We made eye contact. I held his gaze, firm and steady, for what felt like the longest time ever.
His unique, green eyes looked familiar and ever-adoring. There was no mistaking his love for me – a love so pure and real – one difficult to go without once experienced, and one rarely found among most people.
His giant-like stature belied his true docile nature – a genuine gentleman with an unwavering loyalty.
Irrespective of the intensity of my mood, his mere presence in a room had the ability to soothe my mind and comfort my heart better than any meditation technique I’ve ever attempted.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him.
My immobility enabled me to fake calmness in sharp contrast to the frenzy of emotion going on inside of me.
I knew that he trusted me wholeheartedly which made things even more difficult.
Overwhelming, self-consuming guilt forced me to look away.
How could I do this? How could I?
But, I had to. I argued with myself. It was the right thing to do. Wasn’t it?
Then, why did I feel so doubtful? Why did it feel like I was committing the ultimate betrayal? Why did I feel sick to my stomach?
Dear God, why did I have to be the one to make this decision?
I had made the call. Now, all that was left was to wait.
The vet was on his way.
In the animal world it’s known as euthanasia. In the human world, we call it assisted suicide.
When you eventually get to a point where you have got to make the choice to “put your best friend down”, it feels like murder.
You can play with semantics all you like, when you share a deep love and respect, it remains the most gut-wrenching, soul destroying option on the planet.
Not too long ago, Matfield, my gentle giant of a Great Dane was diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy, a progressive condition that would result in him being paralysed.
I was in shock. I was not expecting that. My big, clumsy baby was only four-and-a-half years old.
Matfield had led a happy and healthy life. I was aware that all large dogs, more especially the giant-breed canines, are often prone to hip, bone and spine complications. But, not so soon. Surely?
But, I still had time. I consoled myself.
Although the vet warned that in some dogs the progression is rapid, I chose to ignore that.
I read up as much as I could on the disease so that I could prepare myself mentally for what was coming. I knew that he wasn’t going to experience any pain. My vet also confirmed that there was nothing that could be done.
I hadn’t noticed but, Matfield had displayed all of the early warning signs. I tortured myself. How on earth could I have been so blind?
No amount of reading or psychological priming could prepare me for the events of last week and its aftermath. I’m utterly gutted.
Seeing my most cherished companion unable to get up with untold fear in his eyes and panicked panting in confused response; hearing my protector’s last fighting, deep-throated growl as the needle went in; smelling the deadly anesthesia as it permeated the air with me, at that very moment, secretly and shamefully wishing to accidentally be given a dose as well; not even being able hold my loyal guardian myself, having to rely on poor old Dad, who himself was distraught, to keep him calm is enough torment to last ten lifetimes.
Today, one week ago, Matfield crossed over the rainbow bridge.
Dear God, when I die, may I please go where Matfield went.
Tracy, it was a pleasure to listen to you in Nelspruit at the Guardian Angels Conference. I’m now reading your blog, and this post particularly grabbed me as I too have a Great Dane – Bruno – who has just turned the amazing age of 9 years! I know I will soon have to make that same awful decision as he is now losing his ability to stand up – yet his mind still thinks he is 2! Thank you for sharing this post.
im sorry tracy i know it very painful to some one you luv but be strong like a stone
I’m so very sorry, Tracy. I wish there was a shortcut through grief. May Matfield’s meditation techniques bring the odd dose of intermittent peace.
Beautiful blog this on is Tracy, Brought a tear to my eyes. Sorry for your loss.
Thank you very much jst started checking dis blog thank you so much
Nothing in the world prepares you for the pain of the loss of that beloved friend, and then it is compounded by the harsh and terrible reality of the (right) decision you must make for that beloved friend. Hearts heal and memories remain. Rest in Peace Matfield (and Jock and Buddy and Thombi , and Willow and Sheena and……………………and…..
Tracy, so very sorry for the loss of your beautiful boy. Having lost several of my beloved pets, it never gets any easier to make that final decision. I always say that I can’t go through it again, but animals give you so much joy and unconditional love that I have always given in and had another. I like to think that I shall see them all again one day, and I am sure that will be the case. So, Tracy, take some comfort that you did exactly the right thing for Matfield, and he will love you for it. Sending love to you. x
Hi Tracy, my tears are pouring out for you. A good cry is what many of us need. A good cry is such a release of pent up emotion. I lost my mother two months ago and your beautifully written story brings back all the pain and all the memories. I am glad that I am not in a public place and that I can cry for you and for me and for all who are suffering.
Your articulation of such a heart wrenching episode made me feel as if I was there, experiencing what you were going through. I am truely sorry about what you had to do and its ramifications. All I can say in condolence is that Matfield is no longer suffering and that your suffering and pain will ease with time. You are much braver than me, I could never watch either of my two dogs if it came to that.
