Pet Euthanasia – Cherishing the Moments of Joy

It was a decision that had me soaking through reams of tissue paper. One so hard to make, it drained the life of me. I knew this day is inevitable, but acceptance didn’t make letting go any less suffocating.

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Thank you for being a great Joy in our lives for the past 18 years. A part of my heart is in the shape of you.

From the beginning of this year, her old age began making its presence felt. Cataract had blinded both her eyes by then but Joy had always been feisty. Despite losing her sight, she still roamed around the house as usual, constantly walking into walls and things. Like a pinball, she bumped from one obstacle to another until she reached her destination, which was usually the kitchen to have her meals and do her toileting. Even though she couldn’t see, she never misses going to the designated spot to pee and poop. After that, she would wipe her paws on a rug we placed at the kitchen’s entrance. She was that kind of dog. Clean, smart, persistent, obedient.

Then sometime in May, her limbs grew feeble. She could no longer walk for very long during our weekly stroll along a park connector downstairs. A couple of months later, she could no longer stand up properly and her front legs would slide and spread until she laid helplessly on the floor. She could no longer make it to the kitchen and urinated and defecated where she was. Sometimes when she relieved herself in the middle of the night or when we weren’t looking, she would wrestle in her own filth till we cleaned her up. I knew she must be miserable lying in her own waste because she had always liked cleanliness. So we got diapers for her, the ones for pre-term babies, to keep her from soaking in her own urine.

Losing her ability to walk didn’t stop her from having the will to move around. She would still prop herself up like a sphinx whenever someone left the house or came home and swept with her skinny front legs frantically as if she still wanted to see us out or welcome us back like she used to do. My heart hurts every time I see her struggling to stand up.

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You are the Flo-Jo of dogs, fast, nimble and athletic. To see you like this puts daggers in my heart. Limb weakness is typical of miniature pinscher in old age. You could also no longer chew the hard pellets of the dry food and we had to soak them in hot water to soften before hand feeding you. It’s a lot of work taking care of you but don’t you worry, we won’t abandon you because we love you.

That’s when the reality that we are counting down to Joy’s final day hit me. The state she was in pained me but her appetite continued to be good, still eating two meals a day, and other than the infirmities of old age, she didn’t seem to be in physical pain. Palliative care takes a lot of effort, even for a small dog. But it is in these difficult times that love is tested.

It would’ve been easier to discard her somewhere instead of having to clean up after her constantly, hand feed her, massage her and all the works that go into caring for her. True love is like this, it is measured by willing sacrifice, a sticking with to the end and not abandoning the one you love, especially in their time of need. It is not easy, the pain and inconveniences are very real, but I guess the purpose of life is this… to be there for the people and other beings that helped us feel love, and loved.

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Like the hands of a clock ticking down to the final moment. Of our time together, I always felt I could’ve done better for you.

One day, after showering her, I would call it spa because she gets an all-over massage and I would sing to her, I realised how sunken she had become. All skin and bones with protruding rib cage even though we’d feed her the same amount of food. That’s in late August.

Her body continued to shrivel. As she laid curled up on her sleeping mat, brown as she is, she reminded me of a croissant, half moon with raised ridges on the side. It wasn’t a pretty sight. From then on, her deterioration was swift. On 6 October, I left for a short weekend trip to Johor Bahru and upon my return, the very next day, she stopped eating and drinking completely.

My mum told me that she had eaten and drank very little in the three days of my absence. Joy must have been just eating enough to stay alive and waited for me to come home before she was ready to go.

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You seem to have collapsed into yourself. I’m broken into pieces seeing you like this. Oh the anguish of helplessly watching you fade away and there’s nothing I can do!

My family agreed that when Joy stops eating and drinking totally, that’s her signal. Her breathing had also become laborious, every breath looked strenuous. Is she in pain? She had a very low threshold for pain and would yelp and whine at the littlest tap on her buttocks in the very rare occasion when we disciplined her or cutting her nails. But for months now, she had not made a sound. Even when I grabbed on one of her front paws which would usually turn her into a siren. Now, there was only silence.

I can’t adequately describe the kind of pain my heart was in. Uncontrollable tears were my way to express how heartbroken I was as I went about making the decision to euthanise her and arrangements for her transition.

This blog post is a digital memorial of Joy as a remembrance for this treasured member of my family lest my own old age robs me of this exquisite memory, and also in the hope that it could help someone cope by knowing that you are not alone in having to make the excruciating decision when it is time to let go. Let tears be the healing. I recommend getting the 3-ply tissues, very strong and absorbent.

The First Times…

After booking a 7pm appointment with the vet, it was the last afternoon I had with Joy. Memories of the day I brought her home from the pet shop in Geylang were still so fresh in my mind.

I was looking for a chihuahua but the kennel didn’t have any. I was about to walk away but the owner led me to a play pen and showed me this lively ball of brown fur amongst a litter of puppies. She was the only miniature pinscher there. As I reached down, the brown dog came towards me and wanted to be carried. So I lifted her into my arms and I could tell she’s one to hardly stay still as she fidgeted here and there in my embrace. So full of life.

