Yesterday I lost my beloved Nala, a beautiful 8 year old yellow lab. She was diagnosed with lung cancer, and when she started getting confused, walking into walls, and had her first horrific seizure, I was pretty sure it had spread to her brain. She was in so much pain and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Hard as it was, awful as it was, it was time to let her go. Nala was special – so very special. She’s also the first dog I’ve ever lost. I haven’t stopped sobbing since. And as I look through all the pictures of Nala’s life, and as I hold Tally, my 2 year old lab mix, and cry into her fur, these are the thoughts that keep running through my head:
When your rambunctious, naughty pup chews up a shoe, you’ll probably scold her. Try not to get too angry. Someday your pup might stop chewing her toys. Her teeth might be missing, broken, or worn to stubs. You might long for the days when you were buying a new Nylabone or rope every week, because you’ll remember how strong she used to be.
When you come home from work after a long exhausting day, all you might want to do is sit on the couch and relax. Try not to get annoyed when your puppy tosses a toy in your lap for the hundredth time because she just isn’t getting the message that you’re tired. Turn off the tv and play with her. Because someday your pup might be too weak, or in too much pain, to chase a ball.
When your 75 lb. pup eats like a horse, and you grumble and complain that you spend more money on dog food than you do on your own food, try not to get upset. Someday you might find yourself begging your pup to just take one little piece of food. You might find yourself cooking steak and salmon, or hamburger and rice, or any other food your dog once begged for. Because you’ll feed her anything she wants – anything at all - if she’ll only take just one bite.
When your pup knocks you off your feet when you come home, or you are constantly tripping over her because she’s always underfoot, try to realize that she’s not trying to be a pest. She just loves you so much that she’s overjoyed to be around you. Someday you might find yourself standing at the door – just standing there - waiting for a slobber attack that isn’t going to come.
When your messy pup splashes half her water dish on the floor while drinking (again), or she fills up on water and promptly wipes her mouth on your pants (usually as you’re on the way out the door to work), try not to get frustrated. Someday you might find yourself holding your breath when she hobbles over to the water dish – and then letting out a sigh of relief when you hear her take a drink. Because if she’s still drinking water, then there’s still hope.
When your pup is snoring like a freight train, and you’re annoyed because you can’t sleep through all the noise, try to see it as a blessing. Because someday the silence might be unbearable.
It’s hard to look at your strong, beautiful, healthy dog and think about losing them. But someday you’ll find yourself looking back and remembering. All those times your pup made you laugh, all those games you played and walks you shared. All those times your beautiful dog comforted you, protected you, and filled your heart with such joy. Because even though thinking of the dog you just lost is so painful you can’t breathe, you’ll take comfort in knowing that your dog lived a full and happy life, even if it wasn’t as long as it was supposed to be. You’ll know that your dog loved you and was so very loved in return.
Maybe this is just a reminder to myself. Someday I think there will be a new little lab pup for Tally to play with. Not now, but maybe someday. And if Nala has taught me anything, it’s to take the time to love your dog right now. To smile when they are silly, to shake your head and laugh when they get into mischief, to rub their ears and give them a kiss. Someday you will be so glad that you did.
I'm so sorry for your loss of Nana. But thank you for writing this. I'm in tears reading it.
sorry for your loss.
ummm, OK, I'm going to say it, concerning what you wrote.
First off I would like to say that I know how hard it is to lose a member of your family such as your Nala. I lost my dog Sammy not long ago and it hurts. And its going to hurt for a very long time, probably forever. I have also lost 3 of my brothers 2 older and 1 younger. Losing my dog Sammy hurt just as much as it did for my brothers.
Now on with what you had wrote. Stop beating yourself up. It sounds like you are looking back on every time you feel like you did not give Nala 100% of your time and attention, no one can or does. Most everything you wrote probably describes most of everyone. And its not just with their pets, its with family, friends and co-workers. What your now doing to yourself is not the way you want to remember Nala at this time. Your Nala is a family member and always will be. She will be in your heart and soul forever. Now start looking at all the good times you have had with Nala. Think about all the times she put a smile on your face and why she put a smile on your face. And when she was so happy to see you come through the door. How excited she would get when you gave her a new toy or just before you were going out the door with her for a walk. She loves you just as much as you love Nala.
