Have you ever had to hold your lifelong friends hand while looking into their eyes just in time to see the last glint of life leave them forever? It is a powerful and terrible experience. When I was only thirteen, my dog of matched years was fatally sick and needed to be put down to end her suffering. Her name was Cody and she meant the world to me. We had grown up together and she taught me many things ever those years. She taught me the lessons of responsibility and friendship. She also taught me one of the hardest lessons in life; sometimes we have to let go of the ones we love, no matter how hard that may be. This dog was one of the most important people in my life as a child and I will never forget all that she did for me.
Owning a pet is difficult work, almost any pet owner you ask can attest to that, but as hard as it may be, it can be equally as rewarding. When I was younger, I was required to take care of my three dogs by feeding them every night during the school year as well as in the morning during the summer. On top of feeding them I also had to take them on runs, make sure they had enough water, received haircuts during the hot parts of the summer, and were free of ticks and other pests throughout the year.
I used to complain about this to my parents constantly, but after a few years it became routine and the work was no longer a pain. In fact, I would start to realize that I found comfort in these things. It was a time that I could take to get outside and enjoy the beauty and fun in nature instead of filling my time with material things like TV and videogames that were often prevalent in my daily activities. I would also get to spend time with Cody just playing fetch or petting her thick, black coat of hair. She became a comfort to me and I knew that if I ever was having a bad day, she would always be willing to sit with me and listen to me talk. That was something that was really special to me.
Another lesson I learned from Cody was that of friendship. I had a lot of trouble making new friends when I got into middle school just because I didnt really fit into the groups that were already developed. I also got easily annoyed with new kids because I didnt know them and I really didnt want to go out of my way to learn more about who they were either. I often found them a waste of my time to get to know, so I never took the time to be around them. This was a very similar situation that Cody was in when we brought home our newest dog, Shilo. She was just a puppy and full of energy, begging for attention all the time.
Cody, who was probably about ten or eleven by this time, was not enthused with Shilos massive amounts of energy and her needy personality. When they were in the same vicinity, Cody would often growl at her and try to scare her off. She would also try to steal Shilos food in order to show who was in charge, and that started to become a bit of a problem. This went on for weeks and we had no idea how to fix it. Then one day, after we got back from a morning basketball game, we drove into the driveway to see not just Shilo in her pen, but Cody as well. Apparently, whoever put Shilo into her pen and locked it as we left did not realize that Cody was in the back the whole time!
So while we were gone for that four hour span, the two animals had no choice but to put up with each other and get used to each others company. This is much like how making friends for humans is like as well, and I often think back to this experience whenever I have trouble getting along with somebody. Sure, I may find them annoying sometimes, but if I give them a chance and spend some time with them, maybe I will be able to see something in them that I actually like.
The final and most difficult lesson that my dog taught me was to deal with death. Cody was thirteen years old, the same age as me at the time, and she had lived a very happy and full life. When she was still in the beginning stages of her sickness, it was clear that she was uncomfortable. She had difficulty moving around and would often just lie in the same spot all day long just so that she wouldnt have to be in pain. As time passed though, she started getting worse and she started to wander off. There was a big scare once when we could not find her for an entire day. Since we live out in the country, she could have gone anywhere, so we drove around calling her name as loud as we could.
I could not deal with the thought of her just leaving us, and it pained me to think about that. Luckily, we found her lying in the tall grass just behind our shed right around sundown. Cody had, apparently, been lying there all day long and wasnt able to stand up. It was at this point that we decided she needed to go to the vet. We also however, had to make the decision to put her down. I still remember everything about that day. Cody had spent the night at the vets to be checked out to make sure there was nothing that we could do to save her. In the morning, we received a call from the vet saying that she was, indeed, very sick.
He suggested that we put her down that very day. As we walked into the clinic, my mom, dad, sister, and I were all teary eyed and nervous. When we walked into the room, Cody way lying there on the table, looking very bored, but when she saw us she perked up right away. Her tail was wagging, her eyes were sparkling, and all I could think about was taking her off the table and bringing her back home. It was at this time that I grabbed her paw in my hand and started bawling. She could sense something was wrong at this point, and, as she always did when I was upset, she nuzzled up to me and put her big wet nose on my cheek. As we spent our last few minutes together I just thought about all that she had done for me. She was always there for me when I needed a friend.
She made caring for her a joy, not a job. Cody was my lifelong friend, and I could not bear the thought of riding back home without her lying against me. It was at this time, however, that the veterinarian walked in with the vial containing the sedative that would take my friend away from me forever. I tried not to pay attention to the woman as she walked up to the table. Instead, I looked into Codys eyes. I pleaded with her to forgive me, to understand that we were trying to help her.
The medicine began taking its toll at this point and her eyes started becoming dull and lifeless. But before she left completely, I had a sense of relief flood through me. I knew we were doing the right thing, and I knew that she understood that. Her chest stopped heaving, her tail ceased its swaying, and her moist exhale on my face came to a halt. The vet told us she was gone.
The whole family was weeping now, even my father. It was a very powerful moment for us, but we got through it. I was terrible and the pain lasted for a very long time, but eventually, I moved on. I figured out that while it was a difficult thing to do, she had to go sometime. She had lived a very happy life, just like me. She taught me many things in her lifetime, but the best and most important one was this; take time with those that you love, for you never know just how long you have with them.