I made the most difficult decision last week to put down my beloved yellow lab Taki after 11 years of his loyal friendship. Taki (pronounced Talkie) came into my life when he was 10 weeks old while I was living in Nashville, Tennessee. He as one of 19 lab puppies and was considered the runt of the litter. I can vividly remember the day I met him, he was sitting quietly in the corner of the dog run just watching his brothers and sister romp around.
Taki is a Russian-Aleut word that means washtub. He got his name after a week of watching him play and observing his behaviors. He would always stand in his water dish, both front feet as stuck his head into his food bowl. A sign of a true lab. Always had to be in the water, so Taki it was. I got him in September of 1999.
In 2001 my family moved back to Alaska and Taki made the journey with us at the tender age of 2. His first winter here, he took right to the snow and in the summer, during camping season, you could always find him down by the lake playing in the water with sticks.
In 2007 Taki suffered from rectal tumors and had surgery, but he came through like a trooper and started packing on the weight. At the age of three Taki was abnormally large for a lab. I would often call him Marmaduke because he was so big and clumsy, his tail would knock down everything in its path. In 2008, he survived a heart attacked, and by November 2009 it was becoming clear that his health was rapidly deteriorating.
After long conversations with several vets, we all agreed that would probably prolong his departure by a few weeks or perhaps a couple of months, but it would only prolong the inevitable. After a family discussion, we all agreed it was for the best to put him down.
Friday night, 1/29/10 I feed him steak, gave him a bath, and sat with him in my living room. As he tried standing, his legs would give out, he would moan, and I told him how much joy he had brought to our lives and that I was sorry for having to say goodbye, but I didn't want him to suffer any longer. At that moment, he laid his head in my lap and took a deep breath and side, and as I was petting him, he licked my hand as if to say..."it's ok mama to let me go, I'm ready."
I did not sleep much that night and on Saturday morning at 10:00, he took his last car ride. My daughter and put him into his harness and I cried as I saw just how much weight he had lost. In his prime, Taki stood from floor to head 3 and half feet high and weighed 120 and was all muscle. Now, his harness was so lose, we had to take it in almost 6". I could not watch him pass, so I kissed his head, gave him a hug, he wagged his tail and they took him away. We parted ways and I knew he would fall asleep and rest peacefully for the first time in years.It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life and I know those reading this who have had to make the decision can totally relate.
On my drive home, my daughter and I were riding quietly when we came to a stop light. I was still crying my eyes out and I remember the low hanging clouds all around. Just then, I looked up at the SUV in front of me and there on the back was a picture of a little boy. The back of the SUV said "In loving memory" with the boys name, his sunrise and his sunset, he had died one week before. He was only 11 years old when he passed. As I sat there, I thought...the pain I felt for the loss of my dog could not even come CLOSE to the pain the family in front of me felt at the loss of this little boy. I could not even being to fathom how hard it is when you lose a human, if the pain of losing your dog hurt this much and for a brief moment I felt silly for crying over the loss of Taki. Just as the light was about to turn green, I quickly said a prayer for this family in the SUV in front of me, that God might comfort them and heal them during their loss. As the light turned and we started forward, the clouds suddenly parted and the sun shone bright. As if the little boy was welcoming his new friend Taki over the rainbow. It was surreal.
I'd like to think that Taki is there romping and playing with this little boy now where they both have their youth and now the little boy has a new friend to keep him company until the rest of the family makes their way over the rainbow.
It reminded me how fragile life is and reminded me how precious each and every day we have here really is. I have 11 years of great memories to carry me through my pain and through my life and Taki will be terribly missed and always loved.
There is a silver lining to my darkness, a light at the end of my tunnel. I have another dog who is just 2 who was 2 days away from being put down at our local animal shelter when I rescued her. She is a whippet mix and is the biggest sweet heart in the world. We named her Nala because when we got her at 5 months, she would play with Taki in the back yard and we would lie on his back with her standing over him as if to say "Pinned Ya....Pinned ya again" just like the lion cub in Lion King. She took right to him and they were the best of friends to the very end. In Taki's final days, Nala would never leave his side and would rest her head on his back or lick his face and ears. If he didn't eat, she wouldn't eat. She was the same loving, forever home that Taki has and she is spoiled to the core.
