Last Tuesday our older dog, ZuZu, had to be put to sleep. Which is another way of saying, euthanized. Tearfully, I was able to write about her last days on my HinesSight blog in It was a good day for our dog to die.
Of course, it wasn't a good day. Not really. I wanted ZuZu to live much longer. What I meant was explained in the first part of the blog post.
Don't get me wrong. I didn't want our beloved older dog, ZuZu, to die. But she did last night, put out of her misery by a dose of morphine at Salem's emergency vet clinic.
What made it a good day -- and now the tears are coming, as I figured they would when I set out to compose this blog post -- was how ZuZu and I got to have a pleasant day together yesterday, since she went downhill really fast, as I'll describe later on.
Monday ZuZu and I had come back from central Oregon a day before my wife and other dog, Mooka. So on Tuesday I didn't want to leave her alone when I went to exercise at the River Road Courthouse athletic club.
In the morning we'd had our usual walk through our rural property, across a creek, and along a community trail here in Spring Lake Estates. ZuZu seemed pretty normal at that point.
She was walking a bit less energetically than usual, which likely was a sign of what was to come. But when she spotted a squirrel, the old ZuZu came to life. Zoom! She raced ahead and excitedly stared into the branches of a tree the squirrel had escaped to.
I'm so happy that ZuZu was able to chase a squirrel on her last day alive. It was one of her favorite things to do. We also ran into some neighbors walking their dogs, so she got to greet them a final time. Nice.
What I'm most glad about is deciding to take ZuZu to the Minto Brown Dog Park after exercising. It was starting to drizzle. I thought about going straight home. But I thought, "ZuZu enjoys the dog park. I've got time. Let's do it."
Yeah, it's a cliche. Live every day as if it were your last. And usually it isn't practical, since we need to plan for future days.
However, it's also true that we never know. When we will die. When a loved one will die. When a pet will die. I had no idea when I drove the short distance from our athletic club to the dog park that ZuZu would be dead in less than eight hours.
It's been tough. Really tough. I miss ZuZu a lot. That's the price of love: pain, when a loved one departs, or suffers, or otherwise tears at our heart. But it's a price well worth paying.
The day after ZuZu died, I opened the rear hatch of my VW GTI. What I saw brought more tears to my eyes, along with a bit of an inner smile.
The dog park I'd taken ZuZu to on the afternoon of her last day alive has an unpaved parking lot. When I picked ZuZu up to put her in the back of the car, her paws were dusty. This was the last time she rode in my car, since she was taken to the emergency vet clinic that night in my wife's car.
My first thought was, "I never want to wash off the paw prints." Yes, I know that will be necessary. Eventually. For now, I enjoy looking at the paw prints, because they remind me of ZuZu and of the good times we shared.
This is the reason I took her dog bowl and put it on a shelf in my office, along with a photo of ZuZu with our older dog at the time, Serena. A vase that was on the shelf graces the inside of the dog bowl. I did this after realizing that I had a couple of choices about how to deal with ZuZu's death.
Try to forget about it, or embrace it -- feeling the pain of love as acutely as possible.
I decided to go the embrace route. The first few days after ZuZu died I could barely bring myself to look at the dog bowl and the photo. I wondered if maybe it would be better to do the forget thing. But I can't forget ZuZu. I don't want to forget ZuZu.
Yes, love hurts. But a life without love isn't worth living. The death of a loved one hurts tremendously. Yet I'm glad that it does. The pain of love is also its pleasure.