Losing dog like losing family

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By Johnny Stacewicz

The vet did not have to say a word; her face told us that Lucky, our eight year-old yellow Lab, did not just have a case of food poisoning. Something was very wrong. Cancer of the spleen had caused Lucky’s stomach to fill with blood. We said our goodbyes as the vet injected an overdose of jet-blue adrenaline to stop his heart.
As a society we have taken a step away from our 1940s baby-booming ways. People are having fewer children and now filling that void with pets. Dogs, who were once used for hunting and herding cattle and sheep, are now being dressed up for walks and being fed dog food that would put McDonalds to shame. The pet care industry has recently surpassed even the entire U.S toy industry, grossing around $43 billion annually. The fact that we put so much into our pets only makes it so much harder to say good-bye.
With the average dog’s life span only lasting roughly until the age of 12, most pet owners have had to say good-bye to a furry friend at some point or another.
Mr. Ara had to put down his Doberman, Maya, at the almost pre-teen age of one and half.
“She was my first dog ever. We got her as a puppy. She had just started to learn all the tricks, and then she got sick,” said Ara.
Pets are not like people, they cannot describe to us how they feel. Learning that your pet is fatally sick comes as a shock to your system. We treat them as humans, talk to them as if they were humans, but do not expect them to get sick in the same ways that humans do.
“I spent around $9,000 trying to find out what was wrong with her, she went through a bunch of tests, but nothing ever came from it,” said Ara.
The initial shock of losing a pet is incredibly sad, but the days following are when the true heartbreak sets in. All of a sudden the house is empty. Lucky’s echoing snores no longer rang out down the hallway; his slow waddle down the stairs no longer woke me in my room beneath.
Bailey Bryan, Div. 265, lost her eight-year old boxer, Cooper, two weeks before Christmas. She claimed the days following were by far the worst.
“It was just heartbreaking; almost everyone in my house was crying, sad, or not talking. It was almost as if Cooper made us whole as a family,” said Bryan. “Just coming downstairs and not seeing him run around the kitchen or sleeping in his bed in the living room, it just didn’t seem normal.”
Because we spend so much time with our pets, memories begin to be pushed to our sub-conscious, the little cute, annoying things begin to go overlooked. We don’t think about just how close we are with our pets until they are gone.
“The first couple days after I didn’t feel the same. I didn’t do anything and it was in the middle of summer, I chilled on my floor watching TV for a good week,” said Kallie Stevens, Div. 181. “She slept with me every night, right by my head. I spoiled her so much; she ate human food all of the time, to the point where she wouldn’t eat dog food unless human food was mixed in.”
It is the little things like these that we miss the most.
With Lucky, his sickness emerged overnight. I went to sleep Friday night and he was fine, when I woke up he couldn’t move, five hours later I had to say goodbye. Dogs wait until the last possible minute to show their weakness. In the blink of an eye they can be gone.
“I knew we were going to put her down within this school year because my mom kept bringing it up, but I didn’t think it would happen in the middle of summer,” said Kailie Stevens, who had to put her 16 year-old dog Shandy down over the summer.
On top of losing a dog, it seems as if the timing is always terrible. Lucky died 24 hours before we got on a plane headed to Jamaica. Ms. Smith, a history teacher, had to turn down her future husband to say good-bye to her dog, Todo.
“I had to turn down a first date with my future husband to fly home to put Todo down,” said Smith. “I turned down my first Blackhawks game.”
Manny Guzman, Div. 182, had his Rottweiler, Boozer, for only a week. Boozer came down with something the Veteranarian called the Parvo Virus. Like Lucky, Boozer was brought into the vet and almost out of no where Guzman was informed his puppy had a potentially fatal disease. The shock of hearing this can rattle a person because it does not seem true, it does not make sense that a dog can be fine one day and die the next.
“It was depressing for the most part. I had this playful dog who didnt bark and was just so chill. He was my best friend,” said Guzman. “We got attached really quickly. When I took him in[to the vet] they would not let me see him. I was told he had a 50/50 chance of survival.”
Putting a dog down is different than having a dog run away or get hit or pass in their sleep. Carrying a dog in, knowing you are bringing them to the end of their line is no easy task. And no matter how thick skulled a dog might have been, they can all sense when something is about to go wrong.
“I couldn’t even look her in the eye, I felt too guilty. She knew what was happening,” said Ara.
There are often steps that can be taken to elongate the life of a pet. In Lucky’s case, he needed an emergency surgery and then chemotherapy, and we were told he would make it another six months. As a family we considered this for about five minutes before we came to a realization: Lucky was a dog. He was not a human, we may have loved him like he was but in the end he was an animal.
If you have ever lost a pet, there is a conversation that happens almost immediately after, and that is the conversation on whether or not to get another. Jessica Anetsberger, Div. 176, had to put down her Golden Retriever, Lucky (no relation), after his bout with liver cancer. She recalls the difficulty and guilt of this conversation.
“It was a really sad time, all the happy memories began to come back when we talked about it. I do want another dog, but Lucky could never be replaced,” said Anetsberger. “I almost felt guilty talking about it, it seemed like we were just moving on too quickly.”
The unique thing about dogs is they can sense death coming. No matter how pampered they were by their “parents,” their primal instincts come out when the end is near. Dogs want to die alone. A dying dog will go off to a quiet comfortable place to die, a behavior that even the most domesticated of dogs carry on from their wolf ancestors. A dying animal is more likely to be attacked by a predator or put their pack at risk. We found Lucky curled up in a corner.
For those who knew Lucky, it was quite apparent that bravery was not his strong suit. He was afraid of plastic bags, he was afraid of cats, he was pretty much afraid of everything that was not human. What Lucky was known for was his unconditional love. Good day or bad, rain or shine Lucky would waddle up to me wagging his tail when I walked in. It was one of the things I never really appreciated.
“People who don’t have pets do not understand what it’s like,” said Smith. “You love your pets like they are members of the family.”
He was short and fat, born with only one testicle, repeatedly pursued by both male and female dogs, and cancer cut his life short, but his name fit; we were lucky to have him.

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