Beauty is and has always been a very good dog.
She is a Shiba Inu, a Japanese breed of hunting dog. Her eyes are beautiful dark brown and match her fur. I first met her in 2013 as my boyfriend Matt’s dog.
“Don’t worry,” Matt said as we entered his house for the first time. “She barks at everybody.”
I walked inside and extended my hand to Beauty. She came over to sniff it, and I scratched her behind the ear. She didn’t bark once. The rest is history.
Matt and I moved in together after that, and my 7-year-old daughter Vanessa returned to us from her Grandma’s shortly after that. At first, Vanessa was afraid of Beauty. She is only a medium-sized dog, but to Vanessa, she was a giant with sharp teeth.
Beauty’s feelings weren’t hurt. By that time, she was older and didn’t much want to be bothered with a kid. They stayed in their respective corners, but soon I noticed Vanessa choosing to read her books and watch TV sitting closer to Beauty. She’d occasionally pet the dog if she happened to walk past her. Petting turned into hugging, and Vanessa was completely in love.
Now, Beauty is the first thing Vanessa asks me about every morning when I wake her up for school. Where is she? Is she sleeping? This is followed by a trek into my bedroom so Vanessa can see for herself. When Beauty sees her, she starts wagging her tail and looking at Vanessa with love in her eyes. It’s the best way to start the day.
You may think Beauty is Vanessa’s dog, but the truth is her heart belongs to Matt. They have been together for the majority of her entire life. Matt may get busy with his music gigs and work and life stress, but he always makes time to cuddle with Beauty and show her love. That’s important, especially now.
Beauty is tired. Her legs don’t work well anymore and won’t carry her outside to use the bathroom. She sleeps most of the day before she sleeps with us at night. The only walk she can take every day is from her sleeping area to her food and water bowl. She doesn’t eat often enough, but I’m sure she doesn’t feel much like it. I try not to get her to go outside anymore because I know she feels ashamed. She wants to go outside and please us, but her body won’t comply. I confess to closely watching her sleep at times, wondering if her next breath will be her last.
We know it’s time. At this point, we are keeping her alive for ourselves because we can’t bear to say goodbye. Beauty doesn’t seem in any pain, but she is weary and has trouble breathing and lying down. Sometimes she stands there, helpless, as if she’s trying to tell us to fix it somehow. As much as we would love to, we can’t give her back her youth and beauty and strength. We know she’s not enjoying her life anymore, but we can’t imagine life without her.
Right now, only Matt and I know what needs to be done. We have no idea how we’re going to tell Vanessa. I think she’s old enough to understand, but it will be a dagger right through her tender heart. She may get angry with us for making this decision. She may not want to talk to us for a long while. We will give her the room she needs to grieve. She knows deep down that Beauty’s time has come.
When the day comes to say goodbye, we will do it as a family, just like we’ve done everything else. We will hold her, stroke her, whatever she needs. Her suffering will end, and ours will begin.
I try to imagine what it must be like for a dog in heaven. I think of fields of flowers that go on for days, enough to run as far and fast as Beauty wants. Other dogs would be there to chase and play with, and as she sleeps she’ll have the hand of God giving her a little scratch behind the ear. It’s a much better life than the one she has now. We gave her happiness and abundant love in this life, and I expect her to have the same once she leaves us.
Matt, Vanessa and I will have each other to help with healing. Although we’ll be heartbroken, the day will come when we think of her and smile instead of cry. I think Beauty would want it that way.