My dog just died today. She passed away in my arms. We mourn the passing of Betty (aka Ms. Thang). This is our tribute to what she meant to my family and me.
Most people knew her as Ms. Thang. We just called her Betty. She would also come if you called “Dog”.
She was twelve years old. That is a long time for a dog to live. It was enough time to live in four states, Ohio, Indiana, California, and Pennsylvania. She got to see the Pacific Ocean, the Grand Canyon, and the St. Louis Arch.
Betty’s greatest joy was sleeping on my lap. She enjoyed sleeping on my feet while I worked at the computer. There wasn’t a corner she didn’t like to snuggle in. Every once in a while she would retire to her room. That’s when you knew she really didn’t want to be bothered.
You always knew where you stood with the old gal. Either she loved you or you had better run away fast. She would first bark when she saw you. If she didn’t like you she wouldn’t stop. If she did like you, and as you got closer, she would hop a bit. Her tail would start to wag, which led to her butt swinging back and forth, followed by her front paws dancing as you approached. She knew to get a really good hug to lean against you while you stroked her fur. If that knocked you over that was the best because then she could you give lots of wet kisses.
Betty loved people of all ages but children were her favorite. Her sixth sense told her if she could play rough or when to settle down and be quiet. Children everywhere we have lived came to think of her as their dog, too. She had her favorites and would love on them whenever they came to visit.
Betty was a member of our family and loved us so much. Jordan was her baby though and the only one whose nose she would lick. She was always very gentle and calm with him. Logan was her big brother and she loved their rough housing sessions. RestaurantMan was her Daddy and she worked her charm around him from the beginning. Perhaps she sensed that he wasn’t thrilled about the idea of owning a dog, at first. She made sure to let him know that he was Top Dog. He was the only one she would come running to the front door when he got home. She would walk one step behind him at all times. With me or the boys she would go plowing ahead and maybe look back to make sure we were coming. She would greet us at the door if, when, the mood struck.
Betty became “Ms. Thang” when we left her behind because she hated being apart from us. One time she ate my mattress when we were at a homeschool convention weekend. That’s how she got the name “Ms. Thang”. She broke out in massive hives when we took a vacation to Disney. She was fine one week when we went out of town because she had company the entire time. She systematically peed all over every floor the first night we were home. We learned to take her with us or lock her in her cage. OH, how she loved going for rides in the car even if it was to church and back. All you would have to do is say, “Car?” Her ears would stand straight up, her eyes would open big, and her body would kind of stiffen. As she scanned your face you realized she was checking to see if you meant it. Once you put the collar on her she knew exactly what to do and would run to the car.
We were never able to train her to fetch a ball and bring it back, that was beneath her. She would run after it then turn right back around to get her treat, without the ball. We did train to her to come when we opened a potato chip bag. Or did she train us to provide her favorite snack often? After her morning walk I would give her a rawhide chew and tell her to stay for a few seconds. She would sit with that thing in her mouth, without moving a muscle. As soon as I would tell her, “Go!” she’d take off running to a corner to play with her stick and then wolf it down. That was our morning ritual.
When it was math time she was right there on the rug watching the blocks carefully. More than once she served as a desk for a small whiteboard. She especially loved long walks in the park.
How do animals know they are going to the doctor? I have never had a pet who didn’t sense that’s what you were up to without you ever saying the word. But she made you feel immensely guilty for even thinking the word “vet”. The look she would shoot at me could peel paint off walls as I thought about the timing of getting her into the car with the least amount of fuss. Yes, I believe animals can hear us thinking. Betty surely did. For an 80 pound dog (give or take ten pounds depending on her mood) she was very adept at hiding when it was vet time.
A little less than two years ago the vet told me that she had tumors in her belly. He felt confident they were cancerous or could become so quite easily. The only way to know for certain was to run all kinds of expensive tests. The other option was to make her as comfortable as possible and let time play out. RestaurantMan and I chose the latter. There was no need to put her under more stress with tests, the poking and prodding, or countless injections. Just getting her to the vet was a pain.
