I tried to write this last night, but I couldn't. I was too soppy. Yesterday morning, on a day of chill, drizzling rain and clouds hanging low, we ended the life of our Great Dane, Isis. We all die. Knowing that doesn't make it easier to part though. Nor does it make the decision to end another's life easier.
For nearly five years, Isis has been the "big dog" in our lives, the sweet and goofy companion who has been at our heels (literally, as she never really grasped just how big she was) 24/7. She came to us after two horrific years at a puppy mill where she was starved, burned severely, and abused in ways we don't want to imagine. From the moment she leaped into our truck and refused to get out, she declared that she had been waiting for us and we had better take her home NOW, thank you very much! So we did.
She repaid us by being an inspiration: she lived forgiveness. Despite how she had been treated up until she was rescued, emaciated and near death, she was never mean or aggressive. She greeted everyone with affection; at play, she galloped exuberantly or spun "donuts" of joy.
When Isis pranced alongside me, her long legs pacing mine and her tail gently waving, people often stopped to tell me how beautiful she was. It was true: she looked like she was wearing a shiny black tuxedo jacket open to show off her snowy white chest and muzzle, the sleeves pulled up to reveal her white ankles and feet. Until she turned to show off her other side, with the puckered burn scars cris-crossing her body from nose to tail, the crooked spine and the shrunken shoulder. It was her gracious and goofy spirit that made her beautiful.
Last weekend, Isis collapsed several times. Each time, she heaved herself up, legs buckling, swaying as she stood, then careening into motion, now toward the wall, now toward the door. We guided her staggering progress the best we could, hauling her up, front end first, then back end. Even the short trip from our bedroom, where she slept each night, to the living room, where she reclined on her queen-sized dog bed during the day, became an adventure. Her age and the injuries of her years in the puppy mill had finally caught up with her. So we decided to let her go while she still had her dignity, and before the pain took away her love of life.
Yesterday morning we sat with Isis at the vet's as our Big Dog slipped from this life into whatever's next. She was gracious and trusting to the end. We all cried - even her vet. She was a big dog, and she leaves a big hole in our lives. We'll recover, and we won't forget her lesson: forgiveness trumps all.