It’s back. A mass too far in to try surgery again, the vet tells us. Besides, we decided last year, after her last surgery, there would be no more. September will be the month we put Sasha down.
The most difficult part of this ordeal is that the final decision falls to me. Even more, I don’t want her to suffer and I believe that if I wait for the moment I realize I no longer have a choice, I will have waited too long. I’ll not wait until she lies in a pool of blood, or can’t walk, or can’t get up, or won’t eat. Sasha has always been a proud animal, sure of herself, confident. I want her to keep her dignity. I owe her that. Yet, I don’t want to rush this. Finding that murky middle is a challenge.
People tell me I’ll know when it’s time. So far, each day seems it doesn’t need to be today. We have an at-home euthanasia vet on stand by; she needs only 24 hours notice.
Thoughts of putting her down have come up before. Over a year ago (waiting for her ultrasound, about which I posted here), I wrote her obituary. I didn’t post it because she recovered. We’ve had an additional 14 months with her. This month, though, it’s time.
What do I say about my dog, the dog most of you have come to enjoy if not also love?
When we brought her home at 8-weeks, we quickly learned she was susceptible to motion sickness. So, she rode in a cardboard box for the next few months if ever we needed to take her in the car.
Still, she was so cute.
Her very first accident in the house (she came to us practically house broken), was an early morning diarrhea – which she deposited in our bathtub! How did she know to do that?
We chose to believe she was simply that smart.
I can count on one hand the “accidents” she’s had. Her last one was Monday morning: diarrhea again. This time it went on the easily washable floor mat in front of the kitchen sink. Ever the
responsible considerate just plain smart one.
Sasha was far too classy a dog for me to bookend her life with diarrhea. Let me tell you just how special she was.
Remember when we tried to raise pigs? Here’s Sasha wanting to befriend them. She did try.
After our piglet experiment failed, Sasha got into the former pen and “cleaned up,” an act on her part that nearly killed her. Did you know that composted food (the stuff left over after the pigs left) kills? The trick is to catch it early and fortunately we did.
Those first few years we enjoyed three different training programs and she was always the best in the class. She got “Sit” immediately. Down, Leave It, and Come came quickly enough. Wait took a bit longer.
But Fetch would remain a distinctly foreign term to her, something she just could not understand. “You threw it away,” she seemed to say, “I’ll just hang on to it for a while now. Thank you.” And off she’d trot to enjoy her new acquisition. And if we tried to grab it? She’d dive bomb you for it. Smugly.
Come was always thrilling to me. And I knew she had it down one Sunday afternoon at nearby Dog Mountain.
It was a celebration of our local PBS station and the grounds were crowded with people and their dogs, mostly roaming free. I’d not yet had her off leash other than at home, but there were so many dogs cavorting, it felt odd for her to be on leash. So, off she romped as I watched, like the nervous mom on that first day of pre-school.
Was it twenty minutes? Was it ten? All I knew was that she’d had enough. I could see her energy was dropping, though she was far away.
She immediately turned from the cache of frisky pups, caught my eye, and galloped across the field to me.
She loved me. Where I sat, she sat. She’d join me upstairs in my office those seven years it took me to write that first memoir.
She’d join me wherever I was sitting outside. She’d sit at my feet while watching TV with Woody, and she’d sit right up next to my dining room chair each time I ate.
It was always a pleasure for me to bring Sasha here to my blog and I did that ten times. Those posts were easy to put out, her voice clear and direct and full of confidence and certainty. That’s truly how she lived her life.
She romped through the snows in the winters.
She swam in our pond in the summers, often with comical consequences when grandchildren visited. For some reason, it seemed to Sasha, these children should not be in that pond.
Sasha was always one shout away while we hiked in whatever woods caught our attention.
I’ve written many times of how she chased the visiting bear away. That was always an impressive sight. She’d use the same intensity with the chipmunks and the squirrels, but the bear were impressive. Fortunately she’s effectively shown Jackson just how it’s done, one of her final gifts to us.
We knew this day would come eventually. Her anal gland cancer was first discovered at the tail end of her last TPLO, three years ago. Since they discovered it so early and the operation to remove it was so successful, it was easy to get optimistic and put cancer’s pall out of our minds. I never even felt it important enough to write about, until recently.
We who live into our 70s and 80s could have many dogs in our life. Sasha is my 8th, each one different. What stands out for me, though, is that Sasha loved me more than the others did. She loved me overtly. I was truly her Alpha Mom and I never took that for granted.
Sure, she was a shepherd and they are known for being territorial — more so than the beagle, or the toy fox terrier, or the Irish Setter, or the Norwegian Elkhound and Poodle mix, or the golden retriever, or the beloved greyhound, or even the husky-shepherd mix. Territorial — a great trait to have in a dog that runs loose on thirty acres.
We like to joke that Sasha got better reviews from our AirBnB guests than we did, for everyone loved her. But what’s important for me to claim is how much I loved her.
I love that she loved me.
I love that she listened to me.
I love that she was courageous and beautiful and kind.
Grief is painful. We love; we are loved; we lose. And when we lose, no matter what the source, it hurts as though something has been cut away. I’ve not just lost my pet dog, my Sasha, I feel like I’ve lost a piece of myself. And it’s raw.
Grief is like that and I’d have it no other way. This is life; it’s part of the deal we make when we decide to live life to its fullest.
Fortunately, I know that love is also the antidote. Love will help me heal, it will help fill that empty space.
So, Jackson, that’s your cue, my boy. It’s your turn. Step up; you have mighty big shoes to fill.
I hope you’ll give a look through some of Sasha’s old posts. There are lots more photos and stories. Frankly, I just enjoy hearing her “voice” again.
Here’s her first blog post, from November, 2015. A Word From Sasha
May 2015. A Guest Post from Sasha
August 2016. Sasha’s Back
September 2016. Sasha Weighs In
April 2017. A Guest Post from Sasha-2
July 2017. Sasha’s 7/17 Post
June 2018. Insideoutinsurance
October 2019. Sasha, On Aging Well
May 2021. Sibling Rivalry, Sasha’s View