I got her for the boys. She came for me. She was my rock, my companion, my best friend. Wherever I was in the house, she was, too. When I woke in the morning she would greet me at the bedroom door. Sitting on my lap was one of her great joys.
It was me she came to the last week, laid her head on my lap, and looked up at me as if to say, “I’ll be leaving soon. I just wanted to say goodbye.” I had never seen her look at me like that before but it felt like she had resigned herself to her fate. There was no joy in it, only resignation. Quite honestly, it freaked me out.
Ms. Thang had been with me through so many trials and joys. She was my confidante, my protector, my best friend. She was a sister to my boys. All of my friends knew her. We finally got a house with a fenced in back yard for her. How she loved that yard. Every morning she would “case the perimeter” checking every nook and cranny like a soldier on duty. The badger family moved on because of her. The neighborhood cats ran when they saw she was outside. That made her proud and she would look at me as if it say, “I have the yard under control, Mom.”
A few days after “the look” I noticed the food was not being wolfed down, the not going potty even after being let out several times, or even refusing to walk, let us know that the end was near. When I realized that her tummy was distended and she was almost struggling to breathe I sensed that her heart was giving out. By the time we got to the vet’s I knew what was coming. The vet confirmed that her heart was failing and her lungs were filling up quickly.
How do you say goodbye to your best friend? Again, the offer for a myriad of tests, poking and prodding, hospitalization came up. The vet told us that with her age even that may not save her. If she wasn’t OK with being away from us she would probably not make it through being apart from us for all tests and hospitalizations. Betty wouldn’t even look at me and just laid her head on my hand. She couldn’t even lift it up to my lap as she had done so many times before. Her breathing slowed down considerably. The vet told us she was going into cardiac failure.
RestaurantMan and I had talked many times in the past two years about what we would do when this time came. Here we were in the reality of it. My husband held my hand, tears welling up in his eyes, and reminded me of our decision made long ago. He was right. It was time to say goodbye.
As the technician walked her to the room at the end of the hall she took one last long look out the window. Then she looked up at me and almost smiled as she walked to the rug laid down on the floor for her next to me. She placed her head on my lap and dug her nose into my tummy. I placed my hand on her snout and she relaxed, sighed, and looked at me one last time. “It was a blast, Mom. I love you but I need to rest now.” She breathed her last as the vet pushed the needle into her arm.
Somehow I expected that to take way longer than it did.
She didn’t fight it at all. I sat there hating myself for giving my best friend a death sentence. How would I be able to ever forgive myself? Would she ever forgive me? What do I tell my friends? I just couldn’t deal with the reality of this, any of this. How could our journey together end like this?!
I sensed her spirit slowly leaving the room. It was like she gave into it. I caught a glimpse of her running through the fields… to my foster-mom, Naida. I like that idea. My two very best friends in the whole entire world are together, taking care of each other.
This morning I struggle with the decision I made. Was it the right one? I think so. RestaurantMan believes in his heart that Betty waited until after Christmas. She reveled in the unwrapping of presents, friends stopping by to say hello, because that meant more attention and faces to lick. The look of pure joy on her face when we gave her annual very large rawhide bone was priceless.
I could write an entire book about what this dog taught me. Maybe I will one day. Right now I am so lonely even though I have many friends. I have always owned cats. She was my first “all mine” dog. But, oh, what a dog she was.
Betty wasn’t the dog I wanted but she was the dog God knew we needed.
Good bye, Betty. You were the very best companion ever.
We will see you on the other side.
Do you have a special dog or pet? What plans have you put in place to prepare for when it’s time for them to pass on? I will be putting some pictures on Betty on our Facebook page. She was an awesome dog and we want to share the happy memories with you.
RESOURCES IF, WHEN, YOUR DOG DIES:
* My Dog Just Died – a website where you can post a picture of your dog and tell a little about how they changed your life
* How to talk to your child, no matter what age, about the death of a pet
* Dealing with grief after the death of your dog and the stages of grieving for a pet