Although I have never had to answer this question personally, I’m sure that there are countless parents out there who have had to try to come up with an answer for their child. Whether it was just a random question, or it was prompted from the passing of a dear family pet, it is a tough issue to think about. Luckily, as a child, I was never faced with the direct death of a family pet. We had a German Shepherd named Duchess when I was a toddler. I think that she was most likely taken by someone. I believe the fate of our next dog was the same. This was a Collie type dog named Tammy. We also had a Chocolate Poodle named Coco that lived a long life (even after getting hit by a baseball when he was about a year and a half old). For all intents and purposes, Coco should have never made it through the night, but somehow he did, and lived until around twelve. I had moved out of the house by the time he died (he was accidentally hit by a car while being kept at a relative’s home over the weekend of my sister’s high school graduation party). It was still sad, none the less.
We never had to “put down” a pet. Unfortunately, I can’t say that it still true. We had to put a cat to sleep about five years ago. We never knew for sure what was wrong with him, but he went downhill very quickly. I think that he most likely developed feline leukemia. Either that or he got some of that tainted food that killed many pets around that time. No matter what it was, it was still very difficult. I (along with my son) bawled the whole way home.
Unfortunately, our family is on the verge of crossing that bridge again. As a matter of fact, tomorrow morning we are taking that dreadful trip to the vet again, this time with our beloved Cairn Terrier, Rascal. He is almost twelve and a half years old, and his advanced age is taking its toll on him. His vision has been declining for some time. He doesn’t get around very easily anymore, and the worst part about it, unwanted tumors have begun surfacing on different parts of his body. We took him in last September for a growth on his leg, and they discovered one on his tongue as well as they were putting him under for the surgery. They took both off, but the tests came back on both as being malignant. The vet told us that they were actually two different types, and that they are fairly aggressive. Our prognosis at the time was that he might be around until Christmas.
Thankfully, we have been blessed with more time than that, but we have noticed growths on other parts of his body, and he has been coughing very badly the past month or so. We had to make the decision last week to finally do what we have been dreading for quite some time now. It just kills me though, looking down at him as I pet him, knowing that I have made the decision to have him put to sleep before God decides it is time. At times I feel very guilty, but in my heart, I know it is the right thing to do. His quality of life is very quickly declining, and I have seen people extend their pet’s lives much longer than they needed to, and that broke my heart as well. In those instances, I felt that they were being selfish, and not really thinking about the pet. That still doesn’t make it any easier.
From the day we brought him home, Rascal has been one of the sweetest, loyal, and easy going dogs I have ever been around. He has been such a source of joy in our home for over twelve years, and he will be dearly missed, not only by us, but by his little running mate, our little Yorkie, Wrigley. He has never been without his “bubbie.” Wrigley has taken his cues from Rascal since he joined our home almost five years ago. I’m sure he will be quite lost for a while, not knowing where his big brother is.
So, the question still has not been answered. Do our pets go to Heaven as well? Do they have their own Heaven, or are they just in limbo out there once they pass? I believe they go to the same Heaven that we do. I’m not sure if everyone would agree with me, some maybe even saying its sac religious. We will never know for sure until we transition to the other side, but I’m pretty confident that Rascal will come running to me the day I arrive at the Pearly Gate, wagging his tale and barking at me to pet him, just like he does every day when I come home. I believe this to be true because our pets, especially dogs, are the best representation of unconditional love that we see here on earth. Humans attach conditions to love all the time, but our dogs never do. They don’t care what you look like, who you are, or whatever qualifiers you can think of. If you are their “person,” you are their world. They love us when we are happy, sad, sick or well. This has been true with Rascal. The love in his eyes can be seen as he looks up at us and wags his tail, waiting for his belly to be scratched (his most favorite thing in the world).
I will certainly miss that, but I know that our decision is the right one to make, and I also feel like he will be much happier up there where he doesn’t have to limp around anymore, or put up with that terrible cough. I have a feeling that my grandparents will be waiting up there for him. I’m sure that Grandpa Ord will have him up on his lap, petting him, and when meal time comes along, he will be sneaking him table scraps, which will make that tail wag very quickly. I prefer to think about his transition that way, knowing that he is well, is being fed like he likes, and his is being loved even better than we are able to here, and he can play the “get it” game all day long, with Ordie, and I’m guessing, with the Big Guy as well.