Run Free, Dallas

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. ~Roger Caras, American wildlife photographer and writer

From my last post, you know that my beloved Sheltie Dallas was escorted to the Rainbow Bridge on Monday afternoon.

What you can’t know is how much I miss him.

Me and Dallas on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020

Part 1:

Back in April 2019, Dallas was diagnosed with early-stage kidney disease.

We tried him on the kidney diet food, designed to nudge his kidneys back into service and prolong life, but he refused to eat it.

We transitioned him back to the food he’d done so well on, and things looked good.

Until they didn’t.

Sometime after Domer returned to the Windy City following Christmas holidays, Dallas took a turn for the worse.

He distanced himself from the family, staying outside in all kinds of weather for long stretches. He grew disinterested in playing ball or riding in the car. He suffered more bouts of diarrhea and developed an aversion to dog food.

I blamed it on his being hard of hearing. On being a senior pup. On being bored with me spending so much time writing. On his becoming a finicky eater.

But my beautiful boy, who’d always been a chow-hound, kept losing weight. He’d lost one-fourth of his body mass, and his entire back end felt bony to the touch.

I tried walking him on the treadmill to build up muscle mass, but it didn’t work. We started feeding him “people food” to stimulate his appetite.

I reluctantly let him stay outside, hoping the fresh air, sunshine, and long naps would bring health back. And I re-doubled our cuddle time, morning and evening, certain that things were changing for the worse.

When you’re as close to a dog as I’ve been to Dallas for 13 years, you know when things aren’t right.

On Saturday, he was refusing food altogether. I took him to the vet, and they gave him an appetite encourager, which seemed to work. He ate lunch and dinner both Saturday and Sunday.

But Sunday night was rough. He splatted on the floor and couldn’t get his back legs working. I picked him up, told him it was okay, and took him to bed.

He was restless all night, flopping around and unable to get comfy. Eventually, he woke me early to go outside. Twenty minutes later, I got him back in.

Then he stopped drinking water.

Part 2:

I reconsidered my decision not to test his kidney function and had the vet run it on Monday.

By noon they called back to let me know his levels were way worse.

They could infuse him with liquids (a two-day stay in the hospital that might, or might not, accomplish anything).

Or we could put him down.

He wasn’t going to miraculously heal on his own. This we knew.

Now, I’d discussed euthanasia with the vet before. How I value quality of life over quantity. How I didn’t want to keep Dallas here just for me. How I’d rather put him down a day too soon than a week too late.

It’s time, we agreed.

With heavy hearts, Dallas and I returned for the procedure.

We were escorted to the “Comfort Room” — quiet, windowless, with an immense puffy sofa.

I sat down and pulled my perfect angel onto the sofa with me, laying his head in my lap. Crying all the while, I talked to him and stroked his beautiful fur.

The vet explained the two-step procedure: one injection to relax his muscles and make him sleepy, and the next injection to stop the heart.

After discussing the after-arrangements (cremation), the vet gave Dallas the first injection and left us alone for a while.

We cuddled. I cried. I reminded Dallas of happier times — so many wonderful memories! I told him he’d been the best dog in all the world and I loved him with all my heart.

I assured him the end wouldn’t hurt. And I urged him to run free. To find all the pups and people he’d known and loved during his lifetime.

And to wait for me.

When the vet returned with the second injection, I asked her if it was too late to change my mind. She assured me I’d made the best decision for Dallas, that he was dehydrated and ready to go.

Within seconds after receiving the second injection, Dallas quit breathing.

“He’s gone,” the vet whispered, tears in her eyes, too.

The end came too soon, as endings often do.

We were allowed to sit together for as long as I wanted (more tears, more Kleenex, more comforting and encouraging words), and eventually, I let them know they could take him away.

Life goes on, and my tears continue to fall. I feel like someone ripped my heart right out of my chest. This pain will last a long time. Thank you for reading this and being friends to me and Dallas.

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death. ~Leonardo da Vinci

24 thoughts on “Run Free, Dallas

  1. Oh Debbie. Such heartache. It helps me to read about the process, so I’ll be less afraid when it’s our time, but oh my heart breaks for you. Somehow I didn’t see this coming even though you told us about his kidney issues. I’m so so sorry. There will never be another Dallas. Hugs.

    • Thanks, Dawn, but let’s not borrow trouble. The Princess will be here for a long time, happy and healthy! I started seeing signs back in the spring, after he was diagnosed. Everything just started changing, and not for the better. They kind of let you know, though, when they’ve had enough — even though they obviously don’t want to leave you. You’re right — Dallas was one-of-a-kind, and I do miss him.

  2. That’s exactly the process I went through with Dixie Rose, although it happened for us much more quickly, as she was in such obvious distress after suffering what we’re sure must have been a ruptured aneurysm. Believe me, I know what it was like to go through that experience, and your account has brought it all back for me, too. It takes a good bit of strength to put our pets’ well-being ahead of our wishes, but you did the right thing. That doesn’t mean it’s any less painful, but I’m sure Dallas was grateful that you were able to summon the strength to end his suffering.

