My little dog, Boo Boo died this week. We knew it was coming. He was an old guy and had been sick and getting sicker over the last few months. However even when it is expected, loss is never easy. When it came time for my dog to be euthanized at the vet’s office, the doctor looked at me and asked, “Do you want to be present?”
Those words rang around in my head for a minute, “Do you want to be present?”
It’s a great question, actually. Putting your dog down is a really painful moment and I know a lot of people don’t want to watch it happen. It’s a fine and normal choice to not be in the room at the end. But as I thought back on my terrier’s life, I realized he was nothing these past thirteen years if not present. The dog followed me around so much that my daughter teased she was going to invent a toy after him called “Follow Me Boo Boo.” Whether I was rising for my 6:00 am shift at the coffee shop or pacing in the wee hours with insomnia, Boo was up and by my side with eyes on me and ears at attention for what was next.
My most poignant memory of my terrier’s presence occurred during my pregnancy with our son. It was a high risk pregnancy that involved months spent on varying levels of bed rest. I spent long, lonely days lying in bed or on the sofa. In this time when I was scared and alone, Boo was my constant companion. He would lie beside me, put his head on my growing belly and stare at me with his deep. dark eyes. At the time I’d hoped he had some secret doggy knowledge and was telling me that everything was going to turn out okay. It is more likely that he understood even less about what was happening than I did and was telling me no matter what happens, I am with you.
Sometimes that’s the best promise though, isn’t it? To be with someone in even in the most difficult times?
So when the vet asked me if I wanted to be present, the answer I gave her was, “Yes. I want to be with my Boo in his final hour. For even though I can’t make him better, I can keep him from going through it scared and alone.” So one more time Boo laid on my belly and looked up into my eyes. There’s much I wanted to communicate to him in those last moments, but mainly I wanted to thank him for being the one who walked so closely by me for thirteen years.
Our little buddy is gone now, but his legacy of presence remains. Even as I grieve, I am reminded to show up for those around me. And not just physically, but to be really present to their needs.
Have you had someone who was “with you” when you needed it most? Have you been the one who was present for another? And hey, you with beloved pets out there? Give ’em an extra scratch and treat for me.