How do you sum up the life of a dog. A very short 13 years is a full life, what do they offer other than companionship? Purchasing continuous dog supplies, finding dog sitters. paying vet bills. I have been pondering these thoughts as I am reflecting now on the last 13 years of my life with COCOA. Why does my heart break as I have to make the decision to take her breath from her. How is it okay to put a dog down, but for humans we watch them slowly die in their beds. I have seen many deaths as a nurse, I know the whole story, the way a person fades from a soul with life into coma and beyond. My question today is do I put her down or walk out the steps of death as I have so many times before with strangers and loved ones. Yes she is a dog, but she’s my dog, can all creation die with dignity, not likely, not in this world. My sister who worked as a nurse in a veterinarian clinic is quick to support euthanasia as a part of a dog life. I cant see it, am I wrong, will she suffer? Am I struggling to avoid the obvious? Probably.
Who is cocoa, what made the last 13 years with her so special. To know her you have to know her family, why she was important. This story pulls from the depths of my soul as I write this I am wondering if such things should ever be known to strangers. Trystin was 9 years old, Nathan was 6 and Makenzie was 3. Their grandfather bought cocoa a runt from a litter of papered Labs who lived in Snow Flake Az. Cocoas mom was a yellow lab and I heard that her dad was a very fat chocolate. Cocoa could fetch from the time she was a few months old. She learned the kids names and would turn to them if I called their names. She learned what “walk” meant. Her favorite word was “ball”, and oh my she would dash for her ball and be back so fast, she would drop it at your feet and start to run. We would say “Cocoa, come back and sit…now wait, go get it cocoa!” She tolerated the chickens, she never hurt them. Once when a neighbor dog found its way into our backyard and took a chicken. Cocoa chased that dog and brought back the chicken in her mouth and laid it at my feet. Cocoa loves food every kind, I never found anything she wouldn’t eat. I took her everywhere, a dog never hiked so much. Cocoa hardly wore a leash she walked right next to me and listened when I spoke.
This is hard to write, but I will tell a small piece of my story so you understand Cocoa, Tears form in my eyes as I consider if this is something that should be known. Vulnerability can be beautiful and part of healing. Many of my friends and relations know that my previous marriage was difficult and it ended in divorce after 18 years of marital confusion and despair. This story is about Cocoa so we will tie it all in soon. from the beginning of my marriage 1997 if your curious. I walked on eggshells and never knew when I would get yelled at. Anger is a scary thing when you mix it with alcohol. How many nights can you count when you multiply 365 and 18, then subtract a quarter of those days. That’s how many nights I found myself afraid, I got really good at hiding from him. You see, who do you think kept me company under the stars as I asked God why he hated me. There she was laying at my feet and she knew without a human brain the routine. I kept much of my life a secret because I hated judgment from those who ask “why do you stay?” Cocoa was there to just sit and watch over me as I hid in the desert near our home. No judgment. Many chilly nights she ran with the kids through the desert to their grandparents house to get away from things no one should see or repeat. Cocoa had a job you see, she was more than a dog or a friend she was a vital part of our lives, our support, she gave us courage. In many ways she was a guide dog for a very hurt broken family. A true gift from God. I can not put a value on her life or thank her enough for how she loved us.
Times have changed dramatically for our little family, I am remarried to a very kind wonderful sweet man. Makenzie and Nathan bask in the essence of peace and will hardly leave or venture to far from me and their step dad. Trystin is happily married and working hard. Cocoa has resorted to eating all the cat food she can steal and laying in the cool grass through these long summer nights. She likes to be outside, She no longer has to protect her family, she is happy and retired from her job well done. I have to say goodbye to cocoa and its really hard, I love her and I love how God gave her to us in a season of pain. Its those painful moments in life that that create a grateful heart. Cocoa taught me about loyalty about patience and how sometimes just sitting and listening is the best way to be a friend.
The final days, Cocoa can hardly get up, her hips don’t want to work. She still wags her tail when she hears my voice and she turns her head as to say she knows I’m there. Its my turn to be brave and say goodbye, I never knew it would be so hard.