    • Oh, Linda, I’m so sorry to bring back Dixie Rose’s passing — I wouldn’t hurt one of my friends for the world! Dallas’s vet assured me several times that this was the right option at the right time. Could we have prolonged his life a bit? Certainly, but at what cost? Being a pet owner generally means we’ll outlive our fur-kids, so we have to step up to the plate and make the hard decisions for them when they can’t do so themselves. I’ve had to have other pets put down, but this is the first time I’ve stayed for the entire procedure … and I’ll be forever glad I did. I didn’t want Dallas doing this alone.

  3. Oh, Debbie , I am so very sorry for your deep loss. You were a wonderful doggy mama and Dallas had a good life. Our furry friends are like family and it is devastating to lose them. You will be in my thoughts and prayers, dear friend.

    • Thanks so much, Kathy. It’s been an excruciating week — tears upon tears. I’m blessed at being healthy without a respiratory illness right now, so I can blow and blow without worry over sending everything into my sinuses! Your prayers are much appreciated at this time. I’m hanging on to the mental picture of Dallas at the Rainbow Bridge, happy and healthy, meeting up with friends he knew along the way.

      • It’s so heartbreaking. I had to put a dog, Rosie and a cat Muffin down and I remember the heartache and tears. Just keep visualizing that Rainbow Bridge💞🙏🏻🐕‍🦺

        • We’ve been taught that everything and everyone we love here will be in heaven. I’m counting on that, Kathy! I know you know how hard it is to lose them, but we had 13 good years (well, except for the last couple of months), and that’s a huge blessing.

  4. Debbie, I can’t thank you enough for sharing this with us because I know how difficult it must have been to write. I’m sitting here crying my eyes out because, well, I think you know how much I loved Dallas.

    “I feel like someone ripped my heart right out of my chest. This pain will last a long time.”

    Please know that I understand, dear friend. I do.

    (((((((( YOU ))))))))

    X to you and Domer

    P.S. This post was so beautifully expressed.

    • Ron, I know you’ve loved and lost pets, too, so you can empathize with how much I miss Dallas. The Domer keeps trying to tempt me with getting another dog — maybe one day, but not immediately. My feelings are just too raw right now.

      This was a tough post to write, and I realize not everyone will (or can) read it. I probably went into more detail than was entirely necessary, but I wanted to have a record of the experience. And perhaps, since the Internet seems to keep things forever, somebody some day can get some comfort and hope if they have to go through a similar experience.

      Thanks again for your sympathy, my friend — it’s much appreciated! xo

  5. Your duty as Dallas’ mom was done to perfection, Debbie. The procedure is heart-wrenching for us but provides a blessed release for our loved ones. I can’t express my sadness that you needed to face this pain. The fact is our pets give everything they have to us and this one time we must give everything we have to them even if it breaks our heart. I’m sure Dallas knows how much you loved him. Peace be unto you.

    • Thanks so much, John, both for reading this and for your encouraging words. As a Catholic, I know people (with souls) are way different from pets, but there’s a part of me that wonders why we can’t be as kind to fellow humans (especially those battling cancer and other painful, terminal diseases) as we are to our pets. Shocking, huh?! But this was such a peaceful experience, and I was gratified that he didn’t suffer. I feel certain he was glad I stayed with him the entire time, and he knew how much he was loved. It’s comforting to believe we’ll see each other again one day.

  6. Oh Debbie, such a hard decision for you to have to make but it’s the last kind thing we can do for our beloved animals. It will get easier in time, and you’ll be able to remember dear Dallas with pleasure rather than grief. Take care of yourself.

    • “The last kind thing we can do for them.” Yes, that’s so true. That’s the contract we make with them when we take them into our homes … and hearts. I’m counting on time — and the recall of happy memories — to replace the sorrow I feel now. In the meantime, I’m trying to baby myself by eating right, exercising, sleeping right, and trying to not worry. Of course, this coronovirus-thingy doesn’t help, does it?? Hand-washing. LOTS of hand-washing!

  7. Oh Debbie what heartbreak, what profound loss, what powerful words. Anyone who has loved a pet can relate to this post. I still remember the emptiness I felt as an adult when my childhood dog, Skippy, passed away. No words can ease the pain, but i hope that you find small comfort knowing I am wrapping you in spiritual hugs from Switzerland.

    • Thanks very much, Pat. Some believe getting a new pup right away is the answer, but I’ve got to wait a bit. Just nothing left to give a new pup right now, and they require lots of love and attention.

  8. I felt your loss so profoundly. Shelties are a gift from God. I like to think that mine are waiting for me to join them. I miss them still. Your writing brought back those feelings of love and loss, and hope.
    Thank You!

    • Thanks so much for reading it and letting me know you enjoyed it. I’m sorry you, too, had to live through the loss of a special dog, but I like to think of mine as living on in heaven.

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