More than one veterinarian will tell you that when they are called upon to euthanize an animal 90% of owners don’t want to be in the room during the process. They will tell you that the animal’s last moments are usually spent frantically looking around for their owners. Here is why you don’t want to be one of those people.

We have held many of 0ur babies in our arms when they pass away at home, comforting them and thanking them as they thanked us. We have stayed by their side and held them close when the vet eases their pain one last time. We stay until they are gone and then we stay a little longer. One thing you should know if you don’t know this already, just because a loved one’s heart has stopped doesn’t mean they are gone.

We often know what a pet is thinking by the look in their eyes but it is something altogether different when we hear them tell us. I mean really tell us. We all talk to our furkids and some testify that they hear their animals answer. [raising hand] There is more to communication than a passing conversation. In fact, it is rarely a passing conversation with an animal because idle chit chat is not one of their strong suits. They spend their time with important things like loving us and playing and eating and sleeping. True conversations with them are reserved for important things. I sometimes hear Hosie or Nimbus say, “I don’t feel good, Dad.” I will relay what I heard, Mom will come with their medication and then later, I hear a soft “Thank you.” Joy never questions me when I tell her what one of our animals has said. She knows that I know.

That very late night at the vet’s office when Ruger left, I distinctly heard him say, “Tell the others I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Tell them I had fun. Tell them to have fun.” I assured him, “I’ll tell them, I promise” and then he was gone. That is word for word what he said and I was taken back by it because I had never considered fun as the important thing in life. It sure was for Ruger. That boy had a good time, well, he did after he was rescued and had time to recover.  I kept my promise to Ruger that night and when we got home I sat on the floor with Annie and Duchess and Jazz and with tears rolling down my cheeks and my heart on the floor, I sobbed and delivered Ruger’s goodbye message.

Annie’s cancer had spread and she was in so much pain that she could barely walk when she finally told us that it was time. She held on as long as she did because she didn’t want to leave me but she just couldn’t hold on any longer. As I sat on the cold floor at the vet’s office and held my little redheaded girlfriend in my arms, her last words to me were, “Thank you for this.” It was warm and heartfelt and I knew exactly what she meant. A moment later when she had reached the other side, I heard her very clearly say, “Buddy, take care of Dad.” …and he did. Buddy and I took good care of each other. Annie knew I was going to need help, a lot of help.

Georgia, aka Mumford, didn’t talk much but when she did the happy, innocent little girl was usually trying to understand the confusing world around her. Sadly, cancer cut her happy, simple life short. At the vet, immediately after Georgia had peacefully slipped away, I heard Annie say, “She’s here.” She wanted me to know. Always the mom, taking care of everyone. Thank you, Annie, for letting me know.

Throughout her life, Duchess took it upon herself to take care of Joy. That was her self-appointed role, her oath, her mission in life. She was always by Joy’s side and at night, she slept either next to the bed by Joy or in the doorway. She would position herself between Joy and anyone who arrived at the house, the mail lady, guests, family, Duchess stood guard and always made sure that Joy was safe. People were afraid of Ruger, our pit mix, and I would tell them not to worry about him, Duchess is the one they should keep an eye on. When I’d see the hair go up on her back like a shark fin and I heard Jaws music, I would step in front of her and make friendly conversation with our guest and then tell Duchess that it’s okay, they are friends. Only then would she allow them to pass and when they got inside the house, Duchess would stay close to Joy and usually between Joy and our guests. Duchess passed away in our arms at the vet’s office but even after her heart had stopped she refused to leave. She struggled with all of her might to remain by Joy’s side until I promised to take good care of Joy, to love her and protect her…and then she slipped away. I felt her spirit, soul, whatever you choose to call it, join with Annie, Ruger and the rest of the gang but to this day she still keeps an eye on things. I think she’s the one who sent Lucy, our fang-wielding, one dog biker gang, to protect Joy. I’m convinced of it. Maybe she thought I wasn’t doing a good enough job.

I was already awake and moving one morning, like any other morning, taking care of house things and caring for Buddy as he laid on his pads in the hallway. By this time he was no longer able to move around on his own. He waited for Joy to awaken and join us before he said his final goodbye and as he drifted away, finally in peace, I heard him say, “Thank you.” My heart collapsed in a heap and I painfully muttered, “You’re welcome. Thank you, Buddy,” and I kissed his head.

I’m not crazy, no matter what anyone might say. I know what I hear and I know it’s real. A friend who has known me since I was a pup says my life has always been “close to the veil.” I don’t know about that. All I know is sometimes I hear things and sometimes I know things. For many reasons I seldom share what I hear or know. This is one of those rare times.

No matter how painful it is to say goodbye to a loved one, don’t leave them when it’s time. Don’t walk away. Stay by their side the way that they would stay by yours and after their little heart stops beating, be still and listen carefully. You just might hear them say, “Thank you.” Even if you didn’t hear it, they said it. Trust me, they said it and if you are really quiet they will say it again now. Listen.

Say, “You’re welcome.”

It never gets easier but you already knew that. We hurt so much because we love so much but one day we will see all of our loved ones again and we won’t hurt anymore.

My favorite verse in the whole Bible is Revelation 21:4. It can be yours too if you want.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Thank you. The furkids thank you and God thanks you for all that you have done.

~ Rod Ellis


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