Thank you for the condolences. But I wanted to clear something up. I didn't write this because I have regrets, or feel guilty. That wasn't my intent at all. I knew that some people would find what I wrote to be sad, and considering how devastated I am I'm not surprised it sounds that way. But I'm not beating myself up. Nala was my first dog. I grew up with a lab named Sam, but he was a family dog. Nala was truly mine. A few months before I got Nala I was mugged in Houston. Violently - a man tried to strangle me and drag me off in a van. It was only sheer luck that I got away. But I had panic attacks after that for months, and couldn't sleep at night because I was afraid. I had always wanted a dog, but it wasn't really possible because my work involved too much travel. It so happens that at around the time that my life stabilized a little, and I was already thinking of a dog, that trauma happened. I knew I wanted a lab because that was what I grew up with. I ended up choosing a lab pup from the biggest set of purebred lab parents I could find. And from the moment she came home I felt safe. I could sleep through the night without waking up screaming - all because I knew I had Nala to warn me if anyone even tried to get inside. The very first command she learned was to bark at "Who's there?" She grew into a giant lab (a long and leggy "American" breed) that was fiercely loyal to her family members. She was smart - freakishly smart, even more than a typical lab. She was also bonded to me. For most of her life it was just the two of us. She even moved to Alaska and back with me. When I call her my constant companion, I'm not exaggerating.
Sure I'm looking back on my time with her. I spent a lot of today just going through pictures and remembering our life together. And sure, I cried my eyes out all day long. But I don't look back at anything with regrets. Was I the best dog mom? Hell no! Did I make mistakes with her? Of course I did! But I don't think she ever held my faults against me, and neither do I. I used to joke that my exceptionally brilliant dog got stuck with a "not so bright human" sometimes. For example - I didn't always remember to check & fill the water dish. Who does? When it was empty Nala wouldn't just stand next to it. She would lie down, wrap both front legs around the dish and plant her face smack in the middle of the dish. If I didn't notice THAT then she would produce loud drama sighs and groans from the dish. Super smart dog, pretty clueless mom!
I'm not entirely sure why I wrote this post, or why I wrote it the way I did. My dog just died yesterday. And she died because I made the decision to put her to sleep. Everyone agreed (myself included) that it was time to let her go. But that doesn't make the decision any easier to live with. This entire week feels like one long nightmare, and I'm sure I'm not thinking all that clearly. It was not my intent to offend anyone. I've never lost a dog before. I was in college when Sam died, so I wasn't there for the end. Watching my proud, strong, beautiful Nala waste away to a devastating illness was shocking. I look back at her life and don't have regrets. I wasn't perfect, and I'm sure I missed a lot of opportunities with her, but that's okay. She loved me anyway.
I think I just wanted to express how precious dogs are in our life. Nala was a gift - her life and love a blessing. I just wanted to honor that. And you're right - we aren't always perfect all the time. I don't think it hurts to get a reminder to stop and smell the roses. I still have Tally - my two year old lab mix, who I swear is made of sugar. Where Nala was my intuitive, intelligent protector, Tally is my super sweet little clown that rules the house. While Nala was my heart dog, Tally is my baby - if that makes any sense. And when Tally was spitting a slimy tennis ball in my lap this morning, while I was sobbing, I swear I could feel Nala's spirit nudging me. Reminding me that even though she is gone I still have Tally - who is equally precious and needs my love and attention as much as Nala ever did.
If I offended anyone, I'm sorry. But if you had known my proud, take charge lab then you'd know she would have appreciated what I wrote. She'd be standing next to the computer saying, "Hell yeah mom, you remind 'em how lucky they are!" And I would have agreed with her, 100%.
MyNala I don't think that you offended anyone at all. My other dog Sammy I was talking about, was my first dog. when I first seen him at the ASPCA, I knew that he was the one I had been looking for. My wife and I had been looking for about a year or so. The best way that I can describe it is that Sammy and I had a connection of some kind from the start. I really did not have to train him much or him me. As we got to know each other, well we just knew each other. My wife would tell me that Sammy would go to the window 10-15 minutes before I got home. And a few minutes before my wife and Sammy could even see me, Sammy would start wagging his tail. I named my second dog Sabbath in remembrance of Sammy. Everyone thinks its more of Black Sabbath the band and I let most think that, others I tell. Sabbath means day of rest or time of worship, I thought that is a good name to honor Sammy. I know a lot of people but I truly think that Sammy and Sabbath are my true best friends for life. I want to make them happy and they want to make me happy, sometimes it does not work out that way. I don't think that we have to try to make each other happy, it just happens all the time. And that is from a trust that is unmatched by any.