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First time I brought you to the beach at Sentosa. That’s when I realised that although you can swim, you don’t like water. I remember that I was in the lagoon and you were on the beach. You wanted to get to me. So you crossed the water between us and swam to me.

“No,” I thought. “I want a chihuahua. I don’t think this dog is right for me.” Mom and I left the shop. But there’s something about that brown dog that tugged at me. I broke out in itchy hives after that brief encounter. I didn’t know I was allergic to dog fur as I’ve had other dogs before but never kept them till their end. So before reaching the car, for reasons unknown, I decided to turn back and take a second look at the female puppy. Other than not being the breed I wanted, it also wasn’t the right gender as I had wanted a male dog. My perception back then was that a male dog would be able to rough it out with me.

The return to the kennel sealed our fate. S$700 later, the red-coated minature pinscher was on my lap, in the car, on our way home. I wondered why mom decided to get me a dog out of no reason. It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas and she didn’t even dare to touch this brown dog at all in the first place.

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In the early days before “wefie” was a thing and my chin was still not indistinguishable from my neck, do you remember, you had your first menses and stained my bedsheets and I wanted to document your coming age? Hence this photo?

We contemplated for a name for her but her name sort of found me. Seeing that she’s such a perky, zesty and active dog with a radiant coat of red fur, an exuberance of positive life force, such a joy to have around; so I named her Joy. She was what happiness would look like if it breathed and had a body.

Once home, Joy was initiated into our 3-room HDB flat unit at Kim Keat Avenue. Space was tight and I wanted to be close to her so I placed her cage in my room. She didn’t liked being enclosed as she whined throughout the night. I learnt my lesson quickly and two nights later, she shared my bed. It was nice watching her sleep. Which meant I couldn’t get much sleep with this new occupier of my small, single bed. I was afraid I would crush her. I was cautious not to disturb or wake her as she slumbered.

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Your bed is your bed. My bed is your bed too… Never mind, as long as I can provide,

Ten days on, she was vomiting and having constant diahorrea. A visit to the vet confirmed that she contracted Parvo Virus, possibly at the pet shop. Parvo virus is a canine infection with an incubation period of up to 14 days and can be life threatening. I could still remember that I was in the office when mom called to tell me the diagnosis. “Joy may not survive the infection and she could die. She is not fated to be with us,” my mom wailed over the phone. For someone who didn’t want to touch Joy at all, I was surprised that she was so devastated by the news.

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Family photo during CNY of 2015, Year of the Goat. Your constant kaypohness of things around you is so evident in this photo. I wish I’ve taken more photos of you, of our adventures together.

I didn’t do any better. As soon as I put down the phone, tears streamed a river on my face. I was the only guy in the marketing department of Nu Skin Singapore and I had every intention to be the man by not “throwing face” in front of the ladies.

I broke down in the office as quietly as possible. No one needs to see my raw emotions. So quiet was I that my colleague sitting at the next table knew my newly added family member could be dying. I was very discreet about my crying. So discreet that only my department learnt of what happened less than five minutes after I got off the phone.

Thankfully, Joy survived and made a full recovery. She was fated to be with us after all. For the next 18 years.

The Last Times…

Time really has wings. No, not wings, but turbo engines. You feel it but you don’t know where it has gone. Everything felt like yesterday, then we are facing today, and thinking how to make it through tomorrow.

These are my last four hours with Joy after making all the final preparations. We went for a final walk along the park connector, a last spa, a desperate attempt to feed, hoping that if she still ate, we could call of the euthanasia, and a last embrace. Except that she no longer fidgeted in my arms.

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One last slow walk around the neighbourhood like we used to. Except that in the past, you were the one who pulled me along on the leash. Now you can no longer stand up on your own or walk. The smell of the grass seemed to trigger the functions of your bladder as you let go a big yellow torrent of pee all over me. It used to be that I dread cleaning after you. But now, I’m glad to be made into a mess by you. Perhaps this is a last “souvenir” from you.

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Can you see me through the cataract? I pray you can. This is the last time you ever looked me in the eyes before the moment yours closed forever. My baby, my Joy, I don’t think I have the strength to say goodbye after sharing my life with you all these years. But I know I cannot be selfish and let you suffer any longer. I LOVE YOU so much. I hope you know that.

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It’s shower time after our walk. Like we used to. One last time. You always go maniac whenever I say “walk walk”. And in the shower afterwards, you never stood still. But now, you could only lie there. So still. But no worries my love. I will spa you one last time and I won’t use the plastic scrubber. It will be my hands and an all-over massage like you always liked at the end of every scrubbing session. And I’ll sing to you, which seems to soothe you during spa time. You must be tone deaf to tolerate my off-key crooning. I will sing an uplifting song this time… about stars and blessings. Because you have been both to me and whenever I think of you, it will be a Joy.

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A last blow dry after that spa session which mom observed took much longer than usual. It’s the last time I touched every inch of your body. Of course I wanted to take my time to relish and cherish. You used to go crazy as the hairdryer hummed and raced around my bed. Not now. You’ve grown so frail, no matter how much we fed you. This is your last time on my bed. Do you remember the small cosy single bed we used to share before I changed to this queen sized one? As I watched you breathe, I realised how difficult and uncomfortable your breathing had become. Every breath felt like a struggle for you. With each inhalation and exhale, an unknown force tightened its grip around my throat.

