Back two months ago, we took our dog, Millie, out on a car ride to capture this post. She was already at a point in her life where for some unknown reason, she was losing weight and struggling to keep up on long walks. I was concerned about taking certain views of her body for fear that we would be targeted on social media as animal abusers because of how skinny she was becoming. Funnily enough, because animal shelters were sharing the post and photos of Millie, many people thought she needed to be adopted anyway.
However, just for the record, we fed her regular meals and the kids sneaked human food to her on a daily basis, probably more than I caught them. In the past months, her health had declined and we’re assuming she had heart problems. If she got too excited, her body would stop working correctly and she’d need to lie down.
Her biggest issue was the abuse she must have suffered before coming to our family. Back on February 28, 2014, we went to our local shelter and took her home with us to join our family. At first we thought some of the odd behaviors would go away after awhile but they never did. It just became part of who Millie was. She was a depressed dog that could get sad and mopey in an instant, even if we thought we were having fun. Throwing a ball and playing fetch with her was a painful game to play and witness. She would get excited for the first couple of throws and then usually she wouldn’t bring it back to keep playing, so we would call her over. She’d hustle over, sometimes with her head down or her tail between her legs, sit in front of us and put her head down. I’m not sure what she thought we were going to do but really, we just wanted to keep playing with her. Unfortunately, she thought she was in trouble and was ready to get hit.
Things like that were hard to deal with. Our young children don’t know any differently so they love her but we wanted her to fit in with the family: we wanted her to join us for walks, reading, watching television, family games, etc. Most of the time in these scenarios, she would go lay on the stairs platform where she could see out the front door and the entry way. We would call her into the room and have her lay by us so she could be a part of our activities but as soon as we stopped petting her, she’d run back to her stairs platform.
The pros to having her, however, were how much she protected the family, even our daughter who she didn’t like much, we think Millie felt too threatened by her as Millie wanted to be Alpha’s (my husband’s) right hand dog but felt like our daughter was trying to rank above her … which she was but that’s not how Millie saw it. I think she saw my husband as Alpha, then her, then our son, then myself, and then my daughter.
She always got so excited when we got home and if she was in the garage when we got home, she’d run around the car until we got out and then sniff and run around until she realized the excitement was done. Millie loved to go on car rides to take the kids to school in the morning and would make sure she was up as soon as I got up, despite how tired she was, even towards her last days when she had a hard time getting herself up in the mornings, Millie would make sure she ran down the stairs and waited by the garage door to make sure she could get a ride. The days I got up at 5 or 6 am, she’d make sure she was up and that I knew she was ready to go in the car. Millie also loved picking the kids up from school. The window always had to be down so she could sniff at the kids walking by her. Her favorite days were the days that swarms of children would flock to the car to pet her. She was such a calm, sweet dog that no child ever got even as much as a lick from her. She would just rest her head on the car door and let them love her.
The day she passed away was a shock to all of us. We had a normal Friday, other than my husband had taken a half day off of work as our son was being tested for being deaf in one ear. After the appointment, we decided to go home to grab Millie and take her to the duck pond that she loves so much. When we arrived home, we realized she wasn’t doing well. Within an hour, she had passed away. Her last moments were spent on our front yard lawn where she loved to spend hours watching people and cars pass. She rarely barked at anyone and rarely ran away. The times she did run away were due to her inability to not go down to the creek just a couple houses down and play, run, and probably get loved by a lot of people that were there.
My husband and I are coping. Talking about her and the positive influence she has had on our family has helped but teaching our kids about what happened is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do so far as a mother. The loss is great. The children knowing that there is no more Millie to jump on their beds in the morning, sniffing at them like crazy, and then licking them to get them up in the morning is painful. They miss Millie surprising them by being in the car when they get picked up from school. They miss taking her on walks and laying next to her on the floor.
The best way we’ve been able to deal with the loss of our beloved pet is let them grieve, to let them talk about her, and to go through photos of her with them because she’ll always be a part of our family. We created a Chatbooks (get a free one with the code “UTAHV262” UPDATE: this offer is no longer available) dedicated to our dog so they can look at the photos of her any time they want. Some days when I pick them up from school, we talk about how much we miss Millie and what she would have been doing if she was in the car with us right now, or how much she would have loved to try to jump out of the car after seeing that huge bird and those deer crossing the road. My husband fills in at the house for Millie when someone rings the doorbell by basically falling down the steps like she used to in order to reach the front door, all while barking. Or sometimes crashes into the front door like Millie used to at the sound of someone at the front door while barking uncontrollably.
It’s funny how you don’t realize you’ll miss someone so much until they’re gone. Although my heart aches for the loss of our Millie and the loss of my children’s beloved pet, I’m so grateful for all the memories we have of her in the short 2 1/2 years she was with us. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
How do you mourn the loss of a pet?