“Thank you…”

“Thank you…”

Jun 24
“Thank you…”

 Though her name was Baby, I never actually knew my first dog when she was a baby. According to the vet, she was at least twenty years old when we got her. Even for a toy poodle, that’s fairly old.

Baby

We only had her for three years, but she was an amazing blessing to me the entire time, that old girl. By the time it was coming on time for her to leave her aging body behind, we also had a young cat by the name of Smokey and another dog (who came from my aunt who couldn’t take care of her anymore for personal reasons).

We’d gotten Smokey about a year earlier – two at most, and Baby had basically raised the little kitten. Smokey was my baby kitty – but more on her in a little bit.

Baby ate three times a day, in her old age. She didn’t have most of her teeth due to neglect from before she ever came to be our dog. She would have a meal of wet dog food in the morning, a cut up hot dog at lunch, and another meal of canned dog food in the evening. She’d eat dry dog food, but swallowing it whole didn’t give her much nutrition, so while we always had it OUT (both for her and eventually for Lady, the other dog) we didn’t expect her to eat it.

One day while Baby was eating her lunch hot dog, I looked down at her and asked my mother how we’d know when it was time for Baby to be put to sleep. We’d already had the discussion that her body didn’t seem the kind to go naturally without undue pain and suffering and that when the time came, we’d do the kinder thing.

Mom looked at me and said “Well, when she’s ready, she’ll stop eating. And she won’t want to do anything. That’s how we’ll know.”

I looked down at Baby only to find her eyes – cloudy with cataracts by then –  fixed on me. She stared at me for a long moment, then finished her hot dog.

About a week later, she stopped eating and lost interest in everything. To this day, I believe she heard what we were looking for and decided to give it to us.

We put her down Saturday, May 22nd, 1999.  As we were preparing to leave for the vet, I was sitting in the living room looking at Baby on the floor. I’d put her harness on her, and the leash was in my hand, waiting for my parents to be ready to go.

I felt like if I stared at her long enough, I could memorize her and then I’d never have to let her go. She was my first dog – and a very, very big deal at my life, despite my age at the time (I was sixteen).

As I stood there, I watched our other dog come into the room, give one look at Baby, and then leave. They never really got along – Lady was too much puppy for Baby in her old age. But then Smokey approached the dying toy poodle.

For the first time since I’d been watching (and I’d been sitting there for awhile), Baby lifted her head. Smokey walked around Baby slowly, like she was trying to encourage her “mama” to get up. Baby didn’t move, but her head followed the cat, sniffing – she was completely blind by then, as far as we knew. Then Smokey reached Baby’s head.

Smokey and Baby stayed that way for a long time – it must have only been a couple of minutes, but it felt like it stretched on forever to me. They were nose to nose, sniffing each other. And then finally, Baby laid her head back down, and Smokey walked away.

Well, at that point, I was crying. All I could think about was the scene near the end of Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, where the old dog Shadow is injured and seemingly dying, and the young dog, Chance, tries to encourage him to get up and keep going. Shadow’s words rung in my head as I watched my cat and dog interact for the last time.

“You’ve learned all you need to know, Chance. Now all there’s left to learn, is how to say goodbye.”

Not long after that interaction, my parents were ready, and I picked my dog up and carried her out to the car for her last car ride.

My parents and I elected to be with her when she passed, and stood there while the vet gave her the injection. I was standing at her head, petting her and looking into her eyes. Then, just as she breathed her last I heard a voice in my head that I had never heard before, and have never heard since. It was the voice of an elderly woman, and it only said two words.

“Thank you.”

I don’t know if it was because I’d had so many paranormal pet experiences by that time, but it didn’t frighten me at all. Instead, it filled me with a sense of peace and the knowledge that we really were doing what Baby wanted us to do. Not that it wasn’t hard – and to this day I regret not asking my parents to get her ashes returned. But beyond that, I have no regrets.

You’re welcome, my sweet old girl. You’re welcome.

[This article originally published on The Tyger’s Den]