I'm sorry that I made you feel like you had to explain. I know that after I had to euthanize Sammy (mast cell tumor), I was blaming myself, that I could have done more to protect him and I failed him. As hard as it was for me, I got Sabbath about a month after. I am glad that I did otherwise I would be a total wreck now. I didn't want you to feel the way I did and I did it to myself. I did read into what you wrote and I know how much you love Nala. I guess that I read to much into it thinking that you were blaming yourself, that you could have been there more for Nala.That's why I ended it with "she loves you just as much as you love Nala". I hope that you can except my apology. I think that we have a lot in common with things in our life that had happened to us. And our dogs giving us something that no human can. I hope that when you get another dog that you find that you did not lose a friend but another found you as I have with Sabbath.
Thank you, and you don't need to apologize. I fell asleep last night kind of kicking myself, thinking "you know - you could have summed up your reply with a single sentence: you don't truly appreciate what you have until you lose it." Nala was my best friend, and such a fundamental part of my life that I'm just reeling from her loss. But I shared my life with her in a kind of innocence - I had never lost a dog - MY dog - before. It doesn't mean I had regrets or loved Nala any less. I just love Tally now with a different perspective, I guess. Now I truly know how much it is going to hurt when someday I have to say goodbye to Tally, and it makes me appreciate her that much more. That's what I was really trying to say with my original post.
I am also truly sorry for your loss of Sammy. It's kind of ironic that I grew up with my own Sammy. He was an amazing lab. He was really bonded closest with my mom, which is a wonderful thing, and she tells such funny stories of the crazy things Sam did (like the time he ate an entire eggplant PLANT from the garden, which are supposed to be toxic!).
I think my vet gave me a powerful gift that is helping with the pain and guilt I feel over putting Nala to sleep. Because of course I feel guilty over that. But as the vet was giving Nala the first injection, and my mom and I were sobbing, I remember saying, "I feel like a bad person." I think the only reason I remember it is because of the vet's reaction. She sat back on her heels and said, "Oh my gosh, why?" And she said it with such shock, such sincerity, and such sadness that it felt almost like a forgiveness. I don't know how else to explain it. But I answered her with "because I'm killing my dog." And she went on to tell me that I was setting Nala free from her pain and that it is a choice made from love. She said a few things more, but I really just remember her reaction. It made me feel that if I had chosen otherwise - to take Nala home again instead of letting her go - that THAT would have been the truly cruel choice. Unfortunately that was what my mom did with Sam. The arthritis was so bad at the end for him that he was crying in pain any time he tried to move. Walking was torture. She took him to the emergency vet thinking she needed to euthanize him, but a very gung-ho vet at the emergency vet convinced her to keep trying. Sam had been on Rimadyl for a long time and he died when stomach ulcers burst and he bled out on the kitchen floor, all alone in the middle of the night. It had to be agony, and that made a huge impression on me. Sam's legacy to us in a way was to make us face the hard choice of letting a beloved dog go rather than see them suffer - and that's a good thing. When I got Nala I promised her that I wouldn't let her die a painful death if I could prevent it. I NEVER in a million years thought I'd face that choice a few weeks before her 9th birthday, but life doesn't always work out the way you want. I know my mom still feels tremendous guilt for listening to that vet and the end result of how Sam died, and knowing that I made a different choice for Nala is also helping me find peace with letting her go.
Someday there will be a new lab pup chewing the corners of the rugs and tormenting her big sister Tally. I don't know that I will ever be as bonded to a dog again the way I was with Nala. In a way I think you have to be innocent of loss to love someone that deeply. But her death hasn't hardened me against a new pup and I am so very grateful for that. I'm not rushing out today or anything - the new dog will come along when the time is right. But just as Sam taught me life lessons about letting go, Nala taught me not to take life for granted. To truly take the time to enjoy, appreciate, and be grateful for the time I have with my dogs. I did that with her, but the shortness of their lives has a new meaning for me now. Which is why yesterday even though I was sobbing over Nala I still went outside and threw the ball with Tally. At first all I could see was the memory of the thousands of times Nala tore across the yard after the ball. But eventually the tears stopped and I felt happy - happy FOR all the thousands of times Nala chased the ball. She LIVED for chasing the ball. It made me smile. And eventually I found myself seeing Tally - and laughing at my crazy dog who has a style all her own when it comes to fetching a ball.
So thank you. And thank you for this forum. I found it when I was desperately searching for information on canine cancer. But connecting with others who know - who really know how hard this loss is - that helps. Thank you everyone who has shared stories in the Rainbow Bridge thread. It helps to know my girl is at peace and in good company over the bridge.
I am so sorry for your loss. I know how much it hurts and what you wrote was a beautiful tribute to your beautiful girl. I think you put in to words what many of us have felt. It takes a long time for your heart to start to heal, give yourself time and cry when you need to, talk about her when you need to, it helps. Sending you ((((hugs)))).