Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Saying Goodbye

Goodbyes are hard.  So very hard.

Today we had to say goodbye to our sweet spirited Lily girl.  I know, I know...

...facebook and social media is filled with posts from family and friends saying goodbyes to their furry family members.

But I didn't feel this was right for Lily.  I stammered all day between keeping our day private or sharing it with the world.  So maybe a blog post is better - or even best.

My blog posts don't get nearly the attention or likes, views, WHATEVER that a facebook post does - so maybe I can get my thoughts out and also not share it with oh so many people - you know...the WORLD.

Lily was a special dog.  She belonged to my Mom, and my Mom passed in February of this year.  My Mom had Parkinson's, and when she got to a point in her life when she had to leave her home and move into an Assisted Living Home, she asked us to take good care of Lily.

We did.

If you know anything about myself, my kids, or my family, you know one thing - we rescue any and all animals.  (At present [and we are low "inventory" right now], we have two rescue dogs, one rescue kitty, one rescue red-eared slider turtle, and one rescued Conure.)  So taking Lily into our family was a no brainer.  At the time, we probably had five or six cats (all rescues) and two rescued Golden Retrievers.

Lily came to live with us in 2012, and she quickly settled into her new surroundings and routines.  We discovered she loved walks (Mom was never able to take her walking or hiking), chasing squirrels, and being within eyeshot of her pack.

As the years progressed and dogs and cats came and went, our pack shifted to the most recent combination of two American Staffordshire mixed-breed dogs and Lily.  Lily quickly rose to Alpha dog.  It was amazing to watch how this one 50-pound terrier mix ruled the roost over two large pitty-breed dogs.  She spoke, stood her territory, and they did what she said (or DIDN'T do what she said not to do).

She was a gentle spirit, and although we all say that our passing dog was unlike any other - she really was.

She was not the prettiest show dog at the pound 14 years ago, but when my Mom saw her in a dog shelter in Pensacola, FL, she immediately chose her.  Lily was an odd combination of dog.  Definitely Terrier, and we aren't sure what else.

Her fur was rough like the terrier breeds; her ears were pointed and stood up all the time: she had whiskers and eyebrows for days (the groomers always wanted to lay hands on her...); her legs were tall, thin, and nimble; and eyes were as black as coal.

She was always passed over at the shelter as people came and went to choose a new family member.  When she finally found her forever home, people asked my Mom constantly, "Why did you pick HER?"  My Mom's answer was always the same, "Because I knew no one else would, and I think she's pretty and I love her."

As my Mom moved from Georgia to Florida to Alabama to live with my brother for a while, Lily grew up into a dog with an attachment to her pack.  She was incredibly fast in her young years, and my brother chased her all over the yard trying to catch her as she darted back and forth out of his grip.

When Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, Lily proved to be Mom's helpmate in ways we could never imagine.  When Mom needed a reason to get up in the morning, Lily was there waiting for her.  When Mom couldn't stand up from the couch or chair by herself anymore, Lily placed herself horizontally in front of Mom's knees at the couch, so that Mom could brace herself on Lily, putting her hands on Lily's back to steady herself and stand up.  Lily never faltered or moved an inch.

When Mom could no longer take Lily outside to potty and we tried to do it for her, Lily refused to leave my Mother.  No tugging on a leash or coaxing with treats would do.  She could hold her bladder for a day if necessary waiting to a time when Mom could muster her strength to take Lily outside to relieve herself.  

I always admired that about Lily.  How she knew who needed her most.

...and that is why when last Friday rolled around, I knew we had to repay her for all the years of service and devotion she gave US.

Last Friday, Lily had what we believe was a stroke.  Lily must have been 14 by now (we never really knew her age), and she had been getting those lumps old dogs get, her rib cage had become expanded and slightly distorted, and she obviously had arthritis in those nimble back legs of hers.

When I saw her on her blanket in front of the TV, I immediately recognized distress.  Her eyes were rolled back in her head, and she was in another world.  My heart sank.  This was the beginning of the end.  She didn't seem to hear my words of comfort or know I was there.  

I looked at my 22-year old son and said, "Tony, I think you need to say your goodbyes to Lily.  I don't think she will make it through the night."  I said my goodbyes, settled her in, and went to bed.

Saturday morning, we woke up expecting to find her passed in the night, but there she was.  Sitting up - eyes wide-eyed and looking at us like, "Where have you been and why am I here instead of with you?"  I thought I had just witnessed some type of miracle.

This old girl had always been tough.  Let's not forget she ran the roost in our home - keeping two bully breeds in line.  She had come through whatever spell she had Friday night.

...and then my heart broke.  As she tried to stand, I realized that she couldn't.  Those nimble back legs of her no longer worked.  Her tail no longer wagged.  She wimpered and looked at me with those coal black eyes.  My heart sunk.

It was Labor Day weekend, and I knew all the vet offices were closed.  I knew the next few days would be both labor intensive with her as well as comforting, loving, and special.  

We carried her everywhere - from room to room (she could not STAND it if we were out of eyeshot and cried loudly until we were in her line of sight again) to outside to relieve herself.  She refused to eat; she would only drink water and eat small treats we had.  Our hearts continued to sink.  It was time to make decisions.