In making the decision to let Taki go, our family was concerned about Nala and how she would react. She loved him so much. Since she is so young, we decided the best way to honor Taki would be to get her a new friend she could romp and play with that is fairly close to her age. A friend that she can hopefully grow old with that will be with her for years to come. As a whippet, she is high energy and loves to run and is super fast. We love all the qualities about her, and the search was on to find another whippet mix similar in age, shape and size.
There are not a lot of dogs here in Anchorage to adopt, and Whippets are very scarce here so we got onto Petfinder.com and the search was on. Our family is firm believers in pet rescue and we want to give another dog a second chance in life with a loving family. After hours of searching the website, we came across a whippet mix in Florence, KY, just outside of Cincinnati. She is 1 year 2 months old and is a spitting image of the dog we still have Nala. If I didn't know better, you would think they are sisters. I contacted the rescue agency in Kentucky where Jazzy was located. Jazzy is in a foster home there and was abandoned by her former owner and neglected because of the economy and financial reasons. The owner agreed to release Jazzy to the rescue agency about 5 months ago and she has been up for adoption ever since. We sent our story and family photos of us and our dogs to them with the adoption application and the process was under way.
After many phone calls and emails to the folks at the agency she sounded like the perfect new addition to our family. The folks at the Pet Castle in KY were so thrilled that we wanted to adopt Jazzy; they took the time to give us all the information they could and have gone above and beyond to help us make it happen. Her vet has cleared her to fly and she will be leaving KY on Thursday 2/4 and will be here in Anchorage that night. The folks at the Pet Castle have done so much for us and Jazzy so that we can all be together, it's truly touching how so many folks love animals so much and go out of their way to volunteer at rescue agencies just like this in hopes of giving good, loving, dogs a second chance at a forever home. I will always be eternally grateful for the opportunity we have been given to adopt Jazzy and be her new forever family. To all the folks at the Pet Castle, we cannot thank you enough and we appreciate all the work you do.
So as we say goodbye to a long-time friend/family member, we prepare to welcome a new member to our family. Not as a replacement to Taki, as we can never replace him, but as a tribute to his life and because we can and are able to give these wonderful dogs the life they deserve. I know Taki would understand and would be ok with it as he loved Nala as much as we do and would want her to have a new buddy to play tug-o-war with.
So that's my story. I hope it touches someone out there, gives them hope and peace if they are faced with making a difficult decision about their beloved dog/family member and inspires others to consider giving a rescue dog a new lease on life. Perhaps it will inspire someone to be a foster parent for an animal while they are waiting to be placed. Too many animals are put down because they cannot find homes, not because they are sick or elderly, but because they are mistreated, abused or neglected. Perhaps this has touched you and you will think about making a donation to your local pet rescue facility, no matter how little or how much you give, every donation helps these fine folks to find those forever homes for these loving animals. The unconditional love a pet can give is truly amazing! Perhaps it will remind you to tell your loved one just what they mean to you and help you to not talk them or life for granted. In remember of Taki, take a moment to be grateful for the great things in your life today and remember to make each day count. Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most! (Hope Floats)
Finally-To those here who have shared their stories, who have suffered loss of any kind, I wish you all well and sympathize with you all and am grateful for your willingness to share your stories. My god bless and keep you.
(((hugs))) rest in peace Taki.
Thanks for sharing your story, I am in tears. I have been down that road wit my first lab Casey. God Bless..Always in our hearts <3
They pass through our lives all too briefly...I'm horrible at good-byes...glad to hear the circle of life is starting again though with Jazzy!
i'm tearing up... so sorry for your loss.... RIP Taki!
I"m so sorry for your loss. It's clear you and Taki had a deep bond--he was loved and knew it. Run free, Taki.
Thanks to all who have posted such thoughtful comments. It is greatly apprreciated. It helps the hurt and void Taki's death has left knowing there are so many other folks out there who have experienced this pain, who can relate and are supportive.
As an update, we had our new adopted doggie flown up a week ago and she is a sweetheart. She loves the snow and within a day made herself right at home and is adjusting to our daily routine.
Taz will never replace the loss of my beloved best friend Taki, but she is helping to heal the pain and has been a wonderful addition to our family. We have begun a new chapter and are making a lot of new great memories just like the ones we have of Taki. In losing one, I have rescued another who was neglected and abused, but is now in a loving home where she is boss.
Many many thanks from all of our family!