Our dog Charlie died today at age 17. My wife got him as a puppy, I entered the picture when he was 9, and our daughter has known him for 4 years.
He fell asleep in my wife’s arms while I was on the way home, and she passed him to me to hold when I got back to the house. He died in my arms with his family around him, and he was hugged and loved right up until we buried him.
I stayed up with him all night last night; he was miserable. I wanted my wife to get enough rest to make the hard decision we expected to make today. This is the first time I’ve known that a pet’s death could be a mercy, the first time any of us have been present for the death of a pet larger than a hamster, a member of the family, the first time we’ve dug a grave (I suspect I did a poor job, but I thought I’d have more time). I’m proud of my wife and daughter.
My thoughts are pretty jumbled. I keep coming back to this being a strange day of firsts, to my daughter’s full-throated grief (no one does grief like a preschooler, I now know), and to how glad I am that Charlie went the way he did. He was a fantastic dog, weird and neurotic, afraid of sneezes and vacuum cleaners and thunder, but above all a good dog.
The picture below is from 2007, though Charlie looked much the same — a bit more haggard, a lot greyer — up until this past Sunday.
In the minutes before he died, Charlie was asleep and clearly dreaming: His back legs were twitching, which for him always means a running dream. He had a good run, and he got to go out warm, loved, enveloped by his family, and chasing squirrels in his dreams.
I’m not entirely sure why I wanted to share this here, but here I am nonetheless. (This was originally a post on Google+, with this coda: If you’re not sure what to do with this post, share a story of a beloved pet, a meditation on death and family, or a plus-one for a dog who died well.)