The Ultimate Gift

So, two months ago Al and I lost our two oldest baby dogs in less than 2 weeks. I took photos of Max’s last few days – from the mess on his face from us trying to feed him, to the saline bag while we tried to hydrate him, to the last moments in the vet’s office.

Al was able to look at the images yesterday – and this is what he wrote about the ultimate gift of letting them go  (you can see all of the images he picked here:  Al, Max, and the Ultimate Gift) :

Today I looked.

It’s been exactly two months since I decided that Max could no longer live another day. Two months since I decided I was somehow powerful enough in this grand scheme of life to take away another being’s existence. I debated, but ultimately decided it was- in that overused and underwhelming phrase- “in his best interest.”

I’m a hunter. I’ve killed things before. I believe in the synergy of the earth and that at one point or another, we are all nothing but recycled worm food on a complicated journey right back to the soft soil. But I also believe in thanking animals for the life sustaining sustenance that they provide me. It is a rather emotional experience to take another being’s life. But hunting was nothing like this.

It’s been two months, but I’ve not thought about it much. Two months ago we had feet of snow on the ground and more coming down. Today, as I stare out of my upstairs window at two whitetails standing in the field, I see that it is over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In this area, that’s summer. Time has moved on.

But today I looked.

The few times I did think about it the past two months I have not been kind to myself. Who was I to take his life? What gave me that ultimate power? Believers might look to the heavens and know it came from above and find peace. I have no such luxury.

My lasting images are not of Max suffering, but of him still walking. Him running. Swimming. You know- all those things that healthy, crazy, insane, stubborn Siberian Huskies do. These thoughts are happy ones, but also make me question my ultimate decision. THE ultimate decision.

And then I looked.

And when I looked, I saw again what I had put out of my mind. I saw the happy, crazy, stubborn ass dog in pain. I saw the saline fluid we used to try to rehydrate him. I saw the stained fur around his lips from overflow of the syringe we used to force feed baby food- to just get something, anything into him. I saw me carrying him outside when he could no longer stand, the dog painfully aware of the situation. And I saw the pain. The pain- in my own eyes. The moment when I decided “the time” had come. And most painful of all, the last picture just a few moments before he left forever.

But I also saw his smile. His zest for life. And his incredible tolerance for me wanting to be close to him.

I saw all this only because I asked Hannah to begin documenting the day before. She’s done this kind of end-of-life session for others. But now it was us. Our babies. Not human babies- but our family none-the-less. And she just happens to be really darn good at it.

I knew the pictures existed, but I didn’t look till now because I wanted to remember the most intelligent dog I’ve ever known with only the happy memories. But today I looked, and I learned through my own eyes that it was time. My eyes in those pictures. I learned that what I had wasn’t a power that was granted to me to be wielded lightly. It was a duty that I accepted when I visited the kennel at the old Ondossagon school 15 years ago and that white, skinny, oversized-eared puppy jumped into my arms.

Some will tell me that it is time to move on. It is just a dog. I understand that, and I have. But the pictures also show me that the relationship was much more. More than even I had admitted- I loved that damn dog.

It was time and I’m glad I looked.
………
And I hope you accept me sharing these memories with you as documented by an amazing photographer.

Posted by Al Krause on Monday, May 4, 2015

Max in the snow

Max and salineSaying goodbye

Max's last day

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3 Comments

3 Comments on The Ultimate Gift

  1. Mary Jane DeLauder
    May 5, 2015 at 2:09 pm (2 years ago)

    Al, in Fall of 1998 we led our dear German Shepherd across that dreaded bridge. We had saved her from Lymphoma two years prior with Chemo. She had a great two years. But the last couple of months were painful for both of us. We walked each night after dinner but she had such trouble keeping up and would falter and fall. I hated it because we loved her so very much. Keisha asked for nothing more than to greet us at the door and follow me to the bathroom, just in case! We waited one day too long! She lost her ability to contain her bowels. We had a favorite and caring vet. Dr Spina came to our home to free her from her pain. I died a little that afternoon. Our son, Michael carried to the car after it was all over. We would then hold her ashes until we could release her to run on the White Sands in New Mexico with her cousin Kosha. I cried myself to sleep for weeks after she left us. And I actually hope that we will meet again. It is horrible making that decision but you must believe that you gave your pup a new life. I tell myself that over and over. Love, MJ

  2. Alison Durell
    May 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm (2 years ago)

    Hannah,
    Your beautiful emotional photos and Al’s words had me in tears… for your loss of Scout T and Max so close together, for my many fosters of the years as well as my own cats and dog. Suddenly, “everyone” grew old. How quickly they pass from puppy to “senior.” We are faced with giving the ultimate gift of “letting go” to relieve their pain and illness.

    Our lives are so enriched by their joy in companionship, their unconditional love and loyalty, their sensitivity to our needs and moods. It is never just a dog, a cat, a child, a spouse, a friend— loss is so much more than inadequate words. Grief is so much deeper for all the joy that love had been given. Those precious photos will help you to heal “in time” and you will find that you are smiling through the tears when you look at them…. memories live on in our hearts and minds… a bond that stays with us. ” No longer by my side, but forever in our hearts.”

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  1. […] is near and dear to my heart.  I honestly rediscovered these feelings of silence after Al & I both lost our old dogs about a week apart.  We had gotten no sleep, and the amount of medical care we had given them […]