The Hardest Thing I’ve Had To Do

By Rogan Smith |
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Tinkerbell for This Bahamian Gyal

I’ve decided to put my 15-year-old dog, Tinkerbell to sleep.

It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.

Two years ago, her doctor told me that her bone cancer was getting worse and that, if I was lucky, she would get another year or two. He was right.

The cancer has gotten worse. She is having serious trouble walking. The medication has stopped helping. She sleeps all day and seldom seems present.

Tinkerbell is what we in The Bahamas call a Potcake. She’s mixed with different breeds. Vets have told me she is a cross between a German Shepherd and a Chow Chow. They’ve also told me that she is lucky to have lived this long.

She has always been a very active dog with such a big personality. The cancer has stripped away a lot of who she is.

Last week, a huge black sore manifested on her skin. I immediately took photos and WhatsApped them to her vet. I remember his exact words: That looks suspicious and not good. I burst out crying. The only thing that comforted me in that moment was him saying that me and my family were good pet owners who did everything we could. He then asked that I bring her in for a check-up. My brother ended up taking her and that’s when he confirmed my worst fears. The cancer had gotten worse. Tinky was in a lot of pain.

I remember her vet talking to me two years ago and telling me that the time would come where I may need to consider putting her down. He politely asked me not to prolong Tinkerbell’s pain by keeping her here just because I didn’t want to let her go.

I could never be so selfish. I had a conversation with my family about my plans. They said Tinkerbell looked ok and didn’t need to be put down. I told them what the vet had said – that animals don’t express pain the same way as humans. I couldn’t in good conscience allow her to suffer. Even though Tinkerbell was initially the family dog, somehow, she became my dog after I returned home from college.

My family and I are now deciding which day we want to put her to sleep. The vet has offered to come to my home to do it and I think that would be for the best. I wouldn’t want her to draw her last breath in a cold, sterile clinic. I’d much prefer for her to be in the environment she calls home surrounded by loved ones.

These days, I am keeping her medicated so that she is comfortable. Every day I play with her and tell her how much I love her. She doesn’t get up to greet me at the door anymore. It hurts too much to stand. But, she always makes sure to wag that furry tail when she sees me getting near, and somehow, she summons the strength to turn on her back so that I can give her belly rubs.

As I call around making final arrangements, I wonder if she understands what is going on. I swear, sometimes she will give me a look that says, ‘I know what you’re doing.’ I hope on some level she knows just how much my family and I love her and why we have to perform this final act of kindness.

I expect plenty of tears the day we put her to sleep. I have always put her first when making decisions about her health. This will be no exception.

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