It's 4:35 a.m., and I'm sitting in my living room, listening to our dog struggle mightily to take in enough oxygen to keep her little body alive. My husband & I were in bed, with Poogan at our feet making the same brave attempts to breathe, taking turns lying down beside her and in our regular positions in bed. As we lay there with our heads next to hers, petting on her, my husband posed an interesting idea, one that some might find painful. The idea was simply this: Might Poogan be more comfortable downstairs, instead of on the bed? We made the decision to go downstairs. We put Poogan in the floor, in the spot where she loves to lie, and we went to the sofa to camp. She's moved about downstairs as she wishes, and, not surprisingly, she's not stayed with us for more than a couple of minutes.
This was so hard for us to do. As human pet owners, with human emotions and attachments, we want to be there with our pets for every one of their last moments. But do they want us there? We like to think that, yes, they are put at ease by having us there, but I actually think the opposite might be true. I think having us there, hovering, doting, worrying, only adds to any anxiety they may be feeling. They are dogs, and dogs are not humans. We share some of the same emotions, yes, but not our attitudes of death.
Think of how dogs choose to die, if given the choice. Alone. Away from their pack. Even domestic dogs do this. I grew up with animals, and I could never understand my parent's gentle but mysterious explanations when a dog "went off to die." But I've always known that they do. And yet, in a dog's final moments, we still want to "be there for her (or him)." In times of grief, rational thought need not apply.
When I die, I do, indeed, want my "pack" around me. I don't think I want to be alone. But, then, I'm only human.