The Final Journey…

Can time please stop?

Of course it wouldn’t. And it would take more than just my dog.

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If I could turn back time, I wish I never would’ve met you. Because you made saying goodbye so heart-wrenching. The universe must’ve felt our unwillingness to let go because it made getting a Grab driver who would transport dogs rather difficult.

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We finally got a Grab car but the driver was cold as a cadaver and rude as hell. Perhaps his lack of humanity was preparation for the rough emotional ride of watching you leave. This is it. We are here. At the gate of your final departure.

After some research, I decided on Mount Pleasant (Whitley) Animal Medical Centre for Joy’s euthanasia as we’ve brought her here for treatments previously and it is one of the more affordable ones. Our final expenses for Joy came up to S$380. The centre takes care of both the euthanasia and cremation.

There are 3 cremation options available:

  1. Communal – where the deceased pet is cremated together with other pets and their ashes scattered around a garden at Mandai Crematorium
  2. Partitioned – where the pet is cremated separately although it shares a cremation chamber with other pets and the ashes are not mixed and the ashes returned to you
  3. Private – where the pet is placed in the cremation chamber alone and the ashes returned to you

The cremation options range in price from S$180 to S$500. Euthanasia fee is separate from the cremation cost. Depending on the size of the dog, prices can vary. We opted for communal cremation for Joy as we wanted her to “run free” in a garden with other pets. Even when the time come for ourselves, my family prefers to go without holding anyone to the responsibility of ritual remembrance.

We want our ashes scattered to the sea to free the earth of resources to house our remains and relatives / friends from needing to do anything special to remember us. If we have made such a big impact or contribution in their lives, their positive change and good works in this world as a result of our influence are tributes enough.

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A last family portrait. Rainbow seems to sense something is wrong as she started to twist and looked at you.

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As I laid you on the table, you were calm at first but as I arranged the white chrysenthemums around you, you started to kick. I can feel that you are panicking. I leaned over your ear and started talking to you and you immediately calmed down. I couldn’t believe it, but you calmed down. Which confirmed that our connection was never broken despite the state you are in. So if you are sending your pet on its last journey, be around and talk to your pet the whole time. Don’t leave them dying in a strange room alone.

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Rainbow was unusually still and looked like tears came out of her eyes. I think she had a sense of what’s coming. Mum was brawling. To think that she didn’t even want to touch Joy when we first got her to this point where she couldn’t let go. Mom’s fondest memory was Joy placing her chin on her lap as she watched TV on the sofa nightly. The comfort of having a warm body who just wants to be with you.

Her send-off came rather suddenly as her deterioration was overnight. We needed to end her suffering and not prolong it further. Although we wished she could stay with us longer. I was at a loss about what to do. After some Googling, I emailed Mobile Pet Cremation to ask for advice. I received a reply but it wasn’t in time as Joy was suffering.  I appreciate that Jinn from Mobile Pet Cremation took the time to reply and console me every though I didn’t use their services. I have another furkid, Rainbow. Perhaps I will engage their services when it is her turn to be returned.

Having to fight tears while making the final arrangements was one of the toughest things I had to do. It wasn’t much, but careful thoughts have been given to every item.

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The light blue towel is my wish of freedom and peace for you as you return to heaven. Because you are an angel. The 3 candles symbolised that you have lit up the lives of my parents and me. The white chrysenthemum represent the purity of love, while the multi-coloured gerberas are the colours you’ve helped blossom in our hearts. Because flowers are like the enlightenment of a plant, you have enlightened our hearts about love. They are our simple gifts to accompany you in your crossover.

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A last family photo together. The five of us.

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We were so caught up with saying our goodbyes and touching you, I forget to stop and think if you felt comfortable. If you needed a moment of silence to process and be at peace with what is going to happen.

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One of my pet peeves were to hold your tiny paw in my hand and stroke it. You would always shrink your paw away in the past. But today, you were too weak to withdraw. And I was too weak to let go.

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My Joy, my baby, thank you for loving this family and brightening our lives with your intelligence, loyalty and royalty. Let’s admit it, you’ve always been something of a prissy princess. But that’s alright, because you are the queen of my heart. I pray that the absolute best is waiting for you on the other side.

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Be brave my love, have no fear. I can not go where you are going, but you know that my heart is with you. You are not alone. I am so blessed and privileged to have loved you. I will cherish the memory of you.

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Goodbye my furry angel. Rest in eternal peace. You are loved.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Scot
    Oct 19, 2018 @ 00:35:40

    So sorry for your loss. It is not easy to loose a family member, even a furry one, after 18 years.
    Best wishes, Scot

    Reply

  2. Robin
    Oct 19, 2018 @ 23:36:17

    I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet Joy. Your story really broke my heart but she passed on knowing she was loved, especially having her family there by her side to the end. My thoughts are with you and your loved ones. RIP Joy.

    Reply

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