By C.R. Wagner, Adopter & Friend of ACS
On Tuesday, March 13, I awoke and looked at the clock by the side of the bed. It said 7:10. As my brain came awake and registered what day it was, a lump formed in my throat and the tears came quickly. In about three hours, Newton would be dead. My dear sweet boy would be on his way to the Rainbow Bridge – without me.
Newton and I had just about six wonderful years together. I believe they were probably the best years of his life.
Newton was rescued from a horrendous hoarding abandonment situation in May 2011. My husband and I adopted him on February 4, 2012 from Animal Care Sanctuary. That was the beginning of family life for Newton – and the beginning of a wonderful relationship that would grow between the three of us.
Once he was part of our family, Newton became my constant companion and he felt his job was to protect me. He also was never kenneled again. He went everywhere we went, even on our vacations. We chose “dog friendly” motels.
My husband said, “I wouldn’t have a good time knowing he was in a kennel.”
No one knew for sure how old Newton was. When he was rescued along with 29 other dogs and three cats, the ages of the dogs ranged from eight years to puppies just a few months old who had never seen humans. The vet thought Newton might be six. In my heart I hoped he wasn’t the oldest one.
But as the years went on and I realized that Newton came with some manners and obviously knew more than a dog who hadn’t had the company of humans, I knew he was older than I thought.
In 2016, we got a ramp to help Newton get in and out of the car. He took to that very quickly. He loved riding in the car. He wasn’t going to miss out on any of our adventures. I still couldn’t bring myself to look at Newton as old. I kept assuming he was six when we adopted him.
Newton was a very calm, sweet natured chocolate Lab/SharPei. In June 2017 he passed all of the necessary classes and internship hours to become a therapy dog through “Love on a Leash.” By the fall of 2017, I began to see that Newton was having a more difficult time going up the car ramp. I limited his “work” schedule to one visitation a week.
In January 2018, we drove to Florida – the three of us of course. But the trip was hard on Newton.
Once in Florida, he enjoyed the good weather and the walks on our quiet, flat street. We had our favorite corners that we liked to walk to. But again, I limited his walking. He was definitely slowing down. He didn’t see or hear well anymore either. But I was determined to be his eyes and ears, as well as his “guide person” when we walked.
Just a few weeks before we were going to head home to Pennsylvania, Newton had two seizures within twelve hours. He recovered, but it was very difficult for him to get up from a lying down position. And he was constantly tripping. I looked at him and for the first time I saw a very old dog.
I knew he wasn’t happy. I knew it bothered him that he couldn’t hear or see. He couldn’t be my protector anymore.
I talked to my neighbor, Terry, who was a dog person like me. But unlike me, she had had old dogs before.
“How do you know when it’s time,” I asked Terry.
“It’s on his face,” she answered. “You’ll see it in his eyes.”
I went home and looked at Newton. Yes, there it was. Newton’s eyes were saying, “Help me Mom. I’m ready. I need to go.”
But what to do? We weren’t home near our regular vet.
We looked on line and found someone incredible – Dr. Debra Volenec, a vet who specialized in home euthanasia. Her website, Angels at the End, was wonderful and so helpful in our dilemma. Reading all of the information she posted helped to make our decision.
“In my years as a veterinarian, I cannot remember a pet owner telling me later that they chose to let their pet go too soon. I have had many people who told me later that they kept their pets too long and for themselves,” wrote Dr. Volenec. “We cannot ask those we love to suffer or have pain so that we can avoid the pain of their loss. One of my clients told me they knew it was time when their pet was living a life that they themselves would not want to live. Others reason as to whether their efforts on their pet’s behalf are prolonging a good quality life or prolonging death…another client said that they would rather say goodbye on a good day than wait and be too late with a crisis.”
I realized that I was keeping Newton alive for us, not for him and his comfort. But it still wasn’t easy. I spent the weekend crying my heart out.
Monday morning we called and scheduled Dr. Volenec for the next morning.
On Tuesday morning at 10 am, Dr. Volenec entered quietly, and found Newton and I on his favorite rug. I was giving him a massage. He was thoroughly enjoying it. And it was a good day. He and I had already been for a walk.
As she sat with us, I talked constantly about Newton through my nervousness and tears. She listened, but at the same time Dr. Volenec was quietly and efficiently getting things ready. Her compassion and quiet, gentle demeanor were a blessing.
When she unwrapped a bacon cheeseburger (minus the bun and condiments) and offered it to Newton, I knew he was already in Heaven.
Then it was only a matter of minutes. Newton didn’t flinch at all and never felt a thing. In his last moments he had a massage and a bacon cheeseburger. I have never witnessed a more beautiful passing, whether for a human or an animal.
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