I refused to think about it.  Should I get her one of those doggie carts for paralyzed dogs?  Should I hand feed her?  Should I carry her outside?  What should I do?

It wasn't fair to let her live this way.  She was miserable. She was tired.  And she had been so good to us.  She deserved more.  Family members told me it was time.  She was a shelter dog that had gotten lucky and lived an amazingly good life.  I needed to let her go.

But letting her go also meant losing the one last, living part of my Mom.  How could I do that?

I prayed a small prayer Monday night and when I woke up on Tuesday morning, I knew I couldn't leave her.  She was too frail and too dependent upon her pack for comfort.  I texted work and told them what had happened.  They told me to take the day off and tend to Lily.

I called the vet.  The appt.was set for 11:30.  The hours seems to drag by waiting for that appt. time to come...but it came and my son and I carried Lily gingerly to the car and drove to our vet.

I want to take a moment here and brag on our vet.  She was amazing.  I've been taking my little pack to The Pet Vet in Cumming, Georgia, since I moved her.  Many vets have come and gone through this practice, but most recently, we have been seeing Dr. Voci.

thumbnail_Pic - Monica Voci, DVM 2016Dr. Voci came in and began petting and talking softly to Lily.  She asked me all the usual questions, and then we both determined that, yes.  It was time.  Lily was too old for poking and proding, x-rays, and medical tests.  She was dehydrated and depressed, and as Dr. Voci examined Lily, she started to tear up and cry.
To this day and through all my pets, I've never had a vet cry over MY pet.  Dr. Voci looked up and said, "I'm so sorry," and wiped her tears away.  I wiped mine away and said, "It's okay; I understand.  It doesn't matter how many times we go through this, it's still hard."  Dr. Voci explained the procedure, although we all knew how it worked, and administered the anesthesia.  She gave her goodbyes to Lily and said she'd be back in ten minutes.

Those ten minutes were terribly hard - as they always are.  I have a strict rule.  I want MYSELF to be the last thing on earth my pet sees.  I want them to be with family and not with strangers - people they don't recognize or know - when they go to sleep, and I want them to know I am there for THEM like they have always been for ME.

I said my goodbyes.  My son said his goodbyes.  And when Dr. Voci returned to administer the second needle, she told us (like they always do), "She will take 2 or 3 deep breaths, and then she will pass.  It will be painless and she will never know."

She started the needle.  One tiny plunge and Lily took a deep breath and then a second one.  And then nothing.  Dr. Voci finished the medication and listened for Lily's heartbeat.  The room was so still and silent.  I tried not to make those awful crying sounds you make when you just want to BLUBBER outloud and fill up your tissue but it was HARD.  She was gone.

Our beautiful Lily - at last at peace and back where she should be - with my Mother in Heaven (yes, I do believe animals go to Heaven).  Dr. Voci smiled at us, told us she was so sorry again, and then gingerly leaned down to Lily and whispered in her ear, "You were tired, weren't you old girl?  You were gone before I even got my needle into you."  She stroked that rough fur a few more times and then said, "She was so tired.  She wanted to go.  She went SO quickly, before I could even finish administering the medicine.  She was ready.  You made the right decision."

God is good.  There is so much more to this story and today, but for now, my story is out.  Lily's story is out.  She WAS a good old gal.  I will miss those high-pitched barks at every little noise, and yes, I will miss yelling at her in the middle of the night to stop doing whatever it was she was doing and, "Go to sleep!"

All dogs are special, but Lily was one of a kind.  I will never forget the service, the love, and the devotion she gave my Mom as if to thank her for picking her from a shelter in Pensacola, Florida -- all because she knew no one else would and because she loved her.

God has a special place for dogs in Heaven and for those that rescue and love them.  May I pass on the traits of loving animals and animal rescue to my children that my Mother so preciously passed on to me.  We love you Lily.  I hope you are healthy and whole now and running freely with Mom.  She's been waiting on you...

Godspeed little Lily!


  1. Oh Debbie, what a Beautiful story about Lily! Reading the part about her letting your mom lean on her so she could stand....oh my heart!! Your mom did do a wonderful thing in adopting Lily and you in turn kept her for your mom. I'm glad she provided so many years of love for your family. I TOO believe that dogs go to Heaven!! They are a gift from God indeed. Rest peacefully tonight my friend. You helped Lily reach her final resting place and her rest was well deserved. Praying for you!! It's always hard. ❤️

    1. Awww, thank you Susan! I just had to get all my feelings out! No matter how many times you go through it, it's always the same. Love is love...

  2. Now I’m blubbering! so sweet. ❤️

    1. Me too! Losing a furry family member is tough, but we are so lucky that we get to have them in our lives for a while! What an honor we have been given by God to name them and care for them!

  3. Lily raced over the Rainbow bridge into the waiting arms of your Mom.....now they walk together, pain free.....thank you for sharing.....you did that very well

    1. Yes! Mom finally has all her pets with her. Lily was the last to join her. Thinking about you and loving you! I hear we are going traveling now! :D

      Let's set up a family cruise!

  4. Your beautiful, tender heartfelt words evoke such strong emotions that were forgotten about ....thank you for bringing back the memories of our innocent, faithful companions!

  5. This is a great post thanks for writing it