looked in, it was nice grassy, woody areas, just what a ‘hunting’ dog and man would like, but, it had a sign saying ‘no trespassing’ so they walked on. They came to a beautiful gate with a person in white robes standing there. “Welcome to Heaven” he said. The old man was happy and started in with his dog following him. The gatekeeper stopped him. “Dogs aren’t allowed, I’m sorry but he can’t come with you.”

    “What kind of Heaven won’t allow dogs? If he can’t come in, then I will stay out with him. He’s been my faithful companion all his life, I can’t desert him now.”

    “Suit yourself, but I have to warn you, the Devil’s on this road and he’ll try to sweet talk you into his area, he’ll promise you anything, but the dog can’t go there either. If you won’t leave the dog, you’ll spend Eternity on this road.”
    So the old man and dog went on. They came to a rundown fence with a gap in it, no gate, just a hole. Another old man was inside. Excuse me Sir, my dog and I are getting mighty tired, mind if we come in and sit in the shade for awhile?”

    “Of course, there’s some cold water under that tree over there. Make yourselves comfortable”

    “You’re sure my dog can come in? The man down the road said dogs weren’t allowed anywhere.”

    “Would you come in if you had to leave the dog?”

    “No sir, that’s why I didn’t go to Heaven, he said the dog couldn’t come in. We’ll be spending Eternity on this road, and a glass of cold water and some shade would be mighty fine right about now. But, I won’t come in if my buddy here can’t come too, and that’s final.”

    The man smiled a big smile and said “Welcome to Heaven.”

    “You mean this is Heaven? Dogs ARE allowed? How come that fellow down the road said they weren’t?”

    “That was the Devil and he gets all the people who are willing to give up a life long companion for a comfortable place to stay. They soon find out their mistake, but then it’s too late. The dogs come here, the fickle people stay there. GOD wouldn’t allow dogs to be banned from Heaven. After all, HE created them to be man’s companions in life, why would he separate them in death?”

  27. Tami Lyn June 19, 2009 at 12:16 am #

    I’ll admit I cried when I read this. It took me back 4 years ago when our cat got sick and my youngest daughter and I had the same conversation about seeing Wally again in heaven. I do believe we will-it will be a full house for us then, with 3 dogs, a cat and 7 fish! While your heart will heal, there will that little space always reserved for Quince. It will get easier down the road.

  28. Cassie June 19, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    I knew better than to read this at work. I’m trying not to sob in my cubicle. Know that you and your family are in my thoughts. *hugs*

  29. Colleen June 19, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    Dawn, I am so very sorry. My heart breaks for you and your family. Bless little Quince and his doggie friends in heaven.

  30. Pepi June 19, 2009 at 1:35 pm #

    I have been a lurker for some time now and love your site. You always make me laugh. I just wanted to say how sorry i am for your loss. It is the hardest thing to do, they become such a Huge part of your family and daily life. Quince sounded like a wonderful family member and your daughters wisdom of letting him know it was ok to go is a great gift for him, I think sometimes they need to here this and know you will be ok. If only we humans were so lucky.I know all my animal ‘s will be there in heaven waiting for me. It’s gonna be quite the crowd!

  31. Christina June 20, 2009 at 8:34 pm #

    I just read this post and am in tears. I’m sorry for you guys and I hope the kids are doing okay. Know my heart hurts a bit for you.
    We put down our Molly a few years ago and the entire family still misses her. I’m so saddened by those that never let an animal into their hearts. Such a waste of a life.

  32. LizzieB June 27, 2009 at 1:10 pm #

    I am just catching up and read this. My heart ached knowing how hard it is to let go, but I had to smile as I cried, because this story is a gift from you and Quince to all of us who are owned by pets and know from the moment we start loving them, that death will always catch us unprepared, but that the joy and love we share with them is worth the tears. Hugs to all of you, dear friend.

  33. Jill June 29, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

    An old man, John, died, and went through a brilliant portal of light. He found himself standing with his old, beloved dog, Kip, outside a glorious golden gate. After many moments of joyful greetings and doggie kisses, the old man looked up. A man stood outside the gate, guarding it.

    “Welcome,” the man said. “You may enter, but you cannot bring your dog.”

    John thought long and hard about this, and then gazed down at Kip. “What do you think, old buddy?” he whispered. He then straightened up and said, “No sir, I’m not going anywhere my dog can’t be,” and started to walk away from the gate, Kip following eagerly beside him.

    After what seemed like hours of walking, John and Kip found another gate, this one a simple rustic affair of unfinished boards, ivy curling over it. Another man stood beside the gate, not so much guarding as waiting for guests. John cleared his throat. “Mister, I ain’t going to come in unless my dog can too.”

    “Of course,” said the gate-man. “All are welcome here. The other gate isn’t Heaven, for who would let into Heaven a man that would abandon his truest friend?”

  34. canarygirl June 30, 2009 at 2:11 am #

    Oh, sweetheart. I am so sorry. Much love to all of you. 😦 (hug)

  35. ingrid July 10, 2009 at 9:46 pm #

    Aw, I’m really sorry for your loss.

  36. charzy July 26, 2009 at 6:34 pm #

    I stumbled here an hour ago and have been chuckling to many a funny blog..then came heart broke i send my love to you and your family.

  37. Danielle March 18, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    I’m crying as I write this. I know I found this almost a year later, but your story touched my heart.

    I’ve got 3 pets (2 dogs, 1 cat), and love them like they are my own children.

    I think pets go to heaven too.

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