R.I.P beautiful Matfield x
O Tracy! How absolutely awful! My heart just aches for you
Real love will always have an element of pain hidden somewhere due to the risk of loss by death.Better to love and loose than to have never loved at all.Animals are so special because they love us not for what we are but in spite of what we are and they are very loyal and trusting.We could all learn from them.Thanks for your blog and for really touching my heart.
Well said and much empathised with…. it’s an awful decision to take AND carry through. One is always on the brink of hoping by some miracle the animal will suddenly be ok and we can carry on as usual.
sighhhhh…. it’s very heart-sore! And whilst no animal can replace a lost one, another pet in the house will fill the void and take the mind off the pain a bit.
Not really anything anyone can say to make you feel better, but you can be comforted by the knowledge many understand and empathise with you.
Hi Tracy, I so feel for you! I had to do the same for my beloved labrador of 13 years and now my old rescued Belgian Shepherd is ill and in pain and I am asking myself the same question every day. Unbelievably heartbreaking.Thinking of you as I often do!
There are few experiences you have had since your accident I can relate to and empathize as with your emotions for Matfield. This is definitely one of those. It happened when I lived not far from you in Swaziland. I knew in my mind it was the best thing, the only thing to do, but emotionally it was an entirely different matter. To complicate things there wasn’t a vet in the area where I lived and I had to get the medicine and do the injection. It would have been easier if I were an executioner as they somehow divorce themselves of feelings. My family member was a cat. I feel for you Trace – at least I could wipe my own tears off my face. As always – Bill
Dear Tracy, I have been a silent voyeur of your blog for a few years. I respect and admire you. I am so sorry you are suffering the loss of your beloved canine companion. The unconditional love of an animal is such a sweet blessing to experience. They are with us such a short time but we feel their love for a lifetime. xo. Martha
What a beautiful tribute to your Matfield Tracy. So sorry to hear of the loss of your best friend. Sending you lots of healing energy.
🙂 Mandy xo
Thinking of you….
Matfield will be waiting for you. Can you imagine the look of delight on his face when he realise you’re walking towards him and isn’t sitting in a wheelchair? I know he will love to run around with you, but he will be just as protective as he was here.
Awww Tracy so very sad for your loss but I have no doubt that you and Matfield will be running free together one day.
Lots of hugs and blessings. xx
Like Clive, I also work in a reception and am really struggling…so sad Tracy. So unfair.
I felt the same with my cat, Leilah. I wanted to stop the vet at the last minute, but I knew she couldn’t go on the way she was. Much light to you.
He will be there to meet you at Rainbow Bridge.
Oh Tracy…Sitting in a reception area and having to control my breathing so I don’t cry. Huge hug. I’ve been through this 10 times. It is the worst imaginable agony ever. Tougher than when humans go. But only great love can make the right decision to save these beloved companions from terrible pain or overwhelming fear. May the angels hold you tight. Heaps of love.
You will go there of course. For him it will have only been a minute apart. One way I comfort myself about the choice to euthanize animal companions is that they aren’t made to benefit from the contemplation of their suffering, as we are. They become depressed by not feeling well, and not being able to know why. Such a tough thing to do, but you did the right thing.
How terribly sad. Beautifully written trace, very evocative.
Tracy, this is so special! We had to go through the same thing a year ago and the memories are still very vivid!
I made the decision this year to put Billy away. We were the 3rd owners (1st and 2nd went overseas). In the end he had the honor to sleep in the house. Anywhere he wanted to. When there was heavy rain, he slept in front of my bed. Heavy thunder, he climbed on top of me. In the end he could not go down the one step in front of our bedroom and fell down. He could not get up and struggled. I had to help him. Then I knew it was time. I waited another week and when he fell again on the stoep I called our vet. Charles arrived and I held Billy for the last time. It was over in less that a minute.
PUT ME TO REST
Time to let me go my friend,
Because my life no-one can mend,
Its better to let me go this way,
Than watch me suffer night and day.
I’m happy to go, my time has come,
My quality of life is no longer fun,
Ive been so ill, so its not a bad thing,
To let me go forever resting.
Stay with me till I drift away,
Fast asleep forever I pray,
To relieve me from suffering and pain,
What more can I ask from my best friend.
Don’t be sad, I’ll be free from pain,
Never to be ill ever again,
I know you’ll miss me being there,
But all the memories you have to share.
Thankyou for being my best friend,
And all my needs that you did tend,
Try not to be sad, try not to cry,
Now’s the time to say GOODBYE.
Thanks, Anton….your poem brings it to the point! I was in the same situation twice and still not able to have another pet, just fearing to make this decision once again. Knowing it was the only right thing to do , doesnn´t make me feel any better.
Tracy, I’m so sorry for your loss! I remember how hard it was letting go of my beloved Chevy, a ginger kitty.
Love and hugs,
Can you please change my email adress to : email@example.com
I don’t want to loose out on all your rightings. !!
Please and thank you .