I’m writing this with a warm, fuzzy body lying under my desk chair next to my feet and a heavy heart. This will probably be the last time I feel this feeling for quite some time. Some of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make in this life relate to my pets, and this one has been no different. But, unfortunately, the time has come again.
I haven’t had Shakespeare since he was a puppy. He was actually a middle-aged little guy before he came to live with us. But from the moment we met, I adored him. He was pretty sick the first time I saw him. He’d scavenged a cabinet or garbage can, had eaten something toxic, and was very ill. As a young guy, he was pretty inquisitive, so it was no surprise he’d gotten into something that was bad for him. So at the request of Shakespeare’s owner, a friend of mine, I took Dakota to meet him and hopefully lift his spirits. The plan worked. Slowly during the next several days, Kota got Shakes to eat and drink, and basically brought him back to life. And they have been best buddies ever since.
So when Shakes’ previous owner was looking to place him in a new home a year or so later, I jumped at the chance to take him in. And so began my life with Shakespeare the Pug.
Pugs aren’t easy animals to have in your home. They snort, click, lick, slobber, stink—you name it. But they are also sweet, adorable, fun, spirited—and Shakespeare is all of that and so much more. He’s got a huge heart and a sweet spirit, and he’s always been happy and content just to be loved—until recently.
That first year together as a family we spent running on the beach, riding around in my Jeep with the top down, taking long walks on the bluffs, snuggling up on the couch. Kota and Shakes were happy as clams they’d found each other. Then along came Baby Kensie, so the next few years were spent with a baby/toddler tugging at their tails and ears. Shakes never seemed to mind even when Kota got a little testy. He’d let K tug and poke and pick and prod—whatever she wanted. He was just happy we wanted him around.
Our move to Kansas last year was a bit harder on the now elderly Shakespeare. He was diagnosed with diabetes soon after we arrived and almost immediately went blind. He was already mostly deaf, so blindness changed his life dramatically. And the diabetes also caused him to struggle with incontinence. For the past year, I’ve been washing throw rugs and mopping floors on an almost daily basis and, although frustrating on occasion, have been willing to do it so that Shakes was comfortable and somewhat happy, and I had my sweet boy with me. But he is no longer comfortable or happy; and, as of this past week, I’m not even sure he’s still my Shakey.
Shakes has been struggling for some time now, and though I knew this, I kept telling myself that as long as he had Dakota, Kensie, me, and a safe and cozy home, he would be OK. And much of the time, he really did seem OK. I prayed he’d slip away when the time was right (as most people do, though it rarely happens that way) on his own terms. I felt that was the way it was supposed to be. Mostly, I was terrified of the decision that I knew, deep down, I’d eventually have to make.
Well, today is that day. It’s been a solid week of pure misery for both Shakespeare and me, and I’ve decided it’s finally time we both get the rest we so desperately need.
Making the decision to put a pet to sleep is heart-breaking. Ultimately, what I’ve come to realize with Shakespeare’s situation, is that I’ve done everything I can to keep him alive—but mostly for me, not necessarily for him. I’ve told myself that I’d be playing God if I made the dreaded “decision,” and I couldn’t bear that thought. But the truth is, sometimes death is better than life. The pain it’s going to cause me to lose my sweet Shakes is hard to imagine, but the pain he’s been in day in and day out for so long is unbearable to watch any longer. So I made this decision for him today, and I pray it’s the right one.
We will miss you forever my sweet Shakes, but you will always be in our hearts. I will no longer hear your snort; the clicking of your overgrown toenails on the hardwood floors; your guttural snore; you scarfing every last kernel of food at dinnertime; your squished-faced, raspy hack; the slurping of water that seems never-ending; your sharp, excited bark; or your adorable, happy howl. And I will never again see that adorable, sweet face that only a mother could love. But I hear your heart speaking to me today, and it is telling me to say good-bye.
So good-bye my sweet boy. Kota, Kensie, and I will miss you terribly but know we will see you again someday—that healthy, strong, happy little guy I met so many years ago—if